Once upon a time there was a king and Vakhtang was his name … During a hunt in the woods his bird of prey caught a pheasant, but then they both got their goose cooked in a hot spring they fell into after their passionate encounter and so it came they got the king’s full attention.
Now, here’s the thing: King Vakhtang liked the spring. He liked all that hot water. Maybe he could already envision himself enjoying hot sulphuric baths on those long days when One’s strength has long gone, together with other non-mentionable appendices and attributes …
Vakhtang must have told his successor and son how much he liked the hot waters found in the middle of nowhere, for Dachi made the next logical step (as you would) and moved the capital of what was then Eastern Georgia (aka Iberia) from the lovely Mtshketa to the lovely Tbilisi, the latter word meaning warm location in Olden Georgian.
Unfortunately, many other kings desired the hot location as well, which is why for centuries they came, conquered and went … erm – got sent packing: Roman Emperors, Persians, Arabs, Byzantine Emperors, Mongols, Khazars, Seljuk Turks, Russians … Leaving their traces before being discharged by their bath eager successors – cleanliness being known for its proximity to goodliness even then.
It has to be said the hot baths district, Abanotubani, is quite a photogenic one:
But we did not really want to move our kingdom to Tbilisi, so we didn’t go bathing there, it was hot already as it was, anyway. Hmmm …. my dear Ljubljanchans: Would you know how come Tbilisi and Ljubljana are twin towns? Both built on … water? 😀
And lest I forget: the former capital Mtshketa is well worth seing, too, even on a rainy Tuesday many young couples have chosen to get serially married in the local church, full of confused tourists.
OK, high time to return to our Capital of Warmth.
“So what’s Georgian economy doing nowadays?” I ask our guide who’s been so kind to explain the history of Tbilisi to only two people riding his Hop On Hop Off Bus that afternoon. My husband and me, that is.
“It was quite a nasty shock for us when our energy supplies from Russia were cut off … ” A shadow appears on his friendly face. “We didn’t have our own resources. And then the jobs disappeared … People used to sell their belongings at the flea market you saw on the right side. They often didn’t sell them for money but rather exchanged goods for other goods.”
“But we are doing a bit better now. Unfortunately, foreign investors still don’t trust us. I always say democracy needs a lot of time to be accepted and implemented.”
“Yes, it does!” I agree rather strongly, before telling him of my origin, because it feels the right way to continue our conversation about the future, right there on the hill, during a Hop Off break, the river Mtkvari (Kura in Turkish 🙂 ) far underneath us and the warm sun above making the afternoon perfect.
Tbilisi did get its share of architectural wonders after the independence, in form of ambitious buildings and extensive renovations, but the destruction is still very, very visible.
“Some tourists say they prefer the old buildings, before the renovation,” he confides. “They look good both ways,” I tell him, being polite about his city but secretly wondering what kind of idiots would want Georgians to live in such derelict places, risking their lives in the process. Well-housed ones, perhaps? 😦