Tag Archives: metro

A hot bath in Tbilisi

Last August I was in Istanbul and one thing people said to do was have a Turkish bath. Well circumstances that transpired meant that did not happen, so when I heard Georgians had their own hot baths I decided to take the plunge.

Tbilisi was established on the site of hot springs 1,500 years ago. According to one account King Vakhtang Gorgasali  went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon in about 460AD. The king’s falcon caught a pheasant, but both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died. King Vakhtang was so impressed with the discovery that he decided to build a city on this location.

Monument to the discovery of the hot springs

It is these same hot springs that supply today’s hot baths, of which there are several operating in the old city.

After consulting a local expat Facebook group on the bath with the best price and cleanliness I undertook my bath at King Erekle’s Bath.

On arrival I was shown a small room where I would strip naked, and then the main bath area, where a large plunge pool, a tiled ‘bed’ where the scrub takes place and the shower area to rinse off under cool water.

Sorry, cellphone pictures!
Sorry, cellphone pictures! Changeroom

Firstly the water in the plunge pool is hot! I was to stay here 15 minutes while the heat relaxed my muscles and opened my pores. After a while I had to climb out and sit on the edge as I was feeling a bit dizzy.

Plunge pool - cleaner than pictures indicate
Plunge pool – cleaner than pictures indicate

Soon it wast time for the scrub –  a vigorous scrub front and back with a loofa by the old baths attendant. He must have been a pretty fit guy if he did scrubs like this several times a day.

Scrubbing bench - shower in background

A rinse of several buckets of water poured over me, washing away the masses of dead skin the loofa had dislodged. An equally vigorous soap scrub with  a finer loofa had me feeling smooth and silky.

I had paid extra for a massage and rather than any systematic muscle specific it was a rather rough and ready experience. Strong hands quickly covered muscles in legs back and arms, turn over and repeat. Sit up and even my head was done.

Time for a rinse under the shower, then back into the hot water for a final relax before s long time standing under the cool water of the shower.

Not surprisingly it took a long time for my body temperature to cool down after I left the baths, despite the weather not being hot and with a few cold beers over lunch at a local restaurant.

Was the experience worth it. Yes, and if I had longer in the country I would have had another. My skin felt so good after.

Bath-house from the outside - domed roofs are airvents
Bath-house from the outside – domed roofs are air vents
The Royal Bath House is another option.
The Royal Bath House is another option.

Price: 52GEL (A$29.50, US$22.70 EUR20 approx)
Place: King Erekles Bath
Duration: 1 hour
No need to book. Open mid-morning till late.

Riding the rails – Tbilisi Metro

Today’s exploration involved buying a Metrocash Card and riding the rails. First up was purchasing the cashless ticket called MetroMoney. After reading a blog how-to the process was painless – all I had to do was hand over 10 GEL say card and in response to the inquiring look of the ticket seller indicate 8 – this was 2 for the plastic card and 8 for the amount to be loaded onto the card – enough for 16 trips.

Today’s travels

The descent down to the platform was interesting. 45 degree escalator going down what seemed like 100 metres. Trains ran every 5 minutes. The station was built in 1965 and looks like it has not had anything done to it since – even though overall a lot of it seemed pretty good condition. I guess overall a testament to Russian engineering?

The descent to the platform

The train itself looked like it might have been built at the same time, old, noisy and oddly, fast.  Evidently there are 117 Metro vehicles 50 of which are still the original style. It it not surprising that such a convenient transport system carries over 100 million passengers a year (noting the population of Tbilisi is just over 1.2 million). It begs the question if so many are riding the Metro why are there so many cars clogging the streets!

First stop was Didube where many mini buses called marshruktas that go to all destinations north, south and west depart. I had a wander in the rain amidst the throng with drivers urging me to get on their bus (note to self… write out destination name in Georgian as almost none had destinations in English) so had I been traveling, I could have ended up anywhere!

There was a wide range of marshrekta, this was the oldest

There was also a large bustling market with a ramshackle plastic sheeting roof that hardly provided shelter, plus a more substantial undercover market where cheeses were sold.

Didube cheese sellers
Didube cheese sellers

Eventually, after much searching and raised anxiety levels, I found metro entrance again and traveled to the end of the line, Akhmeteli Theatre. I suppose there is a theatre there. As it was still raining hard I searched the market (does every metro stop have a market? – have to find out) and eventually after wandering  amongst the rivers of water flowing between the stalls found a place that sold umbrellas. (Paying what I guess was an overly priced 20 GEL – A$12.50 despite saying Dizviri (expensive).)

Wet and wild

Noticing on the map the station was near an artist friend I caught a taxi to his place (again the ‘tourist aspect came in and he wanted to charge me twice as much) for lunch and an afternoon toasting and drinking cha cha. (Think vodka but 30% higher alcohol and home distilled .. so I am lucky I can even write this…).

He drove me back to the Metro entrance and luckily I found the right platform. The metro ride back was easy and the walk up the steep hill to the guesthouse manageable, just.

Forecast for tomorrow… sore head …. (post script – I have never had any after effect from cha cha, even after having some more of this potent home brew posted to me in Australia).

The cobbled street surface on the way home