According to a Georgian legend, on the day God was allocating parts of the world to the people of the Earth, the Georgians were feasting. As a result, they arrived late and were told by God that all of the land had already been distributed. When the Georgians replied that they were late only because they had been lifting their glasses in praise of Him, God was pleased. In return, He gave the Georgians that part of Earth that He had been reserving for Himself.
There is a phenomenon called the Georgian syndrome. It is said that when one immerses himself in this small country on the coast of the Black Sea and surrounded by Caucasian mountains, one falls in love with it, and can never let Georgia out of his mind. In the small streets of Tbilisi, on the squares of Batumi or under the balconies of ancient townhouses, a visitor will discover how Georgia has already been a part of your life – even if you didn’t know it.
The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, where the Tbilisi Photo Festival takes place, is one of the most picturesque cities in the world: not simply a hill city of winding cobblestone streets but because it is a city of the mountains. Nestled in a river valley where the Northern and South Caucus Mountain ranges almost meet, it has spectacular views from innumerable locations and a short drive from downtown you are in the alpine meadows above.
Over the centuries Tbilisi has become synonymous with gracious living and warm welcomes. "Tbil" actually means "warm," and although refers to the water in the natural sulphur baths in its Maydani district - it could speak for the city as a whole. From the 4th century this multi-ethnic cosmopolitan city has been a main port of relaxation for travellers and merchants passing between Europe and Asia on the Silk Road. A culture of baths, caravanserais, banqueting halls, music and entertainment venues gradually developed to create the modern city - today with an increasing international reputation for restaurants, coffee shops, theatres, concert halls and of course, charming hosts.
5th century the king, when out hunting, shot a deer with an arrow but huge buck was able to run away. The king followed it and was amazed to find it bathing in warm spring, where its arrow wound was miraculously healed. Suitable impressed he ordered the city to be built around the spring. (Another more pedestrian version is that he shot a Pheasant who fell into a spring and was fully cooked by the time he retrieved it.)
Thus Tbilisi started its life as an ancient Spa - and still remains so; the superb sulphur baths in the Old Town attracting travellers from Marco Polo to Alexander Dumas.
Many great artists like Pushkin, Lermontov, and the composer Tchaikovsky have all sat and composed work under one of the bath"s brick domes.
Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia for fifteen hundred years, and has been a true urban center for far longer. Here there are layers upon layers of history and the blending of a myriad of cultures, some now long gone. Long a central and vital trade city, Tbilisi has two faces, East and West, and is a remarkable mixture of the two.
Many families have lived in Tbilisi for many more than ten generations, more than they can count.
The main shopping streets are Rustaveli and Chavchavadze Ave. High quality art shops, galleries and exhibition halls can be found in Vake and Vera districts, along Rustaveli Ave as well as in streets of the Old Town around Sioni church.