The views from the hillsides surrounding Tbilisi are breath taking. I am fortunate living in old town that the Parthenon is a short walk from my home, which marks the beginning of old trails that switchback up the hillside. The gleaming domes of Georgian orthodox churches interrupt the modern city skyline, which is a beautiful mix of old and new construction. This city has character unlike any other I’ve seen. Tbilisi is a metropolis wrung by green hills and distant snowcapped mountains. It doesn’t take long to leave the city behind in get lost in green trees and open high country. I’ve spent most of this past weekend getting lost in the winding streets of old town going up into the hills periodically to escape and back down to civilization on a whim. The old tourist trails don’t see a lot of use, except for teenagers hiding in what they imagine to be secluded bends. I imagine they are whispering sweet nothings in Georgian to one another; I do my part to avoid an awkward interruption by make sure my footfalls are just a little louder than normal. Some of the buildings on the outskirts of town have seen better days, but I hear the soft sounds of musicians at practice, their music eking out of the jarred doors of run down apartments. Many of the homes have flower boxes with blooming buds. In other places new construction seem to fit nicely into otherwise historic landscape. Old and new tend to go well with one another in Georgia, but that could just be the American in me being biased.
This weekend the US Embassy hosted American days in Rike Park. Rike Park is accessible by a glass bridge and hosts a number of nearly transparent glass structures. The park was planned by the Georgian Government as a comment to transparency in governance. The architecture is beautiful and the park is bright green and teeming with Georgian families enjoying time off. I saw at least two bridal parties making their way across the glass bridge onto celebrate, probably with some of Georgia’s excellent wine. American days is a success, though it feels like Georgian Farmers Market intermingled with a US-based NGO tradeshow. I wander the booths for a while to enjoy the pleasant mix of Georgian and English and to marvel at some of the more unusual cross cultural exchange programs. I stumble across a few American men attempting to look nonchalant as they hover about the Georgian cheerleader tent. Their disappointed faces as teenage Georgian girls march out in sequin skirts is priceless. I can’t help and stop at the live stage to watch a Georgian covering honkey-tonk country music. The throng of bored Georgian teenagers have no idea what the hell is going on as he yodels Hank William’s “Lovesick Blues.” I can’t help but smile as I am reminded of countless childhood memories in Montana. I tap my foot in time to the oldies in a city founded in the 5th century.