It was time to meet up with my brothers, Bren and Johnny who had both flown out to meet us from Dubai and Dublin respectively for a few days. It was great to see them both – a mini holiday within our holiday – and Tbilisi had enough to entertain us all for a good few days.

On the first day we decided to head up to Mshketa which is the Religious capital of Georgia. After negotiating with the friendly neighbours about a driver we decided to join a tour company in order to get an English guide. So I took on booking duties and, in standard Paddy fashion, I managed to click the wrong tour on the company website…. This meant we ended up with a ‘bonus’ open top bus tour of Tbilisi as well as our Mshketa trip. 

It was nice for Bren and Johnny to get out of the city to see some Georgian countryside and appreciate all The Lada Rivas on the road. It brought us back to our childhood when someone on our street had one and was mercilessly teased for it. 

Mshketa home of St Nino

Back in the city we enjoyed food and a few beers, becoming regulars in the trendy Generator bar where we drowned our sorrows after the US election. Much time was spent discussing this disaster – 2016 the year we left the world alone and it decided to implode in our absence! 

The second day highlight was our trip to see Swan Lake in the National Opera and Ballet theatre. The building itself was spectacular, quite new but done in a classical fashion. Of us three Cronins only Bren had been to a ballet and it was a modern ballet where he was ‘shushed’ for laughing at a ‘serious’ snake impression 🙂 Could we step up to the cultural plate and appreciate Swan Lake? We certainly think we did! It is the Classic ballet with white tutus and lots of familiar songs. The dancing, in particular the prima ballerina, was amazing. Annie and I rarely wear anything but our lycra and baggy, oil stained travelling trousers now so it was nice to spruce up for the occasion. I even wore a tie. 

What was also interesting was the relaxed atmosphere and the various ages of the crowd. There was quite a bit of clapping, many a ‘Bravo!’ and even some talking especially during the overture and musical interludes. Because the tickets were so cheap, £12 for prime seats, there were lots of kids present and at the interval Annie said the girls toilet was full of young girls pretending to be swans, pirouetting in the mirror.

Wonky Tonky clock tower in the Old Town
The giant piano we found in the riverside park

We continued our tourist route of Tbilisi on day 3 with a trip up the cable car to the statue of the Mother of Kartlis who symbolises the Georgian national character; one hand holding out a bowl of wine for friends and the other a sword for enemies. It has spectacular views over the city and vast botanical gardens. That evening was more Georgian cuisine and a sampling of local jazz which seems to be very popular in lots of pubs and bars around town.

Cable car view

Bren headed off home to Dubai on Thursday (but not before he’d had a go on the tandem) and the three of us who were left took the funicular (one of the steepest in the word) up to the hill overlooking the city and checked out the Museum of Georgia which had a particularly interesting exhibition on Russian soviet rule which suppressed the Georgian people up to independence in 1990.

Johnny headed off Friday night in the early hours leaving us back on our own but having had a great time with the guys catching the sights and rounding off most days with well deserved beers…

With the guys gone we spent Saturday visiting the bus station, bike shop and getting our new schwalbe marathon-plus tyres on the bike ready to get back on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing the Mediterranean coast… It will be our first sight of the sea since Cambodia 9 months ago. Not normal behaviour for a sailor like me… 

A brief stop on the Black Sea before heading over the Turkish border

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