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Tourist Routes

Route 5: symbols of georgian immortality

Metekhi bridge

Our next tourist route begins with Metekhi bridge, which connects two banks of the Mtkvari river. It was the first bridge across the Mtkvari in Tbilisi. The old wooden bridge (built in 1821) was replaced by a metallic one in 1870. The present bridge was as-sembled in the 1950s. From one side it turns to Vakhtang Gorgasali square, from the other side - to Rike.


Rike is a Georgian Name of the locality Peski (sands). At the beginning of the last century there was an island between the main riverbed and its left branch below the modern Baratashvili bridge. In the 1920s the branch of the river became shallow and then dried. The fortified embankment was then built over and the locality itself - the former river bottom - was called sands. Tbilisi native citizens still call it Peski, though it has been renamed more than once.

Monument to David Sarajishvili

Near rike, in the middle of the square stands the monument to the Georgian manufacturer and statesman David Sarajishvili (1848 - 1911), the founder of cognac production in Georgia.


  From here begins the oldest district of Old Tbilisi - Avlabari. The origin of the word Avlabari has two versions. According to one of them the word originates Georgian "Avla"(ascend) and "bari" (plain) i.e. "plain where to rise". And this region is located in the high plateau. According to the other version the word is of Arabian origin and means "Area around the palace". This is the place where the palace of Georgian kings was located. From this palace Queen Tamar (1160 - 1213) used to send warriors to Basiani Battle. At the very beginning of Avlabari district the ruins of Isani tower can be found. This tower flanked the Mtkvari from the left shore, being thus the "symmetrical addition" to the fortress of Narikala.

Metekhi Temple

To the left of Metekhi bridge there is Metekhi temple. Metekhi temple (12th-13th cc.) - cross cupola church, part of the Royal residential complex.
Metekhi Castle was built in the fifth century according to the order of the King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Queen Shushaniki (V c.), tortured by her husband Varsgen Pitiakhshi for her devotion to Christian religion is buried here. In the 12th century Metekhi Castle was considered to be the place and church of the King George III and his dau-ghter Tamar. In the 13th century Mongolian invaders occupied the east part of Georgian, ruined and burnt Tbilisi city, and also destroyed the King's palace and church, Metekhi Castle. The metekhi church of today was built in 1270-1289 by Demetre II Tavdadebuli.
In the 17th-18th centuries under the gove-rnanced Turks in Kartli Metekhi temple was abandoned and left useless (inactive). In 1748 the King Erekle II cleared out the Castle and ordered to fix it. In 1819 the Russian Kings' governors decided to use the Castle as a prison. Later during the Soviet period, authorities let the troop of actors have performances there. Nowadays Metekhi is an acting church. The rock, on which the temple stands, is sacred, because a mortar Abo (VIII c.) perished on it. Arab by origin, Saint Abo lived in Bagdad and made aromatic ointments. He came to Tbilisi with Nerses, the ruler of Tbilisi Emirate. In Tbilisi, the capital of Tbilisi Emirate, which entered Arabian Caliphate, Abo quickly learnt the Georgian language and written speech, began to attend Orthodox divine service and studied Holy Scripture. He repeatedly argued with his religious teachers and in the end Abo rejected Moslem faith in his heart and adopted Christianity. This infuriated Islam adherents and Abo was arrested and compelled to refuse Christianity, but in vain. In order that Christians would not take his body as an object of worship, after execution it was taken to the foot of Metekhi mountain, poured over with oil and burnt and his bones were sewed into a sheep skin and dropped into impetuous waters of the Mtkvari. But the relics of a saint's body came to the water surface near Metekhi bridge and Christians brought them to the mountains. On Abo's burning spot a chapel was built. In the 20th century vandals destroyed this sacred place, but his wonder-working icon is kept now in Metekhi church near the tomb of Saint Shushanik. At present on the spot of the destroyed chapel Saint Abo church is being built.

Monument to Vakhtang gorgasali

In front of the temple and over the preci-pice one can see a bronze monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali (V c.) who is proudly sitting on his horse - a Georgian king, the founder of Tbilisi (sculptor E. Amakusheli, architects Kandelaki, Mordebadze, bronzegranite, 1967). The hand of the rider on a powerful horse is raised in a determined significant gesture. This gesture may be interpreted as the words: "The capital of Georgia will be here". One can get another interpretation: "We welcome you, newcomer".

Wine ascent

To the south of Metekhi temple along the rock edge one can see old houses clustered like swallow's nests, where once there lived traders and craftsmen and it looks as if the balconies of these houses hovered in cloudland over the Mtkvari. To the northeast from Metekhi plateau a short street - Gvinis Agmarti (Wine As-cent) goes up. In the 19th century it was called Sirachkhana. "Sirachkhana" is a Persian word: "sirach" means "wine-making", "khana" - "house". "Sirachkhana" means "rows of wine traders". In fact, in remote times people traded wine there. The main market place in Tbilisi was at this ascend. Later this street was renamed into Wine Ascend.

Palace of Sachino

At the foot of Metekhi rock the staircase system begins, leading to romantic by its appearance palace Sachino - a summer residence of Queen Darejan, the wife of king Erekle the Second. "Sachino" means "conspicuous", "noble'. The palace was built in 1776 on one of the foundations of Avlabar fortress wall and was distinguished among other buildings. It is seen from many places of the Mtkvari gorge. The name itself conveys the dominating location of the palace. It represents a castlemansion with a church and court services. The major part of it like a round tower is at the end of the abyss. By its perimeter the tower is embraced by a round wooden balcony. The palace, church and other buildings create a united complex. The church has been preserved till the present time. The palace was erected on the ruins of the fortress. The tower of the mansion was built on the remnants of the northern angle of Avlabari fortress wall. The wall and its counterforts are made from mixed cobble and thin, square, the so called Georgian brickwork. Horizontal and vertical strips formed by ribs of closely laid (45 degree angle) cobble create the illusion of a twisted plait, grape vine - an ornament which is often met in ornaments of Georgian carving on wood and stone. After departure of the Queen to Saint-Petersburg in 1807 Transfiguration Monastery was established here (1822), and in 1862 it housed a school and a seminary for children of ecclesiastics. Redecoration of internal rooms, removal of ornaments on walls and ceilings, performed in the eastern style, can be referred to that time. In 1982 fundamental reconstruction of Sachino was completed. Today the convent Peristsvaleba (the Transfiguration) is in this place.

Echmiadzin church

Going up Metekhi street we find ourselves in Ketevan Tsamebuli square, where there is the metro station "Avlabari". Nearby we can see Echmiadzin (Armenian) church na-med after saint George. The church was built from bricks by people from Echmiadzin by birth who came to Georgia by invitation of king Erekle the Second at the end of the 18th century. In the church yard there is a special plate with laconic writing in Armenian "Mantashev". It is not Alexander Ovanesovich' grave (a famous oil manufacturer, one of the greatest business-men of the 19th century). This plate was established by his grandchildren not long ago.

Armenian drama theatre

  Not far from the metro there is Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre named after Petros Adamian (by the way, it is the only professional Armenian theatre functioning outside Armenia). It is already 150 years old. The theatre acquired the State status in the Soviet times. In 1936 it had its own building and in 1955 it was named after Stepan Shaumian. In 1991 a wave of mas-sive renaming touched it, too. Instead of the name of Bolshevik revolutionary it was given the name of one of the coryphaeuses of the 19th century theatrical scene Petros Adamian.

 Sameba church

The road from the metro leads up to Trinity church (Tsminda Sameba). It is a hu-ge temple of the peak of the hill - a symbol of Georgian Resurrection, unity and immortality. It arises in the center of Tbilisi on the peak of the mountain, called after the name of a Bible prophet Elia. The height of the cathedral, which can hold 15 000 people, reaches 84 meters, its underground part is 18 meters deep. The place has been chosen so that the cathedral could hover over the entire city - on a high hill. The construction works began in 1995 (the most difficult times for the country) in honor of Lifegiving Trinity in Tbilisi. The cathedral has not been constructed completely yet. The walls are to be painted and some buildings are to be constructed yet. But every detail of its ornament, every feature in the construction plan is agreed upon with Patriarch. But his constant presence is felt not only in this. At the entrance of the cathedral one can see the image of the Virgin. This place is always crowded. This image as the other one - of Savior, which is in the opposite part of ico-nostasis, was painted by Patriarch himself. There are some other icons painted by Patriarch. These are, for example the images of archangels Michael and Gavriil. Besides the cathedral the complex under construction includes the church of Saint Ilia and the belfry. The bells for belfry were cast in Germany and by their sound row they correspond to the row of Georgian polyphony.

Baratashvili ascend

  Returning to Tsamebuli square we proceed our way along Baratashvili ascend. Once this ascend was cut out in the rock, and at Soviet times it was enlarged and modernized. On rocky wall, grown up by greenish and yellow algae in some places, constantly exude underground waters.

Monument to Nikoloz Baratashvili

  At the beginning of the ascend, on a place, artificially formed in front of rock rupture, people established a monument to Nikoloz Baratashvili (1817 - 1845) - a great Georgian poet - romantic. The poet in a long coat and flying cloak, calmly stands considering Georgia's fate. His figure is elegant, slim and monumental at the same time. His folded hands hold a small book - immortal summary of his so early broken life (sculptor Boris Tsabadze, architect - Shota Kavlashvili and Vladimir Kurtishvili, 1975).

Baratashvili bridge

Our walk ends on Baratashvili bridge (for-mer Mukhrani bridge). It's former name originates from princes Mukhrani's house which stands near the bridge. It is worth walking on "Bridge of Love", built in honor of the Georgian poet Nikoloz Baratashvili, for romanticallyminded people. The railings of the bridge are decorated with figures of couples in love.