If you visit Tbilisi, someone - be it a tourist guide, salesperson or taxi driver will by all means tell you the story of the foundation of the city. Tbilisians are especially fond of this legend. It is a story of an event that happened some fifteen hundred years ago, during hunting: the fifth-century king Vakhtang Gorgasali’s favorite falcon and the pheasant caught by it fell into water out of which the King’s attendants took both the prey and the predator cooked .The King liked the natural hot waters and ordered the building of a town here. This is how a capital moved from Mtskheta to Tbilisi, some 25 km eastward ,while the hot sulphur baths, built in the oriental style, have become one of the colorful sites of the city. In the Middle Ages these baths were ascribed many medical properties. That is why many conquerors came here allured by these baths. Thus, apart from comfort, the natural hot sulphur baths waters created many problems as well. But the baths were not the only trouble. The multicultural city lying at the crossroads of caravan routes was a sort of key to Georgia, and often to the entire Transcaucasia. This city withstood numerous invasions and occupation by the Byzantines and the Khazars, Turks and Persians. The Arabs came to Tbilisi in the seventh century and stayed here for five centuries, until expelled in the twelfth century by king David the Builder - the uniter of Georgia. Tbilisi was last burnt down by Persians in 1795. Following the conquest of Transcaucasia in the nineteenth century, the Russians turned it into centre of the region, installing their viceroy in this city - in the building that today houses the Palace of Culture of Youth..
The impressions received from this city have been reflected in the dairies of many a traveler, while many writers have dedicated lines of admiration to it. The Russian Alexander Pushkin, the Frenchman Alexander Dumas and the Norwegian Knut Hamsun travelled in Georgia at various times, each depicting this colorful city in his own way. Each must have found what he looked for but none stinted words of enthusiasm.
Tbilisi with its million and half residents it continuing to grow. Numerous modern apartment houses and hypermarkets are under construction. The city is changing but its main charm-cultural diversity-remains the same. The real soul of this city is hidden in the small balconied courtyards of old Tbilisi, where Georgians, Armenians, Jews, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Greeks and representatives of many other nationalities have for centuries lived as a single family, sharing one another’s problems or joys. In such old quarters one can find Georgian and Armenian orthodox churches , a synagogue , mosque and even a trace of an ancient Zoroastrian shrine.
The best thing that can happen to you in Tbilisi’s old town is to get lost. It allows you to wander through the winding streets and discover small tea houses, modern cafés, traditional bakeries turning out of their freshly baked loaves, than there are carpet shops and bath houses. This is today’s Tbilisi - a city built at the crossroads of cultures, in the constant expectation of guests to share its little joys and secrets with them.