New park in an old town

25 August 2011 - 8:06am

Recently a new park has appeared in the heart of the capital of Georgia and immediately became a favorite spot of Tbilisi residents and their guests. Park Rica was founded in a place where, according to legend, the legendary King Vakhtang Gorgasali, who ruled in the fifth century, was hunting for pheasants. A bird fell into a hot spring. The king named the spot after the hot spring “Tbilisi" from the word "Tbil" meaning warm in Georgian and then ordered the capital to be moved from Mtskheta to the shores of the river Kura. Many centuries later famous sulphur baths were founded here, which received laudatory lines from Pushkin. In fact, the reason for moving the capital was the privileged location of the new city on the crossroad of trade routes. Later, the area received the name of Rica and Meida and became the historical center of Tbilisi. The area is marked by the aforementioned sulphur baths, as well as the Ortachaly Gardens, the Metech Church, where 100 thousand martyrs were killed during the invasion of Jal Al Din, and the Sioni Cathedral, where in 1801 the manifesto of the accession of the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom to the Russian Empire was read aloud.

Rica and Meidan, located on both sides of the Kura, is the best place for lovers of antiquity. Therefore, the authorities of Georgia and Tbilisi, after having declared tourism the "main industry of the country", decided to turn the old part of town into a tourist brand. However, the development of modern infrastructure in the area was not welcomed by the public and professionals. The new pedestrian bridge, which directly connected Maidan, Abanotubani and Rica, became a center of controversies. The bridge was designed by Italian architect Mikhele De Luci.

However, in view of the Caucasian temperament, the controversy surrounding the bridge "Misha and Mikhele" (as it is sometimes called in honor of Saakashvili and De Luchi) do not stop even after it became a favorite place for everyone in Tbilisi. Architects even compare it to a diaper.

Critics of the new bridge and a whole new image of Rica – Meidan do not hide the irritation they have with the growing popularity of the place. A well-known film critic, George Gvakharia, in his blog recently wondered why so many people constantly walk down the bridge. "Why are they happy to wander around without anything to do?" the film critic asked. "Just to enjoy life, but you will never get it," Mikhail Saakashvili answered him.

The Georgian leader is always sensitive to criticism of his architectural endeavors, implying that the intelligentsia is too neglectful of ordinary people. For example, the elite criticizes the new rapidly-changing face of Batumi, while recalling how beautiful and provincial it once was. But the country cannot reject any development, because every construction and renovation brings some changes to the old look. For many Old Batumi used to be just an exotic place, which residents of Tbilisi enjoyed once a year. The country needs tourism brands. Therefore, the authorities take the criticism calmly, steadily following the program of transforming Rica into a comfortable park, surrounded by symbols of the ancient city.

Georgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively for VK

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