Walking around Tbilisi without a map is akin to playing a game of hide and seek. You are the only player, but you can ask as many questions as you like. The object of the game is to find your way back home, eventually. My first day in the city, I decided to go out for a short walk to get my bearings and see what there was to see. While one is lost, there are many things to be found.
About four hours later, I had gone up side streets, woven through alleyways, and overall not paid one blissful ounce of attention to which direction was where. I was following my feet. I saw a church tucked into a tiny neighborhood of cobblestone ways and outdoor fruit sellers. I grabbed a snack at a deceptively large supermarket, and returned to a small corner park I had passed a moment before. It was about three in the afternoon, and I thought it might be a pleasant time to figure out my general location in order to get back in the next few hours, ideally.
As it turns out, walking for hours straight, despite not being in any particular direction, has a completely unexpected tendency to whisk one away from whence one came. Needless to say, nobody recognized the street I lived on, as I had been more or less skipping blissfully through fields of daisies in an enchanted land of rapturous exploration.
A couple more hours passed. Idle interest in achieving a specific direction, oft interrupted by stately churches, tiny khachapuri shops, and chats with friendly passersby, turned into a more directly focused approach to returning. The coach was turning into a pumpkin, and it was time to regain a semblance of geographical awareness. Although internal panic had not quite bubbled up, and certainly did not dampen trekking through the fortress overlooking the city or sitting on a Ferris wheel, admittedly not a short cut, the sun was determined to set eventually. Marco Polo had to return to his caravan at the end of the day, and so must I.
At one moment around 6pm, I found myself on a steep road leading up a hill, with a fabulous mixture of open-shuttered cottages, Soviet-style apartments, and newly built European chateau-style homes. From here I could see Tbilisi spread out, tall buildings jutting over a landscape of red roofs and a winding river, surrounded by rolling hills of dark green and wide open sky. I set back down the hill. Curiosity never killed the cat, but it did make him late a lot.
Despite taking a bus in the wrong direction, and a marshrutka that led to a similar sounding street in a very different neighborhood, which I still have not figured out its location today, I did manage to buy an adaptor for my electronics.
Around 7.00pm, I broke down and took a taxi. Of course, for posterity’s sake, I stood in front of my building for a good 15 minutes, confused if it or the crowds of similar khrushchevki were where I was meant to go. The light bulb clicked on, and home I went, to an apartment with colorful rugs on the walls, oil paintings, bookshelves full to the brim, and the two delightful souls who welcomed me back, gave me dinner, and asked me if I had gotten lost.
By: Sofia Bachman
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Summer 2016