Centuries ago, travelling merchants would rest here, make deals, and then continue on their way. Such houses were called “karvasla”, from the word “kārvān”, meaning a group of travellers, and “sarāy”, meaning a palace. Tbilisi, being on the Silk Road, used to have many karvaslas, and the first of these was built here, next to Sioni Church.

History of the Building

The first kavasla in this location was built in 1650 by King Rostom and it was granted to the Bishop of Tbilisi. However, in 1795 the building, along with much of Tbilisi, was destroyed by Agha Muhammed Khan invasion, meaning that a new karvasla had to be built upon the foundations of the old one. In 1820, the new karvasla was built by a well-known merchant from Tbilisi, Gevork Artsruni. As a result, the building gained two names: Tbileli Karvasla and Artsruni Karvasla.

A caduceus – symbol of the god of trade Hermes - is depicted on the façade. According to Greek mythology, Hermes could use the staff to end any argument and make enemies come to an agreement. That is why the caduceus was symbolic of the karvasla, a place where people from many different countries and cultures would often meet each other and agree on matters of trade.

Tbilisi Karvasla Today

Nowadays, Tbilisi History Museum, a wine museum, a modern art gallery, and stores are all found in the building, making it a kind of modern-day caravansary.

The underground architecture of the building is particularly interesting. This part of the building comes from the time of King Rostom and has many old halls connected with tunnels. In the largest of these halls, there is now a wine museum, where you can see a very interesting exposition about winemaking in Georgia and even enjoy a wine degustation.

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