The Narikala Ropeway — one of Tbilisi’s modern urban cable cars — soars across the Mtkvari River towards an ancient fortress. Image by Prasanna Raju.
In the 8 years in which the Gondola Project has been online, our team has been on a journey to uncover the secrets of the urban gondola world and to share that knowledge with our readers. Most recently, a fellow researcher has helped our team learn more about the fascinating passenger cable lifts in Georgia (the country, not state).
To many North Americans (ourselves included), this developing democracy remains a bit of an enigma — located in the Caucasus Mountains surrounded by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Black Sea, Georgia’s unique geopolitical context, complex history and distinct language has often meant that it operated under the radar of English-speakers. However, this small country’s relationship with ropeway technology is arguably as rich as any of its counterparts in the Alps.
Before Georgia gained full independence in 1991, the country was an integral part of the Russian empire. According to researcher Irakli Z., Georgia was the heart and soul of the Soviet Union’s ropeway industry as it was the country’s only manufacturer of cable cars.
Although Georgia is relatively small (about the same size as Ireland), an estimated 62-75 passenger ropeways have been built since the 1950s. In the capital city alone, a total of 6 ropeways were constructed during Soviet times — many of which were still operational up until the 90s.
Georgian Ropeways mapped out across the entire country. Since the map was created back in 2012, some information is now dated.
While we’ve yet to come across any specific sources which explains why each of these systems became non-operational, it might be safe to assume that a combination of the Soviet Union collapse (1991), the Georgian Civil War (1991-1993) and Russo-Georgian War (2008) contributed to, and accelerated the neglect of these ropeways.
Fortunately, if the pace of recent development is any indication of Tbilisi’s desire to modernize its infrastructure, then the prospects for urban cable cars looks incredibly promising.
A report released by the Asian Development Bank in 2013, suggests that the city’s public transit company (Tbilisi Transport) already provides 1.15 million trips per year on its ropeway.
At this time of this article’s writing, three cable propelled systems provide recreational transport service:
- Narikala Ropeway (2012) by LEITNER Ropeways
- Tbilisi Funicular (modernized 2013) by Doppelmayr/Garaventa
- Turtle Lake Ropeway (modernized 2016)
A full list of all the ropeways can be viewed in the map below. Note that while Google Translate has improved a lot, interpretational challenges still remain. If we have misinterpreted any information/details, please let us know in the comments section or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, in this 3-part series, our hope is that we can help shed light on the many historical and modern Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) installations in Tbilisi, and to examine what the future might hold for urban gondolas in the Georgian capital.
Stay tuned for more.
Big thank you goes out to Irakli Z. for translating and sharing his research. If you would like to get involved in the Gondola Project, visit this page here.