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Route 20
'London to Tiflis, by Constantinople.—The Caucasus'

as copied from

Murray's Handbook for Travellers:

Russia, Poland & Finland

(second revised edition, with maps and plans)

John Murray, Albermarle Street



[Note: The route here described may be joined from Odessa. There is a service of the Russian Steam Navigation Company's steamers between Odessa and Poti, corresponding with the steamers of the same Company which run between Batoum and Constantinople.

The route to Persia by way of Trebizond and Erzerum is not described here, as it does not pass through any portion of the Russian dominions. It is, moreover, not to be recommended, for the journey from Trebizond has to be performed on horseback, with miserable accommodation on the way, and not always in security.]

There are two principal routes to Persia viâ Tiflis and the Caucasus :— one by way of Constantinople and the Black Sea; the other by way of St. Petersburg and the Volga.

[Obs. Those who set out to travel in the Caucasus should not omit to provide themselves with everything requisite in a country where the modern appliances of civilized life are almost entirely wanting. The outfit should include a saddle, a portable bath, and a small cork bed. The money which a traveller will find most useful in Georgia is a supply of napoleons, easily exchanged for Russian money in the towns. A supply sufficient for the entire journey should be taken : and before leaving any town it is necessary to secure a considerable number of rubles in paper and small silver coins, wherewith to pay at each station for post-horses. The hire of post-horses throughout the Caucasus is 3 copecks a verst for each horse; no charge is made for the cart, but the drivers expect a small present of 15 to 25 cop. at each stage. At the stations travellers will generally only find a samovar or tea-urn, and nothing but eggs and black bread to eat; beef or mutton is for the most part not to be found. The utmost which the traveller will obtain through the Russian provinces, except at the towns, is very bad soup, or a fowl newly killed; vegetables and fruit are very scarce. But desirable as it is that more attention were paid to the provisioning of the stations, travelling in Georgia has a charm which fully compensates for the privations and causes them to be forgotten. Every facility is given by the Russian authorities to stranger tourists. In most parts of the provinces travelling is perfectly safe; and wherever it is attended with danger, as in Circassian and Daghestan, no one is allowed to proceed without the protection of a sufficient guard. The climate is at all seasons very pleasant, excepting towards the Persian frontier in the summer months; and no one need be disappointed with a tour in this—

'beauty's native clime,
Where Kaff is clad in rocks and crown'd with snows sublime.']

The route by Constantinople and the Black Sea, being the most expeditious, is described first :—

[Obs. Travellers must select their own route to Constantinople, which may be reached, 1. viâ Marseilles; 2. viâ the Danube; 3. viâ Trieste; and 4. viâ Ancona.]

The steamers of the Russian Steam Navigation Company ply between Constantinople and Poti. Travellers can change at Batoum into a steamer which performs the service between that port and Poti, and which has a less draught of water to enable it to cross the bar of the river Rion.

POTI. A fortified harbour at the mouth of the river Rion, the ancient Phasis, on the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea. The town is composed of a collection of wooden houses surrounded by a forest. The principal drawback to its development is the bar at the mouth of the Rion, which prevents most vessels from entering the river, and where it is very often so rough as to make all communication between the shore and the shipping outside impossible.

[Note: A rly. is in course of construction from Poti to Tiflis. When completed, it will attract a great number of tourists to the Caucasus, a fuller description of which must be reserved for a new edition.]

The climate of Poti is disagreeable, and fever prevails during the summer months. It is nevertheless the port of Tiflis, from which it is 360 v. (or 240 m.) distant, and a place of growing importance.

Hotels: "Colchide;" and another, more recently established, close to the landing-place of the steamer :—both kept by Frenchmen.

A British Vice-Consul resides at Poti.

From Poti a small steamer proceeds up the Rion, twice a week, to Maran, 86 v. or 57 m. distant. There are no post-horses between Poti and Maran, but travellers have been able to secure riding-horses. In summer, when the road is dry, the distance may be accomplished in one day with the same horses; but in winter, when the mud is knee-deep, it is necessary to pass a night on the road. The way lies through the famous Mingrelian forest. The scenery along the Rion is beautiful. To the right are the Lesghian mountains, and to the left, far away, are the snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus. The structure of the houses, built on piles, would seem to indicate a very damp and feverish country on both sides of the river. The Mingrelians and Imeritians. who will be met on the road, are probably the handsomest race in the world; and no one can travel through their country without being struck by the remarkable beauty of the women.

Maran is a military station and contains about 2,000 Inhab. The garrison is composed in great part of "Scoptsi," a Russian religious sect of which the tenets enjoin self-mutilation. The Caucasus is their place of banishment when discovered. As soldiers they are said to be very easily managed. The post-house is the place of refuge for travellers. Post-horses may be obtained here for Tiflis, and thence to Bakù or Lenkoran, to the Persian frontier at Djulfa, or to any of the chief towns of the Caucasus. The posting establishment is so extensive as to occasion a considerable loss to the Government, at whose charge it is maintained. Travellers with courier podorojnas will get the best horses. A drive of 4 hrs., at an ordinary speed, will bring the traveller to

KUTAIS (Pop. 5,000), the ancient Cyta, the principal city of Colchis, and now the capital of Imeritia. It was to this place that Jason and his companions came in the Argo to obtain the Golden Fleece. The town is delightfully situated among green hills; and the Rion, twice crossed by stone bridges, flows through it. On a hill a little above the town are the remains of a building attributed to the Genoese. There are two hotels at Kutais; the proprietor of one is a Hungarian, and of the other a Russian; but no comforts will be found in either of them. It was to obtain possession of Kutais that Omar Pasha undertook the campaign on the eastern coast of the Black Sea in the autumn of 1855. The late advance of the Turkish army and the want of an efficient commissariat made the expedition abortive.

There are six stages between Kutais and SURAM, at the watershed that separates the provinces of Imeritia and Georgia. The first station is agreeably situated, and commands a good view. It contains 2 good-sized rooms. The road is rough, and the ordinary vehicles very uncomfortable. Those who are fond of fine scenery should make the fifth stage, through the splendid pass of Suram, in the day-time. The mountains through which the road winds are covered with trees from their summits to the valleys beneath. In winter the scenery loses much of its beauty, but nothing more picturesque can be imagined than the pass in the month of October, when the trees wear a great variety of tints. Several castles perched upon heights in front of the pass command extensive views. An ascent of about an hour and a half brings the traveller to the crest of the ridge, where the waters flow eastward. The same time will be occupied in descending the pass to the station of Suram.

There are 6 stations from Suram to Tiflis. The scenery becomes tamer; hills, more or less wooded, rise to the rt. and l. of a bare plain, through which a metalled road has not yet been constructed. In the mountains near Suram is a watering-placed called Burjan [sic.; Borjomi], to which the Imperial Lieutenant of the Caucasus retires in summer. The river Kur, the ancient Cyrus, takes its rise in that district. The town of GORI is situated upon it 2 stages beyond Suram. Before reaching it, the road crosses to the rt. bank of the Kur. The town is not, however, on the direct road to Tiflis. Its high rock is visible at a great distance. There are some interesting ruins in the neighbourhood. The road to Tiflis follows the river. Bare hills rise above the valley of the Kur, presenting a complete contrast to the richly-wooded privinces of Imeritia and Mingrelia. Beyond Gori the traveller will pass MIZKETTRA [sic.; Mtskheta], the ancient residence of the kings of Georgia. It is now a ruin, still however containing 2 churches of some sanctity, in one of which the kings of Georgia were crowned, and where to the present day the bishops of Tiflis are consecrated. This church is said to have been erected in the 10th cent., and it was laid waste by Timùr. The road from here to Tiflis crosses a bridge, ascribed by tradition to Pompey. At a short distance from Tiflis the Kur, along which the road runs, is confined between high walls of rock in which are many artificial caverns. By travelling as courier without intermission, on the second day after quitting Kutais the traveller will reach

TIFLIS. Pop. 61,000. The seat of government of the Caucasus, and the residence of the Imperial Lieutenant.

Hotels.—Caucase, opposite the theatre (to be preferred, being kept by a Frenchman); Hôtel d'Italie; Hôtel de Paris; and Hôtel Débèque.

Conveyances.—Excellent phaëtons and drojkies may be hired by the hour.

History.—Tiflis is supposed to have existed since the year 469, when the Georgian monarchs made it their residence. It derives its name from the mineral springs which it contains. What is now called Georgia was anciently known as Iberia, lying between Colchis and Albania. The capital of Iberia was Zelissa. Iberia was not subjected to the Medes and Persians, and it is first mentioned in Western history when Pompey penetrated through it to Albania on the Caspian Sea. Georgia is bounded on the N. by the pass of Vladi-Kavkas, anciently called the Pylæ Caucasæ.

It formed part of the Roman empire from the time of Pompey, and was afterwards long the theatre of contest between the Lower Empire and the Persians. From the 8th centy., or still earlier according to other records, dates the rise of the dynasty of the Bagratides, which flourished till the year 1801, when Georgia became a Russian province. The Bagratides were at that time the oldest reigning family in Europe, if not in the world. They asserted their descent from King David of Israel. Prince Bagration, so distinguished in his struggle with the French, and who fell at Borodino, was the descendant of the kings of Georgia, Theraclius [sic.; Erekle], the last king of Georgia, was forced to quit his capital on the approach of Aga Mahomed Khan, the first Kajar ruler of Persia. At his death he left his kingdom under the protection of Russia, and it was shortly after incorporated with the Empire.

Topography, &c.—The town, which is picturesquely situated upon the banks of the Kùr, with a distant view of Mount Kazbek and the mountain chain of the Caucasus, presents a mixture of Oriental and European types. It has a boulevard with shops on either side, and with the principal public buildings along it. There are a few other European streets, which are, however, unpaved, and therefore almost always either very dusty or very muddy. The principal building is a covered square bazaar, with rows of shops round it, and with the opera-house in the centre. The theatre is a very handsome building when seen from the inside. The palace of the Imperial Lieutenant overlooks the boulevard. The houses of the chief civil and military authorities, scattered over the town, are handsomely built. The chief resort in the afternoon is the large public garden overlooking the Kùr, beyond the German colony, which is on the rt. bank of the river. The Kùr is crossed within the town by 2 bridges, the principal of which was built by Prince Woronzoff, when Lieutenant of the Caucasus. A statue of the prince stands at one end of it. Most of the foreigners resident in Tiflis are Germans and Frenchmen. The former, now Russian subjects, are descended from refugees who quitted Wurtemberg to enjoy religious liberty. The German colony is a model of neatness and prosperity. Many of the resident Frenchmen visit the Trans-Caucasian provinces every year to purchase silkworms. The variety of costumes to be seen at Tiflis is very great and interesting. The Circassian and Daghestan dresses are more particularly picturesque. The Persian population, which is very considerable, is confined to the lower part of the town, where whole streets and bazaars are filled with their houses and shops.

The mineral baths are situated in the Persian quarter of the town. An excellent view of the whole city may be obtained from the Botanical Gardens above the town.

The climate of Tiflis is very mild and pleasant in winter, but in summer it is intensely hot. It is in fact deserted at that season for the watering-places in the neighbourhood.

In the neighbourhood of Tiflis are the vineyards of Kahetie [sic.; Kakheti], which produce the wine of that name. It is of 2 descriptions, red and white, and is very much esteemed throughout Trans-Caucasia. It is not made with a view to being long preserved, and has therefore not been much exported, although travellers will find it at Moscow and St. Petersburg. As it is kept in leather bags, it has generally a slight flavour of leather. It is exceedingly cheap. Foreign wines, and indeed all foreign articles, are very dear in Georgia; English porter, for instance, being sold at the rate of 2 rs. a bottle.

From Tiflis travellers can either proceed by land viâ Ararat and Tabreez, or take the steamer at Bakù or Lenkoran to Resht or Astrabad on the Caspian.