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Georgia in miniature

The Tbilisi courtyards - Georgia in miniature

Tbilisi - a city out of the ordinary. Weird and wonderful at the same time, I’d say. Well, look, even elementary things, such as the yards formed next its houses, will be named after the cities in which they are located. In Moscow - the Moscow courtyards, in Saint Petersburg - the Petersburg courtyards, and so the ”Tbisilian” must be in Tbilisi, accordingly.

So it’s true, only they’re still commonly called Italian. But not because of their exterior resemblance, but because of their equally noisy and emotional inhabitants. Besides, in that case the famous Tbilisi banya's should be called Turkish, but they aren’t, are they! In general, don’t look for logic here. This city is a stranger to its laws. It lives according to it’s own irrational notions. Tbilisi cannot be understood, it can only be felt.

Yesterday’s day

Our Italian little courtyard was waking up slowly. It was being roused, actually. The morning silence got torn apart by the shrill sound of a bell announcing the arrival of the garbage truck. The cry of the bell would interrupt the sweetest of predawn dreams. The yard-keepers were in such frenzy, as if they vented all the anger at the sleepers for their own wakefulness at such hours. Grabbing a bucket each and half asleep, the neighbors toiled themselves along in the direction of the garbage trucks.
Tbilissier Hof © Yekaterina Minasyan
And then fate sent the matzoonchik to our yard, in order to finally rouse the inhabitants of the courtyard from their sleep, apparently. He yelled long and in a singsong manner, stretching out the last syllable of the word ”matzoni” in some hitherto unknown tempo. Another half an hour or so passed and the courtyard was filled with the smell of coffee coming from the open windows. People gathered by the common water tap and started rattling with steel tubs. Gradually, other sounds were being added to it - the rhythmical whipping of wool, humming floor polishers, the rumble of a motor engines and so on to infinity. If they’re not playing music, it means they’re singing and if they’re not singing, they’re arguing. It’s difficult to imagine the Tbilisi courtyard without its until nightfall incessant polyphony.

Closer to the second half of the day a bohemia appeared on the apron stage. Out on the veranda where five families lived the artist came out rubbing his eyes and shaking bliss. Then he brought out brushes and an easel and sat down pensively. Waiting for the muse’s visit, apparently. The dissonance in this creative bliss was brought by a duet of squabbling sisters that had popped out on the veranda. Their conflict would usually end with a spectacular fist fight won by the one with the shorter haircut. What served as the apple of discord is unknown, but here the pie of armistice would usually step forth in the form of mom’s Sharlotka. Clobbering each other only an hour ago, the sisters ate the pieces of the cinnamon sprinkled pie and radiated absolute contentment with life.

Today’s day

Life in the Tbilisi courtyards may seem almost ideal through the prism of childhood memories, whereas in reality it has many shortcomings. These include the emergency state of the houses and the lack of isolated public lavatories, the presence of living creatures, and many other things. The interesting thing however, is that despite all of the ”charms” of the courtyard life, many of it’s residents are in no hurry to change their old houses in favor of new building projects. Here, of course, the idea of the Tbilisians own bias and special relation towards the little Tbilisi courtyards can creep in. More appropriate would be to share the story of a visiting person who lived in such a courtyard for two years: Tbilissier Hof © Yekaterina Minasyan
"I have the warmest of memories about these days," Shahnoza Muminova says. "The apartment was terribly cold in the winter, unheated, and visits to the toilet, had to be done by passing all the neighbors out on the outdoor terrace. To leave a warm bed and run there in a January night was a real hoot. But I remember how I once fell asleep there and didn’t notice that a windy storm had begun, and I woke up when the door was slamming with full force because of the draught. I remembered that I’d hung up clothing to dry earlier that morning and jumped out on the balcony in horror. I see that all the washing lines were broken, and, of course, women all over the yard were saving my laundry that’s been scattered all over trees and rooftops, they saw me and started shouting: come to me, I’ve put your towels under water, we’ll rinse them anew!"

Times, people, and values change, but the phenomena of this city lies within the human relationships and the atmosphere prevailing in the Tbilisi courtyards, which remains unaffected. It’s still just as loud and bustling, merry, and sad. The city that doesn’t know half-measures!

© Yekaterina Minasyan

Yekaterina Minasyan

I graduated from the Tbilisi University with a major in foreign languages. When I was in my third year of studies, I realized that I had chosen the wrong specialization. The linguistic side of life interested me much less than the human aspect. Years have passed since then, but the subject of my scrutiny has not changed, and my interest for it has not subsided. I strongly believe that the Man is a whole universe. I like writing about people and for people. I write a column at the information resource called Sputnik/Georgia. I tell the people about the staples of old Tiflis and the places in the city they are usually unaware of, and about the people whose names have made the history of Tiflis


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