In the 90s I lived in Tbilisi and could not wait to get away from it all. But I, of course, loved my home city and enjoyed many things the capital offered, particularly its cultural movements, the alternative theatrical performances, the emergence of the first independent festivals. In between those cultural themes me and my friends started to enjoy our first third space meet-ups or a new cafe culture experiences, although if I think about it, it was more of a single cafe experience.
Cafe Gabriadze was such. Back then it was pretty much the only place where you could enjoy sipping your cup of coffee in a hassle-free vibe, tastefully done vintage furniture decor made you feel at home and a staff that smiled was a refreshingly new experience. The cafe was attached to the puppet theater (still is) and primarily it had been established for the performers to enjoy a glass of chilled beer or a bitter Turkish coffee in between the rehearsals.
Overlooking the ancient church on one side from then open air balcony it was where all my friends talked about creating brighter future for ourselves, some of us (like me) wanted to leave the city as soon as possible, others were more determined to carve the career and a better life by staying at home.
It was also the only place if and when any Western foreigners visited Tbilisi, you’d meet them there. These days, of course, it is packed with tourists, in and around the cafe, (you’d be lucky to manage and grab a free table), but the cafe remains the first place of meeting with my friends whenever I am back in Tbilisi. It is still the place where we all share laughter, complaints of daily life and feel like we manage to wind back the clock and hang out as we once used to do.
And if I could choose anywhere to be in Tbilisi to chill out, it would be still here. Steps away from the ancient churches, a short walk away from the old meets new architecture, vibrant cafe culture, artisan crafts shops, minutes away to jump on a cable car (if you can stomach), walk up the hills of Mtasminda for a panoramic view of the capital and feel the real soul of Tbilisi. Of course now that I live over 3000 miles away in Manchester, UK, I can’t do that often, but to me this old charm place in the centre of the city makes Tbilisi lovlier and sunnier even when it rains.