There’s Something Different About Tbilisi
I’ve mentioned my trip to Georgia (Gürcüstan) a few times now. And I think it’s fair to say that I really enjoyed my time there. While I can really only speak to how it felt to be in Tbilisi, there were some differences worth noting, and questions that are poking around for answers. Of course, before I dive in, it must be said that traveling to a country’s capitol city is much different than traveling to regions outside the capitol. In Azerbaijan, Baku is starkly different than the regions that PCVs live in. Customs are different, Western modernity has transformed it, and the lives of both locals and ex-pats are considerably foreign from those in the regions.
That said, even just comparing Tbilisi and Baku, there really was a palpable difference between the two cultures. Among their similarities are that Azerbaijan and Georgia were both Soviet South Caucasus countries, both are relatively small countries, high in rural population and still recovering from the Soviet hangover.
The differences, however, were starkly displayed even as we crossed the border on the train ride from Baku to Tbilisi. Whereas the guards and customs officials in Azerbaijan were stoic, serious, and generally uninteresting, the same roles filled by Georgians featured smiles and jokes and pleasant small talk.
Tbilisi, itself, felt like a much more European city (though, I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m just guessing from the way others talk about it, and from what I imagine a European city to be like). People smiled more often, there were Christian churches heavily scattered throughout the city, and men and women seemed less concerned about what they displayed to the public eye, more confident. I’m going to have to think about why these differences exist a bit more before I write about it. Maybe it’s reflective of their respective experiences during Soviet times, or their religious differences, or their economic situations. If you have any ideas, drop a comment.