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Date : 16th May, 2017
Time : 57’54”
Total distance run to date : 1100 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1746319978
I love running my 10 kms with other people. I learn about the local country and culture ; I get to spread the Run the World word ; and the company helps immeasurably with the pain of the runs.
The only downside is that they tend to want to run in places made for running. Like parks and open spaces and running tracks.
Places where you can keep up a steady pace and don’t have to keep stopping for street life, pedestrians and red lights. Safe places where you’re unlikely to be mugged, die of air pollution or be run over by traffic.
Which makes lot of sense – but does mean that you probably won’t be running past the top tourist attractions (such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral – picture below). Whereas, when you run by yourself, you can plan your run to take in those sights – and anything else that grabs your fancy along the way.
My run in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, fell into the lonely category so I took a quick look at the tourist map and headed for the centre of town. Which was some way away as, inevitably, I was staying in the cheap part of town.
The run didn’t start too promisingly as I hit a large სპაგეტი* junction and various roads of a size that would be better suited to a motorway. Having navigated those, I eventually I made my way down to the bank of the Mtkvari (or Kura) river and found myself running along a road called ‘Nikoloz Baratashvili named left bank’. At least that’s what it says on Google maps.
From there I crossed over the river to ‘Zviad Gamsakhurdia named right bank’, past a street market selling everything from curved swords to jewellery to what looked like WWII paraphernalia to the Public Service Hall. This rather impressive building (picture below) houses 400 different public services under 11 giant petals atop steel ‘trees’.
I continued along the river with views of the Rike Park Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall , which sits under the Presidential Palace with its classical portico under a glass dome and the magnificent Holy Trinity Cathedral, until I came to Peace Bridge. (A bow-shaped pedestrian bridge, constructed from steel and glass, and illuminated with thousands of LEDs that light up at night – picture below with the Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall in the background).
I crossed over the bridge to Rike Park and there was the cable car that goes up to the ancient Narikala Fortress. Now, this is when you need someone from the rules committee. Am I allowed to take a cable car during my runs? Obviously the distance in the car wouldn’t count towards the 10km, but is the sit down allowed?
I’m not sure where the rules Johnnies were – it’s not as if there’s anyone else doing the challenge so you’d think they’d be nearby – but they weren’t in Tbilisi. So I had to take the decision myself. And got on the cable car.
The reward was great views over the city once I got to the top (picture 5 at the top of the blog) and a close up view of Kartlis Deda – the Monument of a Mother of a Georgian. This twenty-metre aluminium figure of a woman in Georgian national dress symbolizes the Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies. (Picture below.)
From there I ran down through the botanical gardens to the narrow winding lanes of the Old Town before ending up near Liberty (or Freedom) Square. The location was first named Freedom Square in 1918, during the foundation of the First Georgian Republic following the collapse of the Russian Empire. In 1921, the Soviet Union invaded, absorbed Georgia and renamed the square “Beria Square”, and then “Lenin Square”.
It has subsequently been the site of various mass demonstrations including those for Georgia’s independence (from the Soviet Union), the Rose Revolution, and others. In 2005 Freedom Square was the location where U.S. President George W. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed a crowd of around 100,000 people in celebration of the 60th anniversary marking the end of World War II. During this event, Georgian-Armenian Vladimir Arutyunian threw a live grenade at President Bush while he was speaking in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him (picture below.)
By the end of the run I’d decided that Tbilisi didn’t just have a great name – it was also a great place to visit. Admittedly, they still smoke indoors – it’s amazing how something can go from commonplace to shocking in ten years- and the locals will ruthlessly exploit any weakness in your queuing technique. But these are minor quibbles and you should go to Tbilisi if you ever get the chance! (I’ve included some words from Lonely Planet in the Facts & Stats section below to further whet your appetite.)
*’Spaghetti’ in Georgian
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region. Located at the crossroadsbetween Eastern Europe and Western Asia it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russian Federation, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The country’s capital and a largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its 2016 population is about 3.72 million. Georgia is a unitary, semi-presidential republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
In the late 18th century, the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire, which directly annexed the kingdom in 1801 and conquered the western Kingdom of Imereti in 1810. Russian rule over Georgia was eventually acknowledged in various peace treaties with Iran and the Ottomans and the remaining Georgian territories were absorbed by the Russian Empire in a piecemeal fashion in the course of the 19th century. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Georgia obtained its short-lived independence and established a republic led by the Social-Democrats in 1918, only to be invaded by Soviet Russia in 1921 and subsequently absorbed into the Soviet Union as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
A pro-independence movement led to the secession from the Soviet Union in April 1991. For most of the following decade, post-communist Georgia suffered from a civil conflicts, secessionist wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and economic crisis. Following the bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia pursued a strongly pro-Western foreign policy, aiming at NATO and European integration, and introduced a series of democratic and economic reforms, which brought about mixed results, but strengthened state institutions. The country’s Western orientation soon led to the worsening of relations with Russia, culminating in the brief Russo-Georgian War in August 2008 and Georgia’s current territorial dispute with Russia.
Georgia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained very limited international recognition after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Georgia and the overwhelming majority of the international community consider the regions to be part of Georgia’s sovereign territory under Russian military occupation.
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River with a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Founded in the 5th century AD by Vakhtang I Gorgasali, the monarch of the Kingdom of Iberia, Tbilisi since served as the capital of various Georgian kingdoms and republics. Between 1801 and 1917, then being under the rule of the former Russian Empire, Tbilisi was the seat of the Imperial Viceroy, governing both Southern and Northern Caucasus.
Because of its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and its proximity to lucrative east-west trade routes, throughout history Tbilisi was a point of contention between various global powers. The city’s location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for various energy and trade projects. Tbilisi’s diverse history is reflected in its architecture, which is a mix of medieval, classical, Middle Eastern, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and Moderniststructures.
Historically Tbilisi has been home to people of multiple cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, though it is currently overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian. Its notable tourist destinations include cathedrals Sameba and Sioni, classical Freedom Square, Rustaveli Avenue and Agmashenebeli Avenue, medieval Narikala Fortress, pseudo-Moorish Opera Theater, and the Georgian National Museum.
Lonely Planet on Tbilisi
Tbilisi has come a long way since the Rose Revolution of 2003 ousted the post-Soviet Shevardnadze government. To Tbilisi’s eternal charms of a dramatic setting in the deep valley of the swift Mtkvari River, picturesque architecture, an ever-lively arts and cultural scene, and the welcoming Georgian lifestyle have been added a whole new 21st-century dimension of inviting cafes and restaurants serving ever better food, up-to-date lodgings from backpacker hostels to international five-stars, funky bars and clubs, spruced-up museums, galleries, parks, plazas and whole streets, modernised transport and a sprinkling of eye-catching contemporary architecture. All of which make it a much easier, and more fun, city to visit and live in than it was less than a decade ago.
But the old Tbilisi is still very much here too. The Old Town, at the narrowest part of the valley, is still redolent of an ancient Eurasian crossroads, with its winding lanes, balconied houses, leafy squares and handsome churches, all overlooked by the 17-centuries-old Narikala Fortress. Neighbourhoods not far from the centre still retain a village-like feel with their narrow streets, small shops and community atmosphere. Small traders still clog up the pavements around metro stations selling fruit, vegetables, cheese and nuts fresh from the countryside.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Georgia – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
GDP $14.3 bn 2016 $3.06 bn 2000
Population 3.72 m 2016 4.42 m 2000
Primary school enrolment* 117% 2015 97.3% 2000
% below poverty line** 14.8% 2012 20.1% 2007
Life expectancy at birth 74.8 yrs 2015 71.6 yrs 2000
GNI per capita $3810 2016 $750 2000
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
**The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Georgia performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:
Global Cup – 54th
Per Capita Cup – 27th
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.