No one knows who the first travellers in Georgia were. Ancient data about the Georgians are preserved in the ancient eastern sources. The Georgian ancestors had relationships with such strong states as Assyria (2000 – 605 BC), Hittites Kingdom (1650 – 1220 BC) and Urartu (XIII century – 590 BC). Travelling of ancient Greeks to the Colchis Kingdom existing on the territory of Western Georgia is depicted in one of the major cycles of Greek mythology – the epic poem Argonautica. Many authors of the literature of the antiquity wrote about the Argonauts travelling, which is fully depicted in “Argonautica” by Apollonius of Rhodes (the 2nd century BC) and in “Medea” by Euripides (the 5th century BC). According to the content of the legend the Argonauts’ travelling took place in the period preceding the Trojan War (the 12th century BC). In 1984, Tim Severin – a British scientist and explorer, organized an expedition on the ship similar to the one used by the ancient Greeks in accordance with the Argonauts’ route. He confirmed that in that remote epoch it was possible to organize such sailing. The epic poem Argonautica is a legend but it depicts real, historical facts. It is vivid that in the remote past the Greeks had really got acquainted with the Colchis Kingdom. According to the legend, Ayetes – a King of Colchis had a great wealth – golden sheep’s clothing (the Golden Fleece). The heroes headed by Jason gathered in Greece and decided to make a trip to Colchis to obtain the Golden Fleece. They built a ship “Argo” and sailed to Colchis. After a long and difficult trip they approached a strong and wealthy kingdom of the King Ayetes. The King’s daughter Medea fell in love with Jason at first sight and decided to assist him. With Medea’s assistance Jason stole the Golden Fleece. The Greeks got into the ship and sailed to Greece. Medea left with them.
One of the first geographic works is considered to be “Description of land” by Hecataeus – a Greek geographer (549 – 480 BC), in which the Colchis, Caucasus, Pontos (Black) Sea are mentioned.
A Greek geographer Strabon (64BC –AD 20) travelled in Georgia and in his work “Geography” he wrote: “Iberia is well settled with towns and villages. There are architectural houses covered with tiles, markets and other social establishments. The part of the country is surrounded by the Caucasus Mountains….. There are lowlands in the middle part irrigated by the rivers; the largest among these rivers is Mtkvari”.
An Arabian traveller and geographer Ibn-Haukal, who travelled in Georgia in the 10th century, wrote: “Tbilisi city is smaller than Daruband, it is surrounded by two walls and three entrances. It is fertile and fortified. Prices are cheap here and by wealth it exceeds other rich cities and prosperous fertile lands. Tbilisi baths are like Tiberias baths, where the water is always hot without fire. The city is located on the Mtkvari River and there are watermills on it, where wheat is milled, just like on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Among the residents of Tbilisi, a foreigner feels himself safe and enjoys their generosity. ”
A great Italian traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324) wrote about Georgia the following: “The Georgians are a handsome race of warriors, good archers, and good fighters on the battlefield. They are Christians and observe the rule of the Greek Church. They wear hair cropped in clerical fashion. This is the country through which Alexander could not pass when he wanted to go to the north, because the way is narrow and dangerous. On one side is the sea. On the other are high mountains and forests
impassable on horseback. Silk is produced here in abundance, and silken fabrics and cloth of gold woven here are the finest ever seen. There are nowhere else on the earth so many birds, fishes in lakes and animals in woods. People are occupied with commerce and handicraft”. In 1628 the Italian mission team headed by Don Christopher De Castel arrived in Georgia. Castel made more than 500 sketches while being Georgia. At present this album is kept in Italy, in the library of Palermo city.
In the 70s years of the 17th century a French traveller Jean Chardin traveled in Georgia. Jean Chardin wrote: “Georgian climate is healthy and dry. Lands here require watering. Irrigated lands give different kinds of crops, greens and fruits in plenty. Georgia is a fertile country. Life is good and cheap here. There is nowhere else in the world such delicious bread as here. Fruits are exotic and diverse. There are nowhere else in Europe grow such delicious pears and apples. Nowhere in Asia are found such delicious pomegranates. Cattle (cows) are in plenty here and of good quality…. I can say that the Georgians are the most beautiful people in the East and in the whole world. I have not met any ugly people there, neither woman nor man. I have met people beautiful as angels. The Georgians are polite. They are 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.” A Great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, who travelled in Tbilisi in the 1st part of the 19th century, wrote: “I stayed at the hotel. Next day I went to famous Tbilisi Sulfur Baths. I was led by a Persian to the bath. Hot sulfur springs were running into a deep bath cut in the rock. I have never met such bliss, neither in Russia nor in Turkey”.
A French classic writer Alexander Dumas, who travelled in Georgia in the 50s years of the 19th century, wrote: “I should say that upon entering the theatre vestibule I was astonished by a simple and refined style of the ornament. I had a feeling that I had entered the vestibule of Pompeii Theatre. In the upper foyer the ornament changed into Arabian ornament, we entered the hall which seemed to be the palace of colours not because of its rich decoration, but because of its execution with refined taste….. I visited Tbilisi with its fortresses, markets, protruding walls, violent Mtkvari, clear sky and with its entire poetry. The main caravanserai of Tbilisi is interesting to visit. The following representatives of Eastern and European countries enter and exit its all entrances on camels, horses and mullah: the Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Persians, Indians, Chinese, Kalmucks, Turkmen, Tatars, Circassians, Siberians, etc. All represent a specific type; have their own garments, weapons, face and headgears”.
“The Georgians in general are very moderate in eating-drinking. Although during weddings and holidays they can serve the provisions of the whole year to the guests. They are honest, generous, cheerful, sincere, kind and hospitable people. They love singing, dancing and are inclined to entertainment from the ancient times. At the Georgian parties is drunk much wine. The Georgians drink wine from the horns of Caucasian goat. You will nowhere else in the world find people, who can drink so much wine as the Georgians can. They drink plenty wine and it is astonishing that you will almost nowhere meet a drunken Georgian.” Encyclopedic vocabulary of Brockhouse
In the 19th century, sanatoria and recreational houses already existed on the Georgian Black Sea Coast. Georgia possesses a great tourist potential, which is conditioned by beautiful nature and landscapes, the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea Coast line, more than 2000 curative mineral waters, 12000 historic monuments, 5000 from which are protected by the government, and five from which have been entered in the “UNESCO” monuments list of world significance since 1995. They are: Svetitskhoveli, Jvari Monastery, Samtavro Monastery, Gelati Monastery Complex, Bagrati Cathedral Church and Ushguli architectural ensemble.
The expertS of World : “No other country in Europe possesses such rich flora and fauna as Georgia does. You can not find in any country of Europe such diversity of relief on such a small territory as in Georgia. There is no other country in Europe, in which natural landscapes are preserved in a wild state.”