Tbilisi in some countries also still named by its pre-1936 international designation Tiflis, is the capital and the largest city of Georgia. The city lies in Eastern Georgia on both banks of the Mt’k’vari River. The elevation of the city ranges from 380–770 metres above sea level. Its population is approximately 1.3 million people. Founded in the 5th century AD by Vakhtang I Gorgasali, the monarch of the Kingdom of Iberia, Tbilisi since served as the capital of various Georgian kingdoms and republics. Between 1801 and 1917, then being under the rule of the former Russian Empire, Tbilisi was the seat of the Imperial Viceroy, governing both Southern and Northern Caucasus. Because of its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and its proximity to lucrative east-west trade routes, throughout history Tbilisi was a point of contention between various global powers. The city’s location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for various energy and trade projects. Tbilisi’s diverse history is reflected in its architecture, which is a mix of medieval, neoclassical, Beaux Arts, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and Modern structures. Archaeological studies of the region have indicated human settlement in the territory of Tbilisi as early as the 4th millennium BC. According to legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as 458. One widely accepted variant of Tbilisi foundation myth states that King Vakhtang I Gorgasali of Georgia went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon (sometimes the falcon is replaced with either a hawk or other small birds of prey in the legend). The King’s falcon allegedly caught or injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died from burns. King Vakhtang became so impressed with the hot springs that he decided to clear the forest and build a city on the location. The name Tbilisi derives from Old Georgian T’bilisi, and further from T’pili (warm). The name “T’bili” or “T’bilisi” (literally, “warm location”) was therefore given to the city because of the area’s numerous sulphuric hot springs that came out of the ground. Tbilisi has important landmarks and sightseeing locations : Sulfur Baths, the Narikala fortress (4th–17th century), Anchiskhati Basilica (6th century, built up in the 16th century), Sioni Cathedral (8th century, later rebuilt), Church of Metekhi, Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, The Bridge of Peace, Sameba Cathedral/Holy Trinity Cathedral Church (2002), Synagogue, Mosque, Old Tbilisi. Perhaps one of the most distinctive pleasures of walking through the Old City, with its old-style balconies, ancient churches, winding streets, and charming shops. Be prepared to see a number of eclectic sights, from the abandoned streetcar near Erekle Street to the art galleries of Chardini Street to the stunning modern art lining Sioni Street. Sub-neighborhoods include Sololaki, with its elegant restaurants and art nouveau architecture,Turtle and Lisi Lake, Mtatsminda Park or TV antenna park, Botanical garden. Old Tbilisi prope– with sites ranging from churches to mosques to sulfur baths, Betelmi – housing two of the city’s oldest churches and the stunning vistas of the Narikala Fortress – and Mtsasminda, just up the mountain from Rustaveli Avenues, a more sedate, “livable” district filled with charming old houses and a number of families.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (The Living Pillar Cathedral) is a cathedral of the Church of Georgia. It is located in the town of Mtskheta, Georgia, 20 km, northwest of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The cathedral is known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle and was the site for coronation and burial of the kings of Georgia. The location of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral has been site of the principal church of Georgia from the time St. Nino chose the site in the fourth century as the place for the first church in Georgia. The original Svetitskhoveli church, a basilica, was built in fourth century during the reign of King Mirian III of Kartli (Iberia). Through the years the cathedral has been damage frequently, notably by invading Arabs, Persians, and Timur, as well by earthquakes. The current cathedral was constructed in the eleventh century by the Georgian architect Arsakisdze. It was the largest church building in Georgia. The king of Georgia at that time was George II. In 1787, during the reign of King Erekle II (Heraclius), the cathedral was surrounded by a defensive wall, built of stone and brick that was designed with military attributes and gun emplacements. Cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical monuments of Georgia.
Gelati is a rich historical architectural complex comprising the ancient monastery, the bell tower, the church and the academy set up in 1106 by the great ruler of Georgia David the Builder. Thus, Gelati was not only the spiritual centre of the country but also the largest centre of culture, history and science. David the Builder, who wanted to create a large educational centre in his country, gathered the best Georgian scientists in the academy. In Gelati there was a big and rich library, the teachers and scientists in the academy were the most educated people of the time. King David founded Gelati in 1106 as a centre for Christian culture and Neoplatonist learning. Medieval chroniclers described its academy as ‘a second Jerusalem’ and ‘new Athens’. In 1510 the Ottoman Turks set fire to the complex, but Bagrat III of Imereti subsequently restored it. The frescoes in the Cathedral of the Virgin were painted between the 12th and 18th centuries: the line of seven noble figures on the north wall includes David the Builder (holding the church) and Bagrat III of Georgia (with a cross over his left shoulder). A famous 1120s mosaic of the Virgin and Child, with Archangels Michael and Gabriel to the left and right respectively, looks down from the apse ceiling. Cathedral Gelati is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical monuments of Georgia.
Ananuri is found in the same-name village on the Georgian Military Road, 64 km from Tbilisi, and 12 km from Zhinvali. The fortress was built in the valley between the two rivers of Aragvi and Vedzatkhevi, so that no enemy army could pass by unnoticed, but found themselves caught in a natural “gate“, formed by nature itself, at gunpoint of the defenders. In the XVI – early XIX centuries, Ananuri was the main stronghold on the way from Daryal Valley to Dusheti and from Russia to Georgia. It played a critical role in numerous wars between local feudal princes – eristavis, and in the course of its history was never carried by storm. In course of time, the fortress lost its importance and fell to desolation. The larger Church of the Mother of God(Ghvtismshobeli), built in 1689 for the son of Duke Bardzem. It is a central dome style structure with richly decorated façades, including a carved north entrance and a carved grapevine cross on the south façade. It also contains the remains of a number of frescoes, most of which were destroyed by the fire in the 18th century.
Sighnaghi is a small town in Georgia’s easternmost region of Kakheti and the administrative center of the Sighnaghi District. It is full of 18th- and 19th-century architecture with an Italianate feel. Town is one of the country’s smallest towns with a population of about 3,000. Sighnaghi is unique because it has fortress walls surrounding the city, which have been well-preserved. Sighnaghi is also a Georgian town that is working to be a center of tourism and is known as Georgia’s city of love. King Erekle II built Sighnaghi in the 18th century as a refuge against attack. Sighnaghi is high on a hill, with views of the Alazani Valley and the Georgian Caucasus. Sighnaghi is surrounded by a four-kilometer defensive wall with 23 towers and six gates. he wall is still intact and can be walked along.
The Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe is a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex and the seat of the Bishops of Bodbe located 2 km from the town of Sighnaghi, Kakheti, Georgia. Originally built in the 9th century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the 17th century. The monastery now functions as a nunnery and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, due to its association with St. Nino, the 4th-century female evangelist of Georgians, whose relics are shrined there. The extant church – a three-nave basilica with three protruding apses – was originally built between the 9th and 11th centuries, but has been significantly modified since then. Both exterior and interior walls have been plastered and bear the traces of restoration carried out in the 17th and 19th centuries. It consists of a small hall church with an apse built over St. Nino’s grave that is integrated into a larger aisled basilica. A free-standing three-storey bell-tower was erected between 1862 and 1885.
Alaverdi Monastery is a Georgian Eastern Orthodox monastery located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia. While parts of the monastery date back to 6th century, the present day cathedral was built in the 11th century by Kvirike III of Kakheti, replacing an older church of St. George. The monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi, then a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. At a height of over 55 meters, Alaverdi Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Georgia, after Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. The monastery is the focus of the annual religious celebration Alaverdoba. Situated in the heart of the world’s oldest wine region, the monks also make their own wine, known as Alaverdi Monastery Cellar.
Ushguli is a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Georgia. Recognized as the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site,Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Asia Minor. Compared to somewhat more developed towns like Mestia, Ushguli has been “saved” by its particularly inaccessible location, which helped preserve the villages’ timeless feel. Ushguli is located at an altitude of 2,100 metres near the foot of Shkhara, one of the highest summits of the Greater Caucasus mountains. About 70 families (about 200 people) live in the area, enough to support a small school. The area is snow-covered for 6 months of the year, and often the road to Mestia is impassable. Typical Svaneti defensive towers are found throughout the village. The Ushguli Chapel located on a hilltop near the village dates back to the 12th century.
Gergeti Trinity Church is a popular name for Holy Trinity Church near the village of Gergeti in. The church is situated on the right bank of the river Chkheri, at an elevation of 2170 meters, under Mount Kazbegi. The Gergeti Trinity Church was built in the 14th century, and is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi province. The separate belltower dates from the same period as the church itself. Its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it a symbol for Georgia. The 18th century Georgian author Vakhushti Batonishvili wrote that in times of danger, precious relics from Mtskheta, including Saint Nino’s Cross were brought here for safekeeping. The architecture in the Gergeti Trinity Church is a traditional one for Georgia, although it is the only cupola church in the northern part of Georgia. A small bell tower is situated near the church, decorated with few bas-reliefs. The church itself is quite simple: only bas-reliefs and ordinary patterns decorate the massive stone blocs and the windows almost don’t let any light creating mysterious twilight. Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photographs of the church interior.
Gonio fortress (previously called Apsaros), is a Roman fortification in Adjara, Georgia, on the Black Sea, 15 km south of Batumi. The village sits 4 km north of the Turkish border. The oldest reference to the fortress is by Pliny the Elder in the Natural History (1st century AD). There is also a reference to the ancient name of the site in Appian’s Mithridatic Wars (2nd century AD). The oldest fortress of Georgia – the Gonio Fortress history amounts to several millenniums. The ancient archeological layers, dug in the fortress territory belong to the XV-XVII centuries BC. There exists a legend that the name of Apsaros originates from the ancient Greek myth about Argonauts. According to the legend this was the place where Apsyrtus, King Aet’s son killed by Jason, was buried. In the 2nd century AD it was a well-fortified Roman city within Colchis. The town was also known for its theatre and hippodrome. It later came under Byzantine influence. The name “Gonio” is first attested in Michael Panaretos in the 14th century. In addition, there was a short-lived Genoese trade factory at the site. In 1547 Gonio was taken by the Ottomans, who held it until 1878, when, via the San-Stefano Treaty, Adjara became part of the Russian empire.
Dmanisi is a town and archaeological site in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia. Dmanisi is located about 85 km south-west of Tbilisi. The hominin site is the earliest of its kind outside Africa, dating back to 1.8. A series of skulls from Dmanisi, discovered in the early 2010s, led to the hypothesis that many separate species in the Homogenus were in fact a single lineage. The town of Dmanisi is first mentioned in the 9th century as a possession of the Arab emirate of Tbilisi, though the area had been settled since the Early Bronze Age. An Orthodox Christian cathedral – “Dmansis Sioni” – was built there in the 6th century. Located on the confluence of trading routes and cultural influences, Dmanisi was of particular importance, growing into a major commercial center of medieval Georgia. The town was conquered by the Seljuk Turks in the 1080s, but was later liberated by the Georgian kings David the Builder and Demetrios I between 1123 and 1125. The Turco-Mongol armies under Timur laid waste to the town in the 14th century. Sacked again by the Turkomans in 1486, Dmanisi never recovered and declined to a scarcely inhabited village by the 18th century.
Palace Tsinandali is the most romantic place in Georgia. Prince Alexander Chavchavadze (1786–1846) was one of the most colourful and influential characters in Georgian history, and the palace and gardens he created at village Tsinandali, in Kakheti. The palace tour takes you around half a dozen rooms and the beautiful park with venerable trees and exotic plants such as ginkgo, sequoia and yucca. Chavchavadze was a member of the Georgian nobility and during his life he was a writer, military leader, diplomat, public figure and inventor. He is regarded as the father of Georgian romanticism. The multi-talented Chavchavadze was born into elite circles in St Petersburg as the son of Kakheti-Kartli’s ambassador to Russia. He learned seven languages and was an influential Romantic poet and translator, helping to introduce European Enlightenment ideals to Georgia – as well as the grand piano, horse-drawn carriage and billiards. He rose to lieutenant-general in the Russian army but also joined Georgian rebellions against Russian rule (for which he spent time in exile). His homes at Tsinandali and in Tbilisi hosted illustrious visitors including writers Dumas, Pushkin, Lermontov and Griboedov. Chavchavadze was the first Georgian noble to produce and bottle Georgian wine according to European methods. His vineyard is still cultivated and the highly regarded dry white Tsinandali wine is still produced.
Dadiani Palaces is a Georgian national museum located in Zugdidi, Samegrelo region. The Dadiani Palaces History and Architecture Museum is considered to be one of the most eminent palaces in Caucasus. This historical palace was the residence of Dadiani family – potentates of Samegrelo. The residence of the sovereign was first built by the ruler of Odishi, Levan II Dadiani (1611-1657). Today the historical monument of Dadiani palace consists of palace units constructed under the auspices of the sovereign of Samegrelo, David Dadiani (1813-1853), his spouse, Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani (1816-1882), and their son Niko Dadiani, as well as court church and botanical garden. In the 60-ies of the XIX century Ekaterine trusted reconstruction of Dadiani palace to a German architect, Reiss, who used Gothic style while renovating the palace. Two-level palace of Niko Dadiani was built in the 80-ies of the XIX century by a Russian architect, Vasiliev.The first exhibition, of archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Nakalakevi was prepared by Megrelian prince David Dadiani and took place in 1840. Three palaces form the modern museum complex, parts of which are also Blachernae Virgin Church and Zugdidi Botanical Garden. The Dadiani Palaces History and Architecture Museum houses some exhibits of natural cultural heritage of Georgia – Tagiloni treasure materials, Mother of God holy vesture, the icon of queen Bordokhan – mother of queen Tamar of Georgia, manuscripts from 13th – 14th centuries, miniatures, memorial relics of Dadiani dynasty, and objects connected to emperor of France Napoleon Bonaparte – brought to the palace by the husband of David Dadiani’s daughter, prince Achille Murat, grandson of Napoleon’s sister, Carolina.
Batonistsikhe was the residence of the Kakhetian kings in the 17th and 18th centuries in Telavi, region Kakheti. The complex includes the central throne room holds many historical portraits including one of Erekle himself (above the throne), a Persian-style palace where Erekle II was born and died, and art and history museums. Telavi rose to prominence again in the middle of the 17th century, when Herekle II became King of Kakheti. The palace and castle walls in the center of the city were built during his reign. When he united Kartli and Kakheti in 1762, he moved-the capital to Tbilisi and turned the palace in Telavi into his summer residence. Herekle fought in more than 100 battles and was wounded more than 80 times. His last battle, which he lost to the Persian Khan, took place when he was 75. Forced to flee Tbilisi he returned to Telavi where he died at the age of 78 in 1798, having served as a king for 54 years.
Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Strategically located in the heartland of ancient kingdom of Kartli (or Iberia as it was known to the Classical authors), it emerged as a major political and religious center of the country. The town’s age and importance led medieval Georgian written tradition to ascribe its foundation to the mythical Uplos, son of Mtskhetos, and grandson of Kartlos. With the Christianization of Kartli early in the 4th century, Uplistsikhe seems to have declined in its importance and lost its position to the new centers of Christian culture – Mtskheta and, later Tbilisi. However, Uplistsikhe reemerged as a principal Georgian stronghold during the Muslim conquest of Tbilisi in the 8th and 9th century. The Mongol raids in the 14th century marked the ultimate eclipse of the town; it was virtually abandoned, and only occasionally used as a temporary shelter in times of foreign intrusions. At the summit of the complex is a Christian basilica built of stone and brick in the 9th-10th centuries. Archaeological excavations have discovered numerous artifacts of different periods, including gold, silver and bronze jewellery, and samples of ceramics and sculptures.
David Gareja is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareja, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.The complex was founded in the 6th century by David (St. David Garejeli), one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. His disciples Dodo and Luciane expanded the original lavra and founded two other monasteries known as Dodo’s Rka and Natlismtsemeli. The convent was particularly patronized by the Georgian royal and noble families. The 12th-century Georgian king Demetre I, the author of the famous Georgian hymn Thou Art a Vineyard, even chose David Gareja as a place of his confinement after he abdicated the throne. The monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries; at certain periods the monasteries owned extensive agricultural lands and many villages. The renaissance of fresco painting chronologically coincides with the general development of the life in the David Gareja monasteries. The high artistic skill of David Gareja frescoes made them an indispensable part of world treasure. From the late 11th to the early 13th centuries, the economic and cultural development of David Gareja reached its highest phase. The area is also home to protected animal species and evidence of some of the oldest human habitations in the region.
Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Kura River. The main period of construction was the second half of the twelfth century. The caves stretch along the cliff for some five hundred metres and in up to nineteen tiers. The Church of the Dormition, dating to the 1180s during the golden age of Tamar and Rustaveli, has an important series of wall paintings. The site was largely abandoned after the Ottoman takeover in the sixteenth century. The Church of the Dormition was the central spiritual and monumental focus of the site. Carved similarly from the rock, its walls reinforced in stone, it measures 8.2 metres by 14.5 metres, rising to a height of 9.2 metres. Both church and narthex are painted; these paintings are of “crucial significance in the development of the Medieval Georgian mural painting”. Its patron, Rati Surameli, is commemorated in a donor portrait on the north wall; the accompanying inscription reads “Mother of God, accept … the offering of your servant Rati, eristavi of Kartli, who has zealously decorated this holy church to your glory” On the same north wall are portraits of the royal founders, Giorgi III and Tamar. Episodes from the life of Christ occupy the vaults and upper walls in a sequence