The most famous Tbilisi farmers market has an interesting history.
Back in the 1920s during the war between Georgia and Russia, deserting soldiers came here – to the bazaar – to sell their weapons. Thus the name dezerter (deserter) came and stuck and still stays today even though weapons aren’t what you’ll find people hawking.
Now, the old warehouse that once called to the deserters is full of crates and tables overflowing with market foods, vendors haggling with customers, and stalls sprawling out of the building and into the streets and buildings all around.
Note that you won’t find any guaranteed organic produce here. It’s a term just starting to gain traction in Georgia and even though many Georgians will tell you all their food is organic, that’s not quite true (click the link above for a well-done article on the topic).
Queasy vegetarians beware: while most of what’s on offer here is produce, Georgians buy their animal goods whole here. You’ll see fresh fish jammed up into tiny tanks, pig heads and feet on display, whole chickens folded up side-by-side, and (if you’re rather unlucky, as we were), buckets of entrails. (Don’t worry, I’ve omitted those photos below.)
How to get to the Dezerter Bazaar
Taxis are cheap and know the way well. The official address is 5 Abastumani Street, but the market spreads out in every direction down side streets and into other buildings. It’s hard to miss when you pull onto the street.
When to go
The market is open daily from 7:00 to 17:00 (5pm).
What to expect
Fresh fruits and veggies, potatoes, herbs, spices, dried beans, cheese, spreads, churchkhela (nuts covered in sticky dried grape juice), tklapi (homemade fruit roll ups with no sugar added), eggs, chickens (heads on), pigs (heads and feet included), onions, garlic, root veggies, bread, and dried fruits and veggies.
Don’t expect to find English speakers here. The official language is Georgian and vendors are happy to give you prices via calculator screens or fingers held up to indicate the total.
Our personal Tbilisi farmers market purchases (and what they cost)
Week one, we bought ingredients for soup plus a few Georgian specialties we wanted to try (churchkhela and tklapi) and a couple spreads of unknown origin (because adventure!). The total cost for the haul pictured below was just over $15 USD.
The Dezerter Bazaar in photos
Other blogger reviews of the Dezerter Bazaar
The Wander Lush (what a gorgeous blog)