Where the History of Old Tbilisi and Art Meet…
Jean Chardin, a famous French traveler of the XVII century, in his work ‘Traveling in Persia and other Eastern countries’ noted: “there are wonderful public buildings and markets in Tbilisi. Market places are wide, built in stone and are in a very good condition. The same can be said of the Karvaslas – habitations in which foreigners usually stay…”
Most Karvaslas which have preserved their authentic look to the present day date back to the XIX century, but one of the oldest, the Artsruni Karvasla, was constructed in the XVII century and is a multipurpose building even today.
The Karvasla building is located at 8 Sioni Street, between Sioni church and touristic hot spot Shardeni Street. In the beginning this building was a store for various goods and a barrelhouse. Today it is an active tourist spot, where one can explore Georgian history in the museum, exhibition and trade areas.
Tbilisi, as a crossroad of Europe and Asia, enthusiastically participated in trade activities in the Middle Ages. Exported goods were mostly purchased by the feudal aristocracy of that time, but all civic groups were involved in trading processes. Consequently, Karvaslas in Tbilisi served both merchants and travelers. Local and foreign traders and artisans stayed in those buildings with their goods and caravans. A Karvasla was a place where people would also conclude various trade agreements.
Artsruni Karvasla was a very active place – with 33 rented-rooms, 25 barrelhouses, stores and back rooms. The building was damaged by fire, but after being repaired it returned to its prior function until the 1920s.
A central gate of Karvasla leads in from Sioni Street, the façade of which consists of elements characteristic to the Modern style, while the side closer to Mtkari River is a good example of Russian Classicism.
Karvasla is a classical-type building and at its center is an inner yard, large and roofed with a cylinder vault, which was an open area in pastimes. There are some store-rooms around the yard, having a different function today.
While entering Karvasla it is possible to view a temporary exhibition area, a permanent exhibition and the first floor of the building –a beloved spot for tourists, with a versatile collection of Georgian souvenirs and wines.
The permanent exhibition of the Ioseb Grishashvili Tbilisi History Museum on the first floor offers a very interesting exposition of materials characteristic to Georgian history, life and culture.
The Tbilisi History Museum was established there in 1910. There are approximately 50,000 objects in the funds depicting city life from the IV millennium to present. You can enjoy archeological materials: bronze and iron weapons, vessels in metal, glass, faience and porcelain, jewelry, coins, flags and household goods. Additionally, you will find photos of Old Tbilisi, maps, sketches, and paintings – including the works of Lado Gudiashvili, Mose Toidze, Elene Akhvlediani, and other prominent artists.
The ceramics collection from Avlabari and the funds of manuscripts from old and middle ages are the highlights of the collection, as well as weapons, musical instruments and clothing. It is also very interesting to check out the urban history models, including an architectural collection of different buildings and districts.
Along with the history of the past, visitors to this venue have a chance to view contemporary art works in the exhibition halls on the third floor.
Regarding gastronomic treasures of the country, you can visit Schuchmann Wine Bar & Restaurant on the first floor of Karvasla and taste gastronomic delights – Georgian gourmet food paired with awesome Georgian wines from ancient grape varieties.