It’s not often that a hotel inspires me to write about it, but the Stamba is just one of those hotels. Located in old Tbilisi, Georgia, it is housed in a former Soviet publishing house; it’s a great example of Soviet architecture. The first Communist newspaper in Georgia was published in this location. The decor is described as “brutalist” accented with lots of contemporary touches. Upon entering for the first time, the lobby seems totally industrial, but then you quickly scan the area and see that the space is softened by floor to ceiling shelves displaying books and record albums. Instead of covering the concrete support columns, they were painted light gray to accent them. There are huge trees growing up to the first floor from a garden area on the basement level. Upon spotting the café in London, the hotel owner purchased it, had it dismantled, then brought to and reassembled in Tbilisi. The bar can only be described as hopping and smoke-filled. Georgians, like many people in much of this part of the world, haven’t gotten the memo about the harmful effects of tobacco usage. A much loved hotel feature is Kimchi, the hotel’s canine resident and favorite denizen of the lobby.
Our guest room also featured an array of books and albums along with a record player. We listened to old albums such as Blondie as well as new (to us) Georgian music. Our balcony overlooked a wonderful green space as well as a bar underneath vine-clad scaffolding. No other hotel could pull off the look of rusty scaffolding used as trellises! Lots of the balconies featured big copper bathtubs. The art can only be described as funky. The industrial look of the brick walls is softened by the wooden shelving, blue velvet drapes, and soft brass accent pieces.
We flew here from Baku, Azerbaijan and were shocked by how different the downtown areas looked and felt. Baku, flush with oil and gas money, has scrubbed all traces of Soviet influence from its face and replaced that dreary and depressing style with large contemporary structures that are so very funky and forward looking. Tbilisi, having none of that oil revenue, still has a dreadful Soviet-era look. It will require a lot of time and money to erase the Soviet stain here. The Stamba Hotel is a quirky microcosm of that sad era, but for some reason, it has a museum feel to it here and seems detached from the realities of the Soviet occupation of this country. It’s like it was embraced instead of expunged and they’ve pulled it off spectacularly.