Tuesday, April 24, 2007

King Vakhtang Founds Georgian Capital

Tbilisi, home to over 1 million people, was founded in the 4th century by King Vakhtang I Gorgasali (ვახტანგ I გორგასალი), a saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church (pictured above). The city was located on the Kura River along one of the Silk Road routes and remains an important transportation hub today, located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.

The city was and still is a very diverse place, with the Sunni mosque and the synagogue are located next to each other in the Abanotubani bath district, the place where King Vakhtang’s falcon fell, in the process revealing to him the hot springs that led him to build on this site. Not far away is the Metekhi Church of the Assumption (pictured above, next to Vakhtang’s statute). The original building was constructed by Tbilisi’s founder, though the Mongols destroyed this structure; the current church was built by King Demetre Tavdadebuli in the 13th century.

In modern times Tbilisi has served as the capital of the sort-lived Transcaucasian Federation (1918) and the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921). Since 1991 it has once again served as the capital of an independent Republic of Georgia.

The most popular sports in Tbilisi are football (soccer), rugby, basketball, and wrestling. There are several professional football and rugby teams as well as wrestling clubs. NBA players Zaza Pachulia and Nikoloz Tskitishvili are natives of Tbilisi. Tbilisi's signature football team, Dinamo Tbilisi, won the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup in 1981, becoming the easternmost team in Europe to achieve the feat.

Each October Tbilisi residents celebrate Tbilisoba, a festival commemorating the founding of their city.

An 1839 depiction of Tbilisi, by N.G. Chernetsov

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