The history of Tbilisi as a capital city of Georgia dates back to the 5th century. Tbilisi was an important cultural, political and economic center of the Caucasus and always was the main destination for the travelers through Asia.
One of the travelers was Jean Chardin, a French diplomat and a traveler, who in the ninth volume of his ten-volume book “The Travels Of Sir John Chardin’ described his travels throughout Georgia in 1672-1673.
‘The Georgians are polite, kind-hearted and restrained. Everyone in Georgia has a right to live under the religion and habits. People can talk about their religion and defend their opinions. There are several attractive city council buildings in Tbilisi. Markets, trade places, caravanserai – the places of foreigners’ residence, are built with stone and are well maintained.’ Then he added: ‘The Georgians are civil and courteous, and more than that, they are serious and moderate. Their manners and customs are a mixture of various customs of the peoples that reside round about them. This is the result, I believe, of their commerce and dealings with variety of people, and the liberty allowed in Georgia to observe their own religion and customs, and to defend them in their discourse. You shall meet here in this country with Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Turks, Persians, Indians, Tartars, Muscovites and Europeans. The Armenians are so numerous that they exceed the Georgians. They are also wealthier and for the most part supply all the small offices and mean employments. But the Georgians are far stronger, naughtier, more vain and more pompous. The difference between their spirits, manners and beliefs has caused a very great enmity between them. They mutually hate one another, and never marry into one another families. The Georgians are particularly disdainful towards the Armenians who are looked upon much about the same way as the Jews are in Europe.’ About Tbilisi he writes that Tbilisi is one of the most beautiful cities, but not very big.Jean Chardin was invited at the Royal dinner by Vakhtang V (Shah Nawaz), the king of Kartli. He writes: ‘When the king learnt who I was, he said I was a precious guest for him and asked me to see him as soon as possible. The king wanted to hear European stories from me. I couldn’t go immediately as I wanted to prepare for the meeting. It was midday when we went to the palace. The king was waiting for us for dinner. What I noticed was that the guests greeted the king like Shah. I gave the king my gifts: a clock with silver ornaments, crystal mirror with silver frame, small golden box and beautiful knives. I won’t speak much about the feast. I can only say that much wine was drunk and much food was eaten. Some food was fasting as patriarch and bishops also were invited at the feast. The dinner lasted for 3 hours and then we decided to leave.’
While in Tbilisi you can visit Sharden streen, the European street in the city center, which was given the name of the famous traveler Jean Chardin.
Author: Nita Chkhoidze