Old Tbilisi – the labyrinth of narrow streets and wooden houses
Old Tbilisi city wooden houses
Old Tbilisi ’s traditional houses, with their wooden and wrought iron balconies, are undeniably beautiful and one of the city’s best known historical features. Many of the houses date from the 19th century as much of the city was destroyed by the devastating Persian invasion of 1795.
Old Tbilisi ’s real soul can be explored in a diversity of wooden balconies. You can often come across houses built in Baroque and Rococo style, but here I will focus on the wooden “hanging” balconies.
The houses in this district are characterized by deep, elaborately carved, wooden balconies painted white, ochre, pale blue, and cinnamon. Sometimes the balconies are cantilevered from the front of the facade; sometimes they wrap around three sides.
Balconies, usually taking the form of glassed-in verandas, are also found facing the inner courtyard. Exterior spiral staircases-often of metal, with the treads worn paper thin-join one story to another.
Both balcony and courtyard reflect the Georgian love of company, of sharing one’s life with friends and neighbors.
They also bespeak a deep attachment to the outdoors and a repugnance at being shut in. Many courtyards boast large mulberry trees or a pergola of tightly woven grape vines beneath which sits a picnic table or two. Many a citizen’s sense of well-being is directly linked to these spaces.
The area known today as the Tbilisi Old Town is also called Kala.
It is the original settlement on the right bank of the Mtkvari River that developed below the walls of the Narikala Fortress when Vakhtang Gorgasali established his capital in Tbilisi in the fifth century.
The architecture in the old Tbilisi is a mixture of Georgian with strong influences of Byzantine, European and Middle Eastern architectural styles. The oldest parts of town, including the Abanot-Ubani, Avlabari, and to a certain extent the Sololaki districts clearly have a traditional Georgian architectural look with Middle Eastern influences.