Near the mosque in Abanotubani, I found a stairway up to the Narikala Fortress and walked up along the walls to the entrance. If you don’t feel like walking up to the fortress, there IS a cable car. It leaves from Avlabari. I didn’t do it because the walk up isn’t that bad.
The fortress was originally built in the 4th century. Most of the walls seen today were an expansion by the Umayyads in the 7th century. A huge explosion damaged it in 1827. There really isn’t much inside, other than the Church of St. Nicholas, rebuilt in 1990. The best thing about the fortress are the amazing views. It was freezing, but I took as much time as I could handle before I decided to move on.
I followed the path around the fortress, enjoying more perspectives on the city below, when I reached Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia), a 20m tall aluminum statue. Just past it on the left are some barely noticeable ruins. They are of Shahtakhti, which was an Arab observatory. Because of the pack of wild dogs that were growling and barking at me, I decided not to go any further.
Back near Kartlis Deda, I found a stairway leading back down into Old Tbilisi. I came to the historic Betlemi Church, a Georgian church originally built in 1727 as an Armenian church. On the stairway and down near the church, I got the best views of Kartlis Deda.
Here, I wandered around the streets near the church for a while. It didn’t look like the most inviting area (it was perfectly safe), but it was definitely one of the most interesting. It was mostly run down buildings and a couple reconstructions, and I can imagine this is what the newly renovated areas had looked like. Life probably hasn’t changed in this area for a very long time. I felt like I was in the “real” Tbilisi.