Well, I guess I should begin with the broken plane on the runway in Newark, NJ. Unfortunately, sitting next to a man with "Jimmy legs" made me even more nervous than I already was...I will spare you the traumatic details, but we FINALLY made it off the ground, just after I frantically texted our IREX leader, Claire, that they would have to go to Georgia without me!
Once arriving in DC, it was beyond wonderful to see the smiling faces of the rockstar educators in my Georgia cohort! Their smiles turned to scowls when I broke the news that somehow I had ended up with a Business Class plane ticket to Munich (just kidding, they were all happy for me!) So while I woke up refreshed in Munich yesterday morning, the other poor fellows look a bit rundown. I don't think I can ever fly Economy again! We only had a few hours to explore Munich, and our rooms were not ready, so the other ladies and I treated ourselves to a five minute refresher in the hotel spa locker room, and then met the guys to brave the Munich mass transit system!
|Mareinplatz, Munich (home of the Glockenspiel!)|
We successfully found our way to Marienplatz, which is the central square in the city of Munich. It was amazing to see medieval buildings and famous sites like the Hofbrauhaus right next to Louis Vuitton and H&M. We ate a delicious, authentic German lunch and my friend, Megan and I then explored the side streets and a beautiful church. We made it back to the station just in time for to get back to the hotel, freshen up and jump on our flight to Tbilisi. And yes, once again I had Business Class (although this time it wasn't quite as luxurious...I know, poor me!)
|Hofbrauhaus (next to Muncih Hard Rock Cafe)|
|Echo enjoying a German pretzel!|
Arriving in Tbilisi at 5:30 am was terrifying. About 30 feet from touchdown, the pilot suddenly realized the visibility was so poor he could not land, so around and around the city we circled, the fog so thick we all thought the worst! Old Georgian women on the plane were praying and doing the sign of the cross...not a good omen. Our IREX guide Claire listened to Frank Sinatra to calm her nerves!
Thankfully, we were eventually able to land and we dragged our tired bodies to baggage and then took a van to our hotel in the city. At first glance, Tbilisi reminded me a lot of Rome, with some cobblestone streets, small cafes and street vendors. After exploring Old Tbilisi this afternoon at greater length with our wonderful Georgian tour guide, the city now seems much more diverse than Rome. Fifth century churches stand next to more modern mosques and temples. Georgian architecture seems to be a mix of Roman/Grecian, Persian and Soviet influence. Many of the Soviet era buildings are made of glass.
|Bridge of Peace|
|TGC Fellows: Meredith, Me and Renee|
|The ladies and Mario atop the fortress|
We visited the ancient fortress Narikala, which overlooks the entire city. It was quite a hike to get to top, and I realized how very little I have used my treadmill at home :( We visited several Georgian Orthodox churches, where we women covered our heads with scarves out of respect. We weaved around the side streets, smelled the sulphur in the water used in the ancient baths (which are still in use), saw the awe inspiring Bridge of Peace, danced on a smaller bridge with a waterfall as our backdrop (yes, I danced...kind of) and learned so much from our guide about the history and culture of this wonderful city. (I will post our dance soon!) I haven't been many places in the world, but Tbilisi seems to be so unique because of the how the cultural elements of numerous invaders over the centuries (due to its strategic location on the Silk Road and proximity to Russia) have been infused into Georgian life.
|View from the fortress|
So students...would you like to go to Munich and/or Tbilisi? If so, tell me the thing(s) you would most love to see! (Don't be afraid to do a little research!)