Drawing on a wide range of French, English and Russian-language printed source material, the paper deals with the travel accounts of Western visitors to Georgia and the Caucasus in the nineteenth century. Focusing on the everyday practical experience of travel, it outlines the birth of the hotel trade in Tbilisi. After c. 1850, with the building of a railroad, “civilizational” standards began to improve, and over the years Tbilisi hotels were described as being as “good as any European establishment”.
Under the heading of provincial travel, the paper addresses the issue of general supplies, provisions and self-catering, modes of transportation, the state of the roads, and the network of postal-stations, whose erratic services were supplemented by the omnipresent, albeit highly unreliable, wayside inn or dukhan. Coming to the Caucasus and Georgia on specific assignments (diplomatic, political, military, commercial, or scholarly) the authors of travelogues bring their prior expectations, nurtured by ancient myths, ancient literature, and a study of earlier travel accounts, with which they engage in textual dialogue. In their sundry reflections and musings they seldom fail to enthuse on the tourist potential of Georgia in particular, and the Caucasus more generally.
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