King Erekle II Street, Tbilisi
Written by Nestan Charkviani Illustration by Marion Vitus
People find Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, attractive for many different reasons. Fashion designer Nino Chubinishvili, aka ‘Chubika’, says that she chose to live here for the inspiration she gets while roaming the streets of her native town.
Located right next to the busiest part of Tbilisi, the old narrow side streets in Kalaubani district are so detached from the mundane fuss that they seem almost surreal. “Walking in this area of Tbilisi charges me with positive energy which then splashes into a stream of ideas. I can spend hours on end wandering around,” confides Chubika, the internationally and Vogue-acclaimed Georgian fashion designer who dressed Georgia’s entry for the 2011 Eurovision song contest.
After years of work in Europe, Chubika decided that returning to Georgia was indispensable to her art. As she puts it, “the atmosphere here ignites bursts of creativity.” The fashion designer says that her favourite street in Tbilisi is the one named after 18th century King Erekle II. This little street offers all at once: history, art, shops, and delicious food.“ Once here, there is a deep sense of bonhomie, which just instantly settles in and I love it,” she says.
During her promenades Chubika likes to drop in at the Samoseli Pirveli shop at the corner of Bambis Rigi and King Erekle II Streets, which offers a selection of traditional Georgian dresses and footwear. These are either exact replicas, or variations, of costumes and shoes worn by Georgian aristocracy centuries earlier. The wide range of accessories makes for great souvenirs. After visiting the Samoseli Pirveli shop last May, Hollywood star Sharon Stone took quite a few of these back to the USA. “They revived beautiful old costumes and blew fresh life into them, made them trendy and cool to wear. It is such a fantastic project,” notes Chubika while trying on a traditional hood, called a kabalakhi.
Next stop is a terraced café, Konka Station, which has views of the 4th century fortress that mysteriously looms over the top of a nearby mountain. Chubika says she is “addicted” to nunnery-made exquisite cheeses served here, and often comes for a snack.
Further up, after passing 13th century Sioni Cathedral, the designer leads the way to Tiflis Avenue, a gallery that specialises in contemporary Georgian art. “Tiflis Avenue gallerists always offer interesting works,” muses Chubika as she moves around the exhibition hall.
Amongst the many restaurants of Erekle II Street, Chubika names Kala as her favourite. Along with delicious Georgian food, every evening Kala offers live music sessions. Mondays welcome Professor Revaz Kiknadze, rector of Tbilisi Conservatoire and keen saxophonist, who joins the Kala band to play jazz.
Chubika says that the Kalaubani area has a magical quality to it, and under its spell King Erekle II Street is the most charming of all.
Distance: 1,930 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 15 mins
Frequency: Daily via Baku