We've spent the last two days continuing to rest up in Tbilisi before we hit the road again tomorrow, since we will be driving every day for the next week. As is tradition, we have rented an apartment for Sunday and Monday so I can work comfortably on Monday morning, and we can have a reset of our luggage by doing all our washing. Given it is two weeks since we had an apartment, the latter especially was much needed, and we will try not to let it go two weeks again for the rest of the trip!
Luckily the Holiday Inn we were at the previous two days had a lovely outdoor pool terrace, and they let us have a late check out until 4pm. This meant we spent most of the day on Sunday avoiding walking around in the 36 degree heat, and making use of the hotel facilities instead. We then checked in to our apartment which is in one of the backstreets just a ten minute walk from Freedom Square, and only another five to the start of the old town. This meant we could have a nice walk around the area at sunset time when it was cooling down somewhat, and again with Summer later before bed when the buildings were all lit up. The most impressive of these buildings was the Georgian Parliament building with has huge arches on the front lined with fountains which are lit up at night.
As for today, we went for two quite long walks between my working hours in the middle of the day. The aim of the first walk was to take some photos of the picturesque Peace Bridge, a green glass bridge over the river near the city centre. To get there we had to cross the busy avenue by the apartment, which has no pedestrian crossings, only underpasses which are quite annoying to use with the buggy. We tried to be clever and find a crossing further down in the direction away from the bridge, but it didn't work out and it ended up taking us 45 minutes of walking along the rather confusing roads to get to there. This wasn't such a bad thing though since we got to see more of the city than we would have otherwise, including more traditional houses with their Georgian balconies (all rather run down), and the huge new government administration building. As we approached the Peace Bridge, we saw another bridge (Nikoloz Baratashvili Bridge), and decided to cross this one in order to take photos of the Peace Bridge from a distance, and to position ourselves on the other side of the river to walk back over it. This took us through the lovely Rike Park, which is dominated by the impressive modern glass cylindrical Rike Concert Hall building. We then crossed the Peace Bridge, taking photos on the way, before heading back up to Freedom Square and our apartment so I could get to work.
After work we went out again with our destination being the Narikala Fortress which sits on a hillside overlooking the city. I had read online that the only ways to get there are either to walk up the cobbled streets of the old town, or to get the cable car. We wanted to take Summer with us so opted for the cobbled streets, which were fine most of the way except for a very steep section right at the end. It was still about 35 degrees despite the sun being much lower, so I'd opted for flip flops, which were entirely unsuitable for the quite slippery cobbles. Melisa therefore carried Lucy up in her arms while I pushed the empty buggy up just in case I slipped. Once at the top relieved and rather sweaty we annoyingly saw a small car park which only had two cars parked in it and the rest of the spaces empty - we could have driven! So consider that a good tip if ever driving in Tbilisi: you can drive up to the Fortress despite what you might read online, and parking in the small car park is just 2 GEL (about 60p) per hour. There isn't actually much to see at the fortress, which might explain why there is no entry charge. There are some walls on the hillside which mostly look restored, and a newish looking church in the middle. It is all very picturesque though, and the views from the fortress walls over the city with mountains off into the distance were lovely as the sun was getting lower in the sky. You can also climb up some steep steps and trails on the fortress walls which I did some of on my own as it felt rather dangerous - not even a hand rail to hold to prevent what could be a very painful fall if you slip.
After safely making it back down into the old town we walked back to our apartment for a quiet evening in. Tomorrow we hit the road again to finally see the Caucasus mountains north of Tbilisi near the border with Russia.
During our first time in Georgia we had found the Georgians very dog friendly, and we had enjoyed taking Summer freely to any part of the Hilton in Batumi, including the top floor restaurant. However we aren't finding the same friendliness in Tbilisi. They were making us pick Summer up to walk through the hotel lobby here for some reason (we put her down immediately once we got to the lifts just around the corner), and we have seen a lot of people ducking out the way or standing to the side while we walk past with Summer on the streets.
No charging required the last two days, so only note here is that the parking on the back streets around Freedom Square where we are staying is completely free for some reason. They have controlled parking in other parts of the city we have seen, but not here, despite being two minutes walk from the Parliament and Government buildings.