Blog TWHS Visits

Tbilisi Historic District

The Tbilisi Historic District is part of the Tentative list of Georgia. It’s a small neighbourhood in Georgia’s capital that can be explored on foot. The rest of the city is of course much bigger: over a million people live there and one moves around the easiest with the subway that still dates from Soviet times. I went several times to Didube metro station for example, to take buses to Mtskheta and Gori from the eponymous bus station. A ticket costs a mere 0.5 lari (0,17 EUR).

View of the Historic District

I first explored the Historic District by the 3-hour 'free' walking tour of Tiblisi Hack Free Tours. This was under the guidance of Russian(!) Anya and together with about 15 other tourists from all corners of the world: Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany, Canada, United States, Jordan. Her key question was "Do you think Tbilisi is more Asian or more European?" This befits one of the two key elements in Tbilisi’s claim to OUV: the location of Georgia (and especially Tbilisi) on the cross-roads of Europe and Asia with all consequent historical conditions. I think the Historic District is more oriental, to a certain extent it resembles Istanbul or Sarajevo. The traditional sulphur bath houses and their domes also contribute to that image.

The Historic District also has many dilapidated and vacant houses. These were abandoned by their owners in the 80’s and 90’s, when the economic situation in Georgia was very bad. There are no clear plans what to do with them. It has made the area especially attractive for artistically minded photographers.

Great Synagogue

The other claim for OUV is “always multi-national, free and tolerant in the respect of religious confession”. Church visits in general are a main pastime for tourists in Georgia anyway, and the Historic District of Tbilisi is one big mix of religious expressions. We had a look at the interior of an austere Catholic church, walked past 2 synagogues and a mosque, and visited 2 Georgian Orthodox churches. One of the latter (Sioni Cathedral) is home to 'Saint Nino's Cross' - an important relic of the original wooden cross that Saint Nino made on her way to Mtskheta. It was homemade, of two tree branches tied together with her hair - hence the peculiar drooping horizontal arms of the Georgian cross.

Also typical for Tbilisi are the many stray dogs. They lie down on the pavement, or are out with friends. They usually look in pretty good condition, they are fed by local people. Many also wear a yellow label in their ear: a sign that they have been vaccinated against rabies. On foot you are not bothered by them, but I saw them chasing cyclists a few times.

Core of the Historic District; the Uzbek-style building is a bath house

Outside of the Historic District, the main boulevard Rustaveli Avenue is also worth visiting. This is the street with all the Important Buildings. It includes the Opera, the Theatre, the National Museum, the former Parliament and the Academy of Sciences. At this street the Soviet era, which lasted for Georgia from 1921-1991, is still the most touchable. The National Museum is unmissable: the absolute highlight is in the basement, in the Treasury. Here hundreds of small gold objects from Colchis are exhibited. Colchis was the name under which this region in Classical Antiquity was known for its gold mining. The objects are up to 6000 years old.

Els - 14 July 2018

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Els Slots 14 July 2018

Hi Aleksandr! I find it really hard to say about Tblisi. It certainly is a city worth visiting for a day or 2, and there are many good day trips to be done from there. However, it does lack outstanding individual sights or monuments. In case of a nomination they'd go more for a 'crossroads of cultures' theme, which still would need a lot of explanation and openness to non-Georgian elements to make it convincing.

Aleksandr 14 July 2018

Dear Els, so what is your overall opinion, whether Tbilisi Historical Centre deserves to be inscribed? Much work is to be done, especially for those vacant houses and modern non-fitting buildings being constructed, but I found this city very beautiful and worth being inscribed if careful preparatory work is done for this.
P.S. Try to found Usakhelauri wine there. It very rare and quite expensive semi-sweet wine, beleived to be the favorite of Stalin. I liked it very much.