Our First Day in Tbilisi
After catching up on a few hours sleep following our very early arrival in Tbilisi and a delicious and generous breakfast at Fabrika Hostel, we were ready to dive into the maze streets of Georgia’s capital. Our first destination was the extraordinary Dry Bridge Market, a unique flea market still offering a vast spread of antiquities, trinkets and Soviet memorabilia. Possibly one of the last surviving, authentic flea markets in the world, that has yet to be bombarded by stalls selling cheap clothing and other tat that seems to be common at most other markets throughout the globe.
The Charming District of Chugureti
Fabrika’s stylish, industrial building can be found on a small side street in the residential district of Chugureti, that has still kept its charm of crumbling villas adorned with wooden balconies and street art set along potholed streets. The charm of this quarter is to be found in these traditional streets, the exception is the recently renovated Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, which was recommended to us by a member of staff. Walking towards the Dry Bridge Market we decided to stroll through the Avenue, but were immediately disappointed upon reaching the cobbled street. An abundance of restaurants catering for Arab tourists lined the pedestrian avenue, with staff constantly pestering us to come in for food and drinks. It felt like we had been transported to a tourist trap, not unlike those that can be found at major holiday destinations like Mallorca or Morocco. Rushing towards the Dry Bridge we tried to leave Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue behind and swore to avoid it by weaving through the side streets in case we would need to head into that direction again.
The History of the Dry Bridge Market
The Dry Bridge Market started out of desperation of locals in Tbilisi trying to sell their small possessions in return for little money during the Perestroika and early years of independence. Sadly this is still the case nowadays for some citizens although others have turned it into regular business. Setting foot onto the Dry Bridge (officially Saarbruecken Bridge) we noticed some men displaying a small number of possessions on the pavement. Most of these items would be worthless for most tourists, in other countries we would probably just drop them into the bin without even thinking that someone else might find any use in them or even dare pay some cash. I found it quite hard at times to ponder what life these people might lead, tying to make a living from selling these goods. It reminded me very much of some Vietnam’s women, selling their fruit, vegetables and crafts at the many markets throughout the country.
Painstaikingly Organised Displays
Most of the items for sale at the Dry Bridge Market were carefully laid out on sheets, straight on the ground. Sometimes they were painstakingly arranged, almost with an obsession for perfection. Others seemed to not even care about attracting much attention from possible buyers and just piled their collections high on the floor, tables or even inside of car boots. Old rusting cars lined the sides of the street, appeared to be abandoned and used as storerooms for the vendors.
Discover a Treasure Among the Bric-a-Brac
While most of the items are useless for most tourists, it is exciting to wander through the stalls and discover the random bric-a-brac and to watch the locals. However you might be surprised and find a treasure amongst the vintage randomness. There really is a wondrous array of items, ranging from old electric cables to china dolls, copper plates, pins and even antique jewellery and tea sets.
A Fascinating Variety of Goods
Jerome took an interest in a variety of stamps, old dial telephones and toys, while I stopped to gaze through old records and cameras. Chris found a cheap voltmeter, a fraction of the price he would have paid in London. He was fascinated to discover the number of stands covered in small electrical parts from old radios, TV sets… piles of resistors, transistors, capacitors and even ancient valves all ripped out of their original devices and piled high for resale, he kept wondering what anyone would do with them! I guess they might be used to repair equally ancient devices.
More Covered Stands
Anyone interested in vintage china, cutlery and old vintage household items should venture down some steps, past some stands on the end of the bridge to the right. There sandwiched between the road and the river you will find a treasure trove of covered stalls, exploding with interesting junk.
Be Prepared to Haggle!
If you are intending to buy, expect to haggle like in the souks of Morocco, as prices are definitely inflated for tourists, although they are still rather cheap compared to other flea markets. There were also the odd souvenir stands to be found at the Dry Bridge Market and on weekends artists offer their works in the nearby Dedaena Park. The Dry Bridge Market is open every day, on weekends, especially Sundays, there may be more locals offering their wares but also more tourists to push past.
Onwards to the Old Town of Tbilisi
A sudden downpour forced many of the vendors at the unique Dry Bridge Market to hastily pack up and therefore we had to cut our wanderings in the labyrinth of second hand marvels short. In search for a good café break out of the rain we rushed along the river towards the old town of Tbilisi, followed by wanders through the lesser visited Avlabari district.
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