Aleksandre Dumas travel in Caucasus
Europeans have been showing interest in the Caucasus region from time immemorial.
Suffice to remember the legendary Golden Fleece and the associated with it voyage of the Greek Argonauts to Colchis; or the legend on Prometheus chained to a mountain cliff in Western Georgia.
Caravan routes connecting the richest countries of the Oriental world used to pass the Caucasus, the most known of them being the so-called “Silk Road”.
Georgian metalworkers and various articles made by them have long ago been known and valued in European countries.
The ancient Greek-Roman chronicles contain many historical data on the Caucasus and its ethnos. The Caucasian theme was fundamentally highlighted by Herodotus, Xenophonte, particularly Strabo, and many others. In the 13th century “the wonderful city” Tbilisi used to be visited by the famous Venetian traveler Marco Polo.
During the centuries to come the interest of European travelers, researchers and people of art in the country essentially increased. They were attracted not only by beautiful nature, very rich flora and fauna, but also by the development history of the Caucasian countries and peoples, their unique architectural monuments, and the wonderful diversity of the Caucasian ethnos.
Many French, German, Swiss, Italian, and Russian scholars and researchers used to arrive in Georgia.
150 years ago the Caucasus was visited by the master of French literature, the founder of family dynasty of prose writers monsieur Alexander Dumas-the Father.
In the late 1858, with arrival at the town of Kyzlyaar of Dagestan starts the great French writer’s impressive and breadth-taking travel in the Caucasus. It was the hardest period in the region’s life. A prolonged and bloody Caucasian war was under way that left a lasting impression on the writer.
From Kyzlyar via Derbent, Dumas goes to “the town of winds” Baku. With great interest sees the writer the local sights: palaces, cult buildings, oil fields, the bazaar, meets with the local community.
From Baku the writer travels to Shemakha and Nukha. Thereafter he arrives in “Georgian paradise” - Tiflis (Tbilisi). Six weeks spent the writer in the capital of Georgia, where he was greatly impressed by its beauty, historical past, the magnificent Sioni Cathedral, caravanserais, hot spring baths, generosity and matchless hospitality of Georgian people.
“I have seen almost all in Tiflis, and nowhere in my life have I worked so productively”, states Dumas with satisfaction.
Rather interesting is his characterization of Georgians, “…it is so wonderful, noble, brave, generous, and unifying a nation that it deserves a special study”. “The Georgian nation is excellent in the East and I would say throughout the world” – enthusiastically concludes the author.
From Tbilisi, Dumas travels to West Georgia. On his way there, the writer goes through Mtskheta, Gori, Surami, and arrives in Kutaisi. After sightseeing the town, he visits Gelati Monastery and is greatly impressed by the relics protected there: precious icons, unique mosaic portrayal of Our Lady, the iron gate of Derbent.
The last point of the three-month travel of the French writer is the seaside town of Poti, wherefrom, via Batumi and Trabzon, he goes by sea to France. The writer standing on the deck could see the eye-catching sight: the wood-covered lowland of Kolkheti being surrounded by a continuous chain of the Caucasus snow-capped skyscraping mountain peaks. This scenic landscape was crowned by Batumi port in the south.
There, in February 1859, ended the rather emotional and productive travel of the great writer in the Caucasus that was full of impressions and interesting meetings.
Upon return to Paris, Alexandre Dumas, based on the voluminous factual material collected during the travel, published an excellent work under the title “Caucasus”, which, although a half-century has passed, is still being read with great interest.