Funemployed: Walkabout

Now that the weather seems to have finally and irrevocably turned against us, I feel that my weekly tradition of having a beautiful afternoon walkabout may be over.  And so, what better time to write about it?

In between applying for jobs, meeting friends for lunch, reading, and relaxing, I’ve made a habit of going for long urban walks.  Tbilisi is a lovely city for exploring, and even after four years there are places I’ve never been or never discovered.  And there’re places that I’ve been to that I so much that I make repeated visits!  Take Davitsminda, the monastery halfway up Mtatsminda.

It’s a not-insignificant climb up some long and winding roads to a picturesque little monastery perched right on the side of the hill.  It has some great views out over the city, and some very notable cemeterial residents!

View from almost-at-Davitsminda
View from almost-at-Davitsminda
Ilia Chavchavadze is one of Georgia's most renowned poets.  Other Georgian and Russian luminaries are buried here, including the Russian poet Griboedev!
Ilia Chavchavadze is one of Georgia’s most renowned poets. Other Georgian and Russian luminaries are buried here, including the Russian poet Griboedov!

I brought my book to Davitsminda with me so I could do some reading–a pasttime I know Chavchavadze and Griboedov would have approved of.

Other days I took my book to my favorite local fortress for an afternoon of reading in the wind and exploring the backstreets of Sololaki.  After all, you’ll never know if you don’t go!

Right outside my house is a little courtyard where the children play.  They have some AWESOME trees shading their games of wall-football!
Right outside my house is a little courtyard where the children play. They have some AWESOME trees shading their games of wall-football!
On the way through Old Tbilisi, one invariably passes the homeless lady who takes care of the strays.  She has clearly invested all her meager earnings into providing for these animals, as evidenced by the tent and the large cage for food and shelter!
On the way through Old Tbilisi, one invariably passes the homeless lady who takes care of the strays. She has clearly invested all her meager earnings into providing for these animals, as evidenced by the tent and the large cage for food and shelter!
And it pays off!  Look at this dachshund sleeping under a pile of kittens!
And it pays off! Look at this dachshund sleeping under a pile of kittens!
I definitely know where to recommend my next visitor stays!
I definitely know where to recommend my next visitor stays!
The heart of Sololaki has so many interesting buildings.  This abandoned, ruined church is one of my favorites!
The heart of Sololaki has so many interesting buildings. This abandoned, ruined church is one of my favorites!
Along the footpath beneath the fortress, there are signs at the scenic overlooks indicating what you're seeing and telling a little history of Tbilisi.  In this case, you can see Sameba Cathedral on the right, and then, just to the left of it, One big school full of Bitches.
Along the footpath beneath the fortress, there are signs at the scenic overlooks indicating what you’re seeing and telling a little history of Tbilisi. In this case, you can see Sameba Cathedral on the right, and then, just north of it, One big school full of Bitches.

Finally, I arrived atop Nariqala Fortress.  This is definitely one of my favorite places in Tbilisi.  Every time I look at it I try to imagine being an enemy soldier a thousand years ago and told “Go capture it.”  It would be a terribly difficult task, I’d think.  A siege might be awkward, too, with the positioning on the ridge.  Decisions, decisions!

At any rate, I perched myself atop one one of the crumbled towers and sat down to read.  It was awfully windy that day, and after an hour I retired to a cafe, fearing that I’d be blown off a cliff and no one would ever find my body!

Not a bad view for an afternoon read, right?
Not a bad view for an afternoon read, right?
Does it matter if I am reading about emergent diseases?
Does it matter if I am reading about emergent diseases?

While reading on the fortress, I spied my next hiking adventure!  I decided would finally visit the oft-visible, never-before-seen church atop the hill opposite Nariqala Fortress.

You know, this one!
You know, this one!

The journey began, fraught with peril and indecision.  I knew vaguely how to get into the neighborhood below the church, and figured I could ask for directions once there.  I loaded up my audiobook, and set out to finally find my way to that mystery church.

Passing the baths, I knew I was going in the right direction.  The neighborhood began to climb the hill and there were signs to the Monastery of the Transfiguration.  Sounded like a reasonable name!  I figured there must be some road to drive up to this church, but that was so much less of an adventure!  Onward I went, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hillside community.

The city's mosque is located just beneath Nariqala Fortress, overlooking the baths.
The city’s mosque is located just beneath Nariqala Fortress, overlooking the baths.
I love the back streets of Old Tbilisi.  There's a lot of beauty there!
I love the back streets of Old Tbilisi. There’s a lot of beauty there!
At my first dead end (of several), I found myself skirting the perimeter of a burnt out shell of a building, long abandoned, but frequently visited, it seems!
At my first dead end (of several), I found myself skirting the perimeter of a burnt out shell of a building, long abandoned, but frequently visited, it seems!

Having followed the sign to its ultimate destination, there didn’t seem to be any way forward.  I was in a cul-de-sac of sorts with several houses, a ruin, and a yard on either side of me.  I peeked into the abandoned building, but every path seemed either regressive or intrusive.  I decided to regress and find another way around.

I was too embarrassed to pass the group of men standing around outside a shop below me, so I ducked into an alleyway before I could be noticed.  It cut across the hill, and brought me to another branch of the same neighborhood.

Even Alleyways are spectacular in Georgia!
Even alleyways are spectacular in Georgia!
I met this not-so-friendly cat along the way.  He was sitting on a tin roof.  It was like that play "Cat on a Cold, Wet, Tin Roof".
I met this not-so-friendly cat along the way. He was sitting on a tin roof. It was like that play “Cat on a Cold, Wet, Tin Roof”.

Finding myself in another dead end, I encountered a trio of men leaving their house.  They didn’t know how to get to the church, but the youngest suggested that I should try the other side of the hill, and pointed back the way I came.  Reluctantly, I agreed, but I decided to walk slowly so that I could double back after they left.  Sneaky Raughley!

Instead, I just wandered back along the alley until I found a set of stone stairs that looked straight out of a fairy tale!  Naturally, I failed to take a photo, but I climbed up anyway.  At the top was a pregnant lady hanging up sheets on the clothesline.  She was equally uncertain as to how I could reach the church, but pointed out a small damp path winding around the crumbling wall of her farmhouse.  Why not at least see where it goes?

How awesomely creepy would this look on a dark dank day?
How awesomely creepy would this look on a dark dank day?

After winding around the hill for a few dozen meters I found myself at the burnt out ruin I’d already been to.  ვაიმე!  Some would have taken this as a sign to quit or to retrace their steps to the very bottom and start all over from a different attack angle.  Not me, though!  I decided that I might as well explore this charred husk and see if there was a back stairway up!

There wasn’t.

I did find a mattress and some blankets where someone was clearly squatting, though!  I stood beneath the church, in an enclosed yard, looking up at it as it loomed a hundred meters above me.  I was so close.  I decided not to let some silly little wall stop me, and I hoisted myself up and over it onto the scrubby slopes of the ridge.

The wall abutted the neighbors’ garden, and I could hear them bustling about in their own yard.  I decided to scramble away quickly, lest they seem me and think I had some ill intent towards their vegetables.  After about 30 meters, I found a small path.

The path wound down and around the ridge, forking towards a modern complex in the crook of the valley and a rocky path upwards.  This time I forked up.

The view from the derelict yard.
The view from the derelict yard.
As soon as I hopped that wall I knew I was in for a treat!  This is the angle on Nariqala I would have and here's the little neighborhood I just climbed through.
As soon as I hopped that wall I knew I was in for a treat! This is the angle on Nariqala I would have and here’s the little neighborhood I just climbed through.
As I approached, I realized my path wound through the back entrance of the church.
As I approached, I realized my path wound through the back entrance of the church.
Whoever decides church locations did a good job with this one.
Whoever decides church locations did a good job with this one.

I ventured into the churchyard/vestry area.  It was empty with some halted construction going on in the basement.  Though I was tempted to explore the basement, I decided against it and went upwards towards the church itself.

Inside, the Church was sparsely decorated, as you often see with Orthodox churches, and had a nice incense-y scent.  (In-scents?)  I wandered around to the “front” of the church (meaning here the cliffside face) and decided I’d found my new favorite reading spot.

There was a rock laid against the wall, almost as if someone had known I was coming and prepared a reading chair for me!
There was a rock laid against the wall, almost as if someone had known I was coming and prepared a reading chair for me!
The little wall in the foreground is like the edge of the Church territory.
Here you can see the cliffs of Avlabari and Sameba over and above it.
One of the nice things about coming here was that I had a new angle and perspective on the city.  From here I could see way out South/East past the upgoing skyscraper and the old Wedding House to the airport and beyond!
One of the nice things about coming here was that I had a new angle and perspective on the city. From here I could see way out South/East past the upgoing skyscraper and the old Wedding House to the airport and beyond!
I also discovered the destination of my next walking tour!  (Spoiler: That waterfall turned out to be from a drainage pipe...)
I also discovered the destination of my next walking tour! (Spoiler: That waterfall turned out to be from a drainage pipe…)
I wanted to check out these sweet riverside caves, for example!  (Spoiler: Inaccessible, covered in garbage)
I wanted to check out these sweet riverside caves, for example! (Spoiler: Inaccessible, covered in garbage)
Here's a nice aerial shot of Metekhi Church, Rike Park, and the Justice House.
Here’s a nice aerial shot of Metekhi Church, Rike Park, and the Justice House.
I really liked the new perspective on Nariqala.  It gives the fortress a whole new shape and feel!
I really liked the new perspective on Nariqala. It gives the fortress a whole new shape and feel!
These birds were soaring and free-wheeling through an endless afternoon sky.
These birds were soaring and free-wheeling through an endless afternoon sky.
As the sun tracked across the sky, everything got a little misty and I just liked the way the Botanical Gardens looked in the light.
As the sun tracked across the sky, everything got a little misty and I just liked the way the Botanical Gardens looked in the light.
A wider shot shows the Botanical Gardens, the Mother of Georgia, the TV Tower, and Nariqala in one fell swoop!
A wider shot shows the Botanical Gardens, the Mother of Georgia, the TV Tower, and Nariqala in one fell swoop!

I read there for about ninety minutes, enjoying the shade and scaring a couple up to take romantic pictures.  When the time came to leave, I decided I would leave by way of the road for vehicles and see where that took me.  I missed an opportunity for an awesome photo of a priest washing his old car, but managed to get a few random gems along the way anyway!

Like these old pipes peeking out of the ground!
Like these old pipes peeking out of the ground!
Or this secret installation that was surrounded with razor wire!
Or this secret installation that was surrounded with razor wire and good advice!
And this Tire Convention!
And this Tire Convention!

Eventually the excitement of the road settled down and I found myself on a scrubby little trail down towards the Ortachala district.

Tbilisi really can be a lovely city!
Tbilisi really can be a lovely city!
Despite the ubiquitous garbage....
Despite the ubiquitous garbage….

Finally returning to my home neighborhood, I walked along, pleased with my adventure.  It had taken most of the afternoon and I was getting sick, but, damn!  What a good day!

Nariqala's Church, glowing gently in the sunset.
Nariqala’s Church, glowing gently in the sunset.
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