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28 February 2012 / leggypeggy

Tbilisi—Let’s go shopping

Anyone for a watermelon?

Usually from the minute we arrive at a new location, Poor John has us out walking the streets and taking in the local life. Tbilisi was no exception and we set out to explore the side streets and neighbourhoods surrounding our hostel.

It’s a great way to get glimpses of Georgian daily life and to see the variety of shopping available.

Our first encounter in Tbilisi was with an entrepreneurial watermelon salesman with his boot-load of fruit. I can assure you he didn’t drive there in that car. All the tires were flat and you’ll notice how the watermelons on the ground are held in place by chunks of concrete. A little farther on, we came to the corner shop with its beer sign and produce display giving an immediate indication that a shop was there.

Lunch was at a family-style restaurant with its own bakery. The smell was heavenly and the large flat loaves were being produced non-stop. The bakery itself wasn’t open to the public, but they were quite happy to let me take photos through the display window.

Working on carpets in Tbilisi

Another stop was at a textile/carpet shop. Two women—perhaps a mother and daughter—were out the front making carpets and/or doing repairs. Poor John, who is especially interested in carpets, went in to the shop to learn more, but a lack of language prevented him from getting a lot of detail. He did confirm, though, that woven carpets are made in Georgia.

But I don’t want to give an impression that all sales are made from hole-in-the-wall shops or car boots. Tbilisi is cosmopolitan and there are very smart shopping streets, with plenty of big brand names and stylish restaurants.

There are well-stocked supermarkets too. Georgia is known for its wine. In fact, it claims to be the birthplace of wine, and I can confirm that even the cheapest wine is quite delicious. Every supermarket has a wall of wine and another of vodka.

A bakery in Tbilisi

The supermarket around the corner from our hostel also had a professional beggar. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get  pic of her, but she would have charged me a bomb for it. For 8–10 hours of every day, she stood outside on the footpath, directly in front of and facing the supermarket entrance. Her hand was always outstretched and she often did a sort of half-lunge at everyone who came out of the store. Imagine her tapping the palm of her outstretched hand, demanding that you contribute a coin or note. She really was most insistent. Fortunately she took a bit of time off each day. I think it was a job-share arrangement—perhaps a family business—but her substitute wasn’t nearly as intimidating.

I resisted all their pleas. I don’t do beggars. I’ll always give to buskers, but not beggars. I won’t say never, but almost never. I have paid to take a photo and have given something to a few others. Poor John always thought we should have given something to the fellow in San Francisco who put out his hand and, with a big smile, asked us to ‘contribute to Obama’s economic stimulus package’.

Don’t forget to pick a number before 29 February 2012.

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7 Comments

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  1. derrick / Feb 28 2012 12:35 am

    mmm, professional beggers, met quite a few in Thailand, there was a guy who sat on the path, a huge open wound on his thigh, he was there the following year, the wound was still open, and he had the same tee shirt on as well

    i dont have a problem with beggers, but come on, give me a reason to give you a few bob, a hand out isnt enough reason, sorry, NOW buskers are really good, even the living statues that are around in the summer, even a juggler is worth a couple of bob, even the break dancers (are they still about ?)

    i like these ‘whole in the wall’ shoips, they have a lot of character, plus you get to ‘try’ and chat with the locals, and even in some cases get to try out their food and drink (I found out that ‘Durian’ is rank and isnt on the list of my favourite fruits 😦 but dont take my word, give it a try )

    I would have thought that they would have made a sale to anyone in a bread shop, mmm, fresh bread, that takes some beating, bith in smell and taste

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 28 2012 12:43 am

      Tbilisi was the only place where the begging seemed so job-like. Really annoying.
      But I’ve loved seeing the buskers. I’ve seen all sorts of weird instruments and heard all sorts of unusual music. And yes, all those other street performers. They’re doing something for my bob, which makes it all worth it.
      As the for bread, it was available through the restaurant and it was fabulous. I think every table got a loaf of bread automatically.

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  2. Sy S. / Feb 28 2012 1:39 am

    Hi,

    I have never heard of the word “Bob” beggar before. Is that for a male beggar (Bob, Robert). What would a female beggar be called, “Rob?” (Roberta). I am a very generous person (nice tipper), but never give to beggars or street entertainers. There are many beggars in Asia.. it must be extremely hard to live in a third world country (poor country) and make a passable living. I will never forget the extremely young children at the train stations in India and searching the platform for tiny scraps of cigarette butts… to form a cigarette and sell. And the beggars at the Lepro colonies (areas).

    Sy S.

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    • derrick / Feb 28 2012 2:20 am

      oops, apologies Sy.S

      bob as in a few coppers (penny’s)/shillings, (quid=£) a few coins, seems to work for me 🙂

      Some of the street entertainers are worth watching, but just holding a hand out just aint going to do it, no matter how intimidating

      i found that in Africa if you gave anyone anything, you would be mobbed, I just put my head down and plowed through (I had a limit on fags (cigaretes) and small coins to give out) cant help everyone

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 28 2012 8:25 am

      Hi Sy, good question. Interesting how we forget that words and phrases can be so regional. Thanks Derrick for dropping in again to explain the word.

      Here’s another good comparison. In the US, a person might add their two-cents worth, but in the UK and Australia they’d add their two-bobs worth.

      It is especially heartbreaking to see child beggars anywhere.

      But I’ll always remember the story of Cairo’s most prominent beggar. He died while I was living in Egypt in the 1970s and was found to be worth tens of thousands of Egyptian pounds. If I recall correctly, at the time of his death he was carrying more money on him than the value of my year-long scholarship.

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  3. Sy S. / Feb 28 2012 12:37 pm

    Derrick and LeggyPeggy,

    I should have read the initial posts better and would have realized you were talking about giving out money (bobs). But I was to quick to reply and wanted post a little humor about male/female beggers.. (Sy is frowning now and Sighing LOL)

    Anyway, interesting post on handing out Bobs…

    Sy S.

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 28 2012 1:17 pm

      Good one Sy. Although I reckon male and female beggars would be Bobs and Bobettes. 🙂

      Like

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