Mtskheta, Jvari Monastery, Uplistsikhe stone city
After a two-day holiday, the Sun, who was covered in a blanket of clouds, has entered duty today. The clear blue sky is full of white cotton-wool clouds. It’s a little cold. Beautiful weather. The first place we visit today is Jvari Monastery. We left the hotel around 10 am. It is about 25 kilometers from Tbilisi. Built-in the 5th century, this Georgian Orthodox Church is located on top of a hill near the town of Mtskheta. Jvari Monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site. From here you can see the town of Mtskheta on the banks of the Mtkvari river. After enjoying the sights here for a while, we moved towards Mtskheta town.
Mtskheta is a beautiful small town located at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. It was the old capital of Georgia. Mtskheta is known as The holy city of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It is a very beautiful place with cobbled streets, ramshackle houses, riverside, and surrounding mountains. Omar’s house is there.
The main attraction here is the Svetitskhoveli Church built in the 4th century. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. It is surrounded by a fort wall. Omar had arranged for his friend and tour guide Maia to show us around the church. They told us all about its history. Not going into details. It is a historical monument that survived the Arab and Persian Russian invasions. Signs of it are everywhere.
Members of the Georgian royal family are also buried in this church. Their graves are at ground level. Everyone has done this to walk on top of it. Maia told us that it symbolizes that everyone is equal. Only one of these tombs is tall and long.
This is the tomb of King Vakhtang Gorgosali. He is declared as a saint. That is why only that tomb is standing a little high. Maia said goodbye to us after explaining things in fifteen minutes. We took pictures from inside and outside the church and left there. There are many small shops in between. From there we bought some gift items and proceed to the next location:
Uplistsikhe Stone City
A city of stone. Located on the Mtkavari River, this place is, as the name suggests, a cluster of ancient houses and buildings carved out of rock. Its origin is estimated to be around 1000 BC. It is believed to have been inhabited until the 13th century. Here is a large rock formation. Those with difficulty walking will find it difficult to climb the whole thing. Stone City is a different experience. A must-see place in Georgia. It is past noon. The sun is burning. The temperature will be around 30-32. How trivial considering the heat in Dubai at this time. In summer, the temperature reaches up to 40 degrees: Omar said.
Lunch is at four o’clock as usual. Omar took us to a fish farm. The fish is caught fresh and cooked. Had a salmon BBQ and headed back to Tbilisi. Tomorrow’s journey is long. Marthivili Canyon & Prometheus Cave. 600 km journey to go and come back. Leave on time at 7 o’clock.
A long way to go today. Came out ready at half past seven. Another group will be with us today. Dato, Omar’s friend whom he saw in Gudauri, is coming with a few people. They are Indians. In between, we waited for a while on the side of the road. When Dato and his team arrived, we continued our journey. After about an hour stopped at a big gas station. There are supermarkets, restaurants, etc. We have to go a long way without stopping. From here I started moving after drinking a coffee.
The roadsides are full of apple orchards. All of this is flanked by freshly picked apples for sale. Omar stopped the car and bought apples for us. Omar said watching us wash the apples. There is no need for that. Pesticides are not sprayed. After wiping with a cloth he started eating. I have to say I have never had such a sweet and juicy apple. Fruits and vegetables eaten anywhere in Georgia were of very good quality. Another sight of Georgian villages are the grape vines in front of every house. This is for making wine. Wine is their favorite drink. We are now passing through Kutaisi, the third-largest city in Georgia. Airports in Georgia are located in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi. A dome-shaped building was seen in an open area. It is the Parliament building of Georgia. When you think of ordinary Parliament buildings, the image that comes to mind is the old colonial-style buildings. It is completely different from that.
At the end of a long journey, we reached the Prometheus Cave (Kumistavi in the local language) located at Tskhaltubo, 20 KM from Kutaisi. In Greek mythology, Prometheus, who is said to have stolen fire from the hands of the gods, was bound in the nearby Khvamli mountain. This cave was discovered in 1984. It is the largest cave in Georgia. Only a part of it is accessible to tourists. It is a walk of about one kilometer. There is a ticket to get inside. The charge is 20 lari. If you want to boat inside the cave, you have to pay 15 lari more. Children are free. Omar and Dato did not come. It is taken as a big group. There will also be a guide. A small museum is set up in a room near the ticket counter. When it was time to go, we entered. The cave entrance is slightly below. There are steps to go down there. First things are told in the Georgian language. Therefore those who understand it are ahead. After that the English description.
One has to walk inside for about a kilometer. The lowest point is 85 meters. The temperature inside is always around 14 degrees. The oxygen content is only about 25 percent. It can be dangerous for people with breathing problems or heart disease to go inside. The floor is very damp. There is a risk of slippage due to it. So be sure to use shoes with good grip. It passes through six chambers. The interior is decorated with LED lights of different colors. It’s generally pretty dark. The guide said not to use flash while taking photos. But everyone was using Flash. It is the first time to see the stalactites and stalagmites studied in geography in school. It was a different experience. There is a facility to get married in one of these chambers if booked in advance. Those who want to be different in marriage can try. There are paths with handrails for walking. There is no problem with that. Although strenuous, the visit to the cave was an enjoyable experience. There is a boat to go to the last section for those who have bought a special ticket. We haven’t bought a ticket. We came out another way. Boaters also arrive here. There is a free shuttle bus service from here to where we entered. In Omar’s car, we drove towards Marthivili Canyon.
20 km from here is the Marthivili Canyon on the Abasha River which flows through the canyons. The main attraction here is the boat ride on the fairly flowing turquoise blue river. There is also a big waterfall here. There is a charge of 15 lari per person for entry inside. Boating 10 Lari. Free for children. I got the job when I hung a camera around my neck and a heavy camera bag on my back, thinking that I could take some good photos while going through the river. Two people have to row an inflatable boat. With us is the family who came in Dato’s car. Both of us men became front rowers. Behind him is a rower from here. There is little flow. The river flows down to a large waterfall. A rope has been tied there for safety. You have to row against the current. It was a bit tough. Return after a ten-minute drive to a quiet area for some rest and photo-taking. On both sides are high cliffs and dense forests. The blue river flowing in between is a very beautiful sight.
After getting off the boat, there is a path to the waterfall. There is a viewing platform right above the waterway. Below is the wire mesh. Through it we can see the waterfall right below where we are standing. There is a walking path that follows the river for a short distance. He spent some distance there and returned. If you have to take a bath, you can change clothes and towels. But there is no facility for that here. Another important point is that all the places visited today are accessible only in summer. Entry here is not allowed during winter season. As usual, he returned after eating at five o’clock. On the way back, Omar bought us homemade Georgian bread from the roadside. It is very sweet and chewy. Along the way you will find shops selling it. The price is one lari. This is a must try when visiting Georgia. Churchela is another item. It is a sweet dessert made from dough covered in grape juice. This is also sold along the way. But in many places it is left open. It has a fly nuisance. In some shops it is sold covered with a plastic sheet. I also bought it from such a shop and tried it. This is another must-try delicacy when in Georgia. Arrived back at the hotel around eleven o’clock. I did not know that I fell asleep due to the fatigue of the long journey.
Omar had originally said that he would visit a place called Borjomi on the last day. This is the same route as yesterday. There are about 175 km. Not the same. The mountains and forests are the same as before. He said that today’s journey can be changed because of that. We were not interested in another long journey. Going to Cignani Love City today. The first visit is to a winery. Wine is a symbol of Georgian hospitality. Every household grows grapes to make wine. It was mentioned earlier about the wine glass in the hand of the Mother of Georgia statue in Tbilisi. A building with a large KTW board can be seen in the distance. There are many vehicles parked in front. Kakhetian traditional wine-making is the epitome of KTW. The guide took us inside the factory. The winemaking process takes place in large steel tanks the height of a two-story building. About twenty such tanks are lined up. Each contains a variety of wines and cognacs. The guide describes the characteristics of each type of wine. And everyone can taste the wine as they like in small plastic cups. These tanks have a very low temperature. So it is cool inside the factory. After seeing the sights of the winery, we also bought wine from the sales counter outside. A bottle of Omar’s favorite brand was gifted to him.
Next went to Bodbe Monastery near Signagi. It is a mosque built in the 4th century. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden. The views from here are breathtaking.
Signagi. It is known as the City of Love. Omar was asked why the City of Love. He smiled and held out his hand. When I looked at Wikipedia, I saw that many people come here just to get married. That is why such an adjective. Gombori is an ancient and beautiful small town located at the foot of the mountains in Georgia’s Kakheti province. It is the center of Georgian winemaking. Signani is a very romantic place with cobbled narrow streets, old houses, gardens, hills, and green meadows. Perfect place to get married. First, we went to a museum here. There are artifacts and paintings that are part of Georgian history.
It has been seen in youtube videos that Signani has a great wall. As in China. Omar was told to go there. But he said he did not know of such a place. After asking the people there, he finally found it. It is right next to it. It is a 5 km long fortified wall that surrounds the town of Signani. It was built in 1770 by King Erekle II. 23 towers are also part of this wall. There is a restaurant here to enjoy the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains. As it is located on a hillside, there is a good ascent and descent. After seeing the sights, I was very tired when I got back to the car. Return to Tbilisi. Arrived back in Tbilisi at five o’clock.
Many have heard that KhinkhaIi is a must-try food when visiting Georgia. But could not eat it yet. Have to eat it today anyway. Omar was told to take him to a nice restaurant. We went to a restaurant called SAMIKITNO near the bridge of Peace. Khinkhali is a dish that sits like a momo. It has good taste. Went out after the meal. Omar was given the money to pay and a good number of tips. It was six o’clock when I returned to the hotel after taking many pictures from there. We have a 5pm flight tomorrow. Omar said he would come to drop us off at the airport.
After resting for a while, went shopping in the nearby shops. Many stores have good offers. It is cheaper than what you can get in Dubai. The shopping continued the next day. Omar left us at three o’clock. During these four days, he was like a member of our family. Saying goodbye to Omar and Tibli and flying back to the scorching heat of the desert, my heart says… You are beautiful, Georgia!