A man by the sidewalk sells portraits of Soviet party leaders, flags with slogans, badges, WWII medals. A woman opposite lays out vases and silver cutlery. Next vendor has a rocking horse, a chair, a record of Stalin’s recordings from the 50s.
It seems that there’s a bit of everything at the flee market near the Dry Bridge in Tbilisi. Some vendors sell stuff that belonged to them, to their families. Others make a living from buying antiques and oddities and selling to tourists.
I've been doing a lot of walking and shooting in Tbilisi. One of the first places that grabbed my attention was the flee market. It’s just around the corner from the place where we were staying.
The market begins on the bridge over river Mtkvari. The men above are on that bridge discussing fishing gear that's also being sold at the market. They noticed me with the camera and were ready to pose. I said "Please, don't pay any attention to me. Carry on." They did. As I left and thanked them, the man with the beard said "May you have good health!" Plenty of warm friendly people around.
The man above is holding onto an oil painting of a communist party leader. He tried hard selling me the portrait to the right of it. "It'll cost five times as much in a few years! You'll be making a great investment. I'll give it to you for $50!" Since I'm not into communist memorabilia, I got out of buying by honestly telling him I have no space left in my car for anything, but the necessities.
For a Russian speaker, it's funny to hear the vendors chat and argue. There is a lot of Russian spoken. I think it's because some of the vendors are from Russia and the Ukraine. Some live in Georgia and I suppose they haven't bothered to learn the language.
If you're into Soviet relics, this place is paradise. Stalin's imagery is everywhere. Scary thing is I heard more than one person talk about the most famous Georgian with great admiration.
Walking around the market and chatting to people was a nice way to get a bit of a feel for Tbilisi, for what's on people's minds, for what concerns them. Most over the age of 40 spoke nostalgically of the Soviet Union. It's amazing to me that over 20 years later people are still missing the good old times. I never realised that Georgians were so into the USSR. Outside of Belarus I've only spent a considerable amount of time in the Baltic states. There the majority seem to despise their communist past.
Quite a different picture here. Perhaps the nostalgia is magnified by the fact that the country currently has an insane unemployment rate and most visitors from the former USSR are better off economically than Georgians. The woman above has children living in Moscow. No work for them in Tbilisi. She visits them regularly.
When the weather is nice, Tbilisi is an absolutely wonderful place for afternoon walks. I'm taking my time here. Absorbing the city. Trying to understand the local mentality. To learn things. I'll post some images from the streets a little later on.