17 March, 2018
On a mild March night, an eclectic group consisting of a French-Canadian guy, a girl from Kazakhstan, two from China, and an unshaven wandering vagrant (me) gathered together in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. For the rest of my group, this was their final weekend in the country so we all decided to go out and do something, and since the night happened to be St. Patrick's Day, we figured it would be as good as any. None of us had any idea how Georgia, one of the very few countries on planet earth without a vibrant Irish community, would celebrate this day if at all, but since there always seems to be something going on in Tbilisi, we were sure we'd find something.
Starting off with wine (since we couldn't find Guinness in the stores and Georgian beer is mediocre at best), we had our drinks and set out to find whatever was out there. We descended the hill into the city center and just about as we were about to turn the corner onto Rustaveli street (one of the main streets in the city) there was a noise. Music! Actual real music coming from instruments (unfortunately a rarity these days). It was coming from this place that was labeled 'Nali Pub. All over the exterior hung decorations celebrating Irish stereotypes like shamrocks and Guinness. l looked over at Etienne (Canadian) and the girls to see what they thought.
"Lead us, Chairman Xi." Said Lulu, one of the girls from China. Taking this as a compliment for my decision making skills I proclaimed, "Let's go in!" and pushed open the dark, metal door. Music poured out as we all entered. By this moment, we were all expecting something wonderfully absurd. What we then saw surpassed all of our preconceived notions is the best way imaginable.
The whole place was set up like a pub with a wooden bar, stools, and a few tables pushed aside to make room for the band that stood front and center. The lead singer was a gigantic Georgian man with a shaved head, massive brown beard, numerous tattoos, and wearing a bright green t-shirt (presumably for the holiday). Behind him was a full band equipped with a full set of instruments. The place was much more brightly lit up than most bars in Tbilisi and everyone in the place was on their feet, jumping to the music. The gigantic lead singer shouted a few things to the crowd and they began to play, starting with the old song 'What do We do With a Drunken Sailor?' Even though they didn't know all the words and filled some sections in with vocal noises that went along with the tune, they played with tons of energy and put a punk-style edge into the tune.
Minutes later, Etienne returned from the bar with Guinness for everyone, which were only 5 lari ($2) each. Maybe not quite as genuine as Ireland, but at this price, it was nonetheless amazing. We continued celebrating as the band's attempt to be Irish slowly declined, switching to Dropkick Murphys covers, then Nirvana, then something a bit undecipherable. No one in the crowd seemed to mind though, spirits were high, jumping and dancing persisted with just as much energy. We then formed a circle with a group of locals in the center and all danced together, accidentally knocking over a few unfortunate members of the waitstaff who tried to pass by (sorry).
The band continued until about 2:30, by which time we somehow all had shamrocks painted on our faces (I sincerely apologize to my Irish friends). Altynay, the girl from Kazakhstan, decided to go back to the hostel since she was planning on traveling to the city Batumi early in the morning the next day. I walked her back, only tripping and falling once or twice, then returned to Nali Pub to rejoin the other three.
Things were starting to settle down at the pub, but that was alright. It was the first time in years I actually celebrated St. Patrick's Day, and despite (or maybe because of) the bizarre circumstances, it had already been incredible. The night was almost complete and we just had two things to do before returning to the hostel and going to bed. The first was to get some food. Then the second: climb on public property. Why? Because we can. Both were soon accomplished (see below) and we bid farewell to night.