Category Archives: Tbilisi

Tbilisi to Batumi by train

Having experienced a couple of mini-bus trips around the country I was keen to experience travel by train. I had traveled by slow train from Tbilisi to Kutaisi last November – a slow and ponderous trip punctuated by some lengthy stops.

This time I would be taking the ‘fast’ train and needed to go through the process of buying a ticket. While tickets can be bought online (not an easy process) the best option was to pre-purchase ticket by going to Station Square Metro Station and heading to the train station. This had the added benefit of familiarising where to go for the day of travel.

First challenge was working out which exit to take from the metro…there are several exits and it is important to take the right one. If you have been on the main line it is the exit with the sign with the least number of options (the others include the other metro line information).

Next challenge was finding the train station… as usual outside many metro stations in Tbilisi there was a hive of activity; stalls, people, mini buses and taxis hustling for business. Nothing looking much like a train station.

I wandered for a while, looking here and there, even inside a shopping mall, but no station. I asked a few people (it takes a few people to find one who speaks English) and they point back to the shopping mall (cunning disguise guys!)  Inside amongst shops,  I ask again and after going up an escalator I found the ticket booths.

Tbilisi railway
Tbilisi Central Station disguised as a shopping mall – even inside…

Fortunately the seller spoke English and asked if I want a first or second class seat – price for a first class ticket was only 25GEL and I thought I might even sit next to an English speaker and have someone to talk to during the trip so decision made! Note you must have passport or some other form of photo ID available to buy the ticket and to board the train on your day of travel.

Tbilisi train ticket
Train ticket

Note: tickets are assigned to carriage and seat. If you want a window seat you will need to ask. No food is served and on my trip there were no food sellers at the brief stops so bring food and water.

The platform is down the escalator and on the right side. All set for my 8.45am departure in a few days!

Travel day.

At precisely 8.45 the train slowly pulled away from the platform and trundled its way through the north-western suburbs of Tbilisi on its  5 hour trip to the sea. My hope of having an English speaker next to me were dissolved as an Indian man armed with a video camera settled in beside me. (He later moved and filmed his family the whole journey.)

In fact, there were no native English speakers in carriage 1 at all – the nearest was a Russian guy who complained (somewhat justifiably over halfway through the trip) about the unclean condition of the only toilet.

The seats were generous and plenty of leg room and came with a free bottle of water and free wifi.

I wonder what he is looking at?
Oh him – train spotter, or bored…

The scenery on the route changed constantly; one minute lush green hills and a few kilometres further on dry hills, then back to green again. This is reflective of all of Georgia and in part has led to the diversity of wines as there are so many climatic and soil types to suit the 500 grape varieties found in the country.

Georgian scenery
Near Tbilisi
Georgian scenery
This near Tbilisi, one of hundreds of factories abandoned in 1998

Georgian scenery Georgian scenery

The schedule of the train was well maintained by the timing of the stops. Some were long enough for most to disembark, have a cigarette or two before being ushered back on the train. Other stops last just long enough for someone to get on or off, to the disgruntlement of the keen smokers.

Toilet block
Toilet block
smoko stop
smoko stop
station master
Station Master – you can tell by the hat. We passed through without stopping.
Derelict building
Derelict building. Probably once part of a station.
Abandoned building – so many…

The last part of the trip hugged the lush coast, within metres of the Black Sea in some places

Georgia's version of the Queenslander.
Georgia’s version of the Queenslander.
A better house
A better house
Georgian scenery
More Georgian scenery
Georgian scenery
Georgian scenery – worried about the weather…
Georgian scenery
Georgian scenery – getting near the coast
Georgian scenery - fallow ground
Georgian scenery – fallow ground

The journey ended at the station (360 image) that is 5km north of the city.

As with all transport places in Georgia I was assailed by taxi drivers – one wanting 10 GEL for the trip into town which is widely publicised as costing 5. I stared him down showing five fingers. He responded with 10. Me five, him 10, so I walked away with the then expected tap on the shoulder “OK five” with such a hurt expression on his face he could have won an acting award. Note an acceptable fare can be as low as 3GEL

A madcap drive into town in the typically mechanically doubtful and tattered exterior taxi, including a stop to put my 5GEL in as petrol to the tank that indicated empty and finally arrived at my accommodation for the next four nights, the centrally located Hotel Verona







Day of the Saucer

One of the great things about Georgia is the modern and innovative architecture. There was one place I wanted to capture, the Emergency Services Centre, also known as the 112 Building. (112 is the 000 of Georgia.)

As with any travel in Georgia, anything  outside a simple metro ride is never easy.

The Metro ride from Rustaveli Metro Station to Station Square was simple, but Station Square, being a hub with several entrances, getting the right one to exit the building to the right place is a fun thing. Next is finding where the bus stop is for the required bus.

Station Square is also a hub for mini-buses and city buses but there is little apparent logic so after 40 minutes circulating and asking where bus 65 departed, with a language or lack of interest barrier I finally found it.

And I waited, and waited, and waited. That evening was a concert so I felt under a little time pressure so I grabbed a Lexus taxi that had circulated three times already and offered 10 Lari to take me there (more than he would have asked…but it was a newish Lexus 🙂 .

After the driver not understanding what the 112 building was,  I quickly pulled up a pic of it on my phone and a smile a nod and a quick U-turn and we were on out way. Goodness knows where we were going before that!

He took be to the top entry, which is a good thing . The building itself is a flying saucer – like structure perched on a slope overlooking the city.

telephone tower
Telephone tower, Georgia style

I was able to get a few good shots as I walking around the side and to the lower car park where I was about to get a shot of the zigzag stairs when I heard a load and gruff ARA! ARA! (NO! NO!) from an older police officer who formed part of the guard detail. Pointing at the camera he gave an extended arms cross indicating not allowed (or handcuffs?) and ushered me away.

Unique, daring and totally amazing
ET - returns?
ET – returns?

I wandered down the road aways before taking a few more shots from far enough away that they might not see me (yeah right!).

Sorry, one more from a distance!
Sorry, one more from a distance!

Then onto Google Maps to work out my exit route, which ended up being a dodgy dirt road leading off into some grassed area, passing by some nice old church gates before heading off down a hill.

No service today
No service today

After a few wrong turns and dead ends I worked out to follow the excuse for street light poles and the dirt turned to a rough concrete surface, a real need as this must be one of the steepest streets in Tbilisi, if not Georgia, if not the world!

Hmm, not that way after a dead end around the corner
Hmm, not that way after a dead end around the corner
A corner of Tbilisi where time stands still
A corner of Tbilisi where time stands still

I indicated as much to two women chatting, one who held up her bags of shopping and inclined her head as if to say “I have to walk up there all the time!”

The street finally starts to flatten out
The street finally starts to flatten out

Thank goodness I had not caught the bus as originally planned and had to go walk up.

Finally I found my way to the university district (a different feel with lots of young people) and salvation – the Metro!

The metro station are nothing if not subtle.
The metro station are nothing if not subtle.