Georgians tell the story, that back in the fifth century, Tsar Vahtang Gorgasaly was falcon hunting near the Mtkvari river. His falcon was successful in catching a pheasant, but dropped it. Servants sent to retrieve the bird found it in a hot stream, neatly boiled and ready to be served for lunch.

Yet another legend says that Gorgasali was hunting in the area and hit a deer with an arrow. To his surprise, the wounded animal fell into a spring, but then leapt up and bounded away. It was the warm healing waters that miraculously healed the deer, they say.

In both stories, the tsar was so taken with the area's hot springs, he moved the capitol there. 1500 years later, Tbilisi is still the capitol city of Georgia.

Tbilisi gets its name from the springs-- it's a derivation of the Georgian word for "warm," and the hot springs have been an attraction for centuries. Pushkin wrote in 1829, "Not since my birth have I witnessed such luxuriousness as at the Tbilisi baths." In 1858, Alexandre Dumas wondered why Paris couldn't have such luxuries as Tbilisi's Turkish baths (built over the hot springs). A restored 16th-century bathing complex built by the Tsars still stands, and features both public and private baths.The baths are popular now partly due to efforts to increase tourism, and partly due to the country's economic woes in the 1990's, which led to the collapse of Tbilisi's infrastructure, with local homes losing hot water.

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