Over a sunny April weekend, we found ourselves taking in a sign of the past and some potential for the future. Poetic, maybe, but it actually wasn’t planned that way… Presenting two awesome things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia:
The Georgian Stonehenge AKA The Chronicles of Georgia
Started in 1985 by the architect, sculptor, and painter Zurab Tsereteli, you could fairly say it falls under the Soviet era since the country didn’t gain its independence until 1991. A couple of other names include Kartlis Tskhovreba (ქართლის ცხოვრება), literally “Life of Kartli”, and The Georgian Royal Annals. About the only thing they have in common with Stonehenge is look from afar… Anyway, the place is still technically under construction – a thing you’ll realize as you see some of the scaffolding and tools around.
The theory here is that the 16 columns tell the story of the Georgian kings and some stories from the New Testament. At about 31 meters tall, it’s a great way of feeling small, no matter which columns you might be looking at.
Unfortunately, with no signage of any kind and just a few engravings in Georgian, you’re left to puzzle it out or read some of the other blog posts that have been written about it.
Supposedly covering the major milestones in the history of the country, the Georgian script means you’ll probably want a translator to help you out. (We saw a freelance-looking guide hanging out near the entrance, who I quickly shushed – not a fan of places that essentially require the services of a tour guide.)
This seriously feels like something out of a video game. Despite it’s ancient look, you have to remember it’s just a few decades old…
No idea about this one – If you know your Bible, shout it out in the comments.
Taking Jesus’ body, by the looks of it.
For some reason, this is one of the tools that’s survived and is still on site. Again, it’s not technically a finished sort of place, but virtually everything’s in place amongst the main columns…
Not pictured, but surrounding the columns, are a number of smaller buildings that look like they could have been storefronts. Could have been is the term here, of course, since some are just used as storage, while others have just accumulated dirt and dust.
The highlight for some, beyond the grand scape of the columns, is a panoramic view of northern Tbilisi and the Tbilisi Reservoir, which looks like an otherwise nice sort of lake. This structure is at the top of a hill, after all, so the views are part of the fun.
A small church sits near the back edge of the area near the parking lot.
A look back at the proper entrance – if you want a challenge, you can get off a stop early and hike a steep dirt hill to come up on a back entrance.
Overall, it’s out of the way and oddball enough for almost any weird-seeker out there. It’s far enough out of town that it’ll take some effort to reach, but it’s a pretty worthy destination. As places to visit in Tbilisi goes, this is pretty worthy.
Hualing Tbilisi Sea Plaza – AKA the big Chinese mall
There’s no getting around this – whether you call it Hualing Tbilisi Sea Plaza, the big Chinese mall, or ჰუალინგი თბილისის ზღვის პლაზა in Georgian, is even further out and harder to reach. Despite all the money that’s gone into this area, there’s no shuttle bus or extension of the city’s bus lines (as of publication) to the area. You can still get here via public transportation (see directions below), but for being literally the newest thing in this area of town, there’s no support for it. This is perhaps foreshadowing the rest of the visit….
Looking at one of the four corners of this intersection (the horses from above are on the opposite corner) shows a fairly grand entrance of the shopping center. Another corner features any number of older apartment complexes, while the other has a wide open space.
Near the center of one of the three main sections is a fairly classy looking high-ceilinged area. This is probably the most occupied area of the mall, though I’d guess only about 20-25% of shops were retail-ready (e.g. not empty or being used as storage space)
Since officially opening on September 30th, 2017, there are more than a few ‘coming soon’ sort of signs, including this basement-level grocery store that has no evidence of opening soon… or ever…
To be clear, some store are open and happy to sell you something (though you might need to practice your Georgian or Mandarin if you have questions). The nature of these shops presents function over form, even as a ton of attention is placed on the form, the materials, the quality… It’s not entirely Chinese-manufactured (supposedly there are some local businesses that will have some space here).
This place won’t be confused with any mall you might have been in before. From the straight corridors to a relative lack of creature comforts, this is a place to shop, not stroll.
An art gallery, huh? OK, now we’re intrigued. We didn’t see anything from the outside that appeared to be tall enough to be a 3rd or 4th floor (it’s curious to see a 4th floor being named in a Chinese building, since ‘4’ in Chinese sounds like the word for ‘death’…)
The escalator connecting the 2nd floor to the 3rd has a temporary-for-too-long roof on it, as if the money to continue building needs to first be generated by the lower floors. That art gallery and kids entertainment on the previous sign doesn’t exist yet.
If you ever find yourself in a Korean love motel, enjoy the round bed. They’re firm (like most Korean mattresses are), but fun.
Not just another ‘coming soon’ sign – whoever was proofreading a sign where the letters are two meters tall made it ‘COMINGS OON’ instead.
If you’re into large, grandiose projects open to the public but still very much in their early phase, this is perfect. Where products are available, prices are genuinely good, and there’s a striking amount of selection even from the fraction that’s already open. Housewares and furniture for every room of the house are the most common open stores, with toy stores and some clothing stores being around as well. This isn’t exactly one of the best places to visit in Tbilisi, but it’s still worth a trip.
Laura added an asterisk to her #2 rating (for the Hualing Tbilisi Sea Plaza): it has high value in terms of interest, but it’s only of interest to a few people.
Name: Chronicles of Georgia
Address: no street address available (GPS: 41.770632, 44.810537)
Directions: take Tbilisi’s metro line 1 to Ghrmaghele station, then take bus 60 going to the Tbilisi Sea. You’ll see it at the top of the hill as you approach it. Bus stop #1 will take you up a steep dirt path (kind of the back entrance), while bus stop #2 stops closer to the front entrance with the pillars and the parking lot.
Bus 111 will take you from the ‘back’ side of Station Square, from what Google Maps likes to call the Railway Passage Bridge.
Hours: open 24/7
Name: Hualing Tbilisi Sea Plaza – AKA the big Chinese mall
Address: 22 J. Lezhava Str , T’bilisi 0152 (GPS: 41.707236, 44.857009)
Directions: take Tbilisi’s metro line 1 to Varketili station, then take bus 50 the rest of the way. Get off when you see it off to the left.
Hours: 11am-7pm everyday.
Phone: +995 032 258 05 80
Ready for something else to see while in Tbilisi? Go check some of Tbilisi’s awesome street art.