Churches, Caves and Ceramics

Trip Start Sep 18, 2013
Trip End Oct 19, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel Beqa
What I did
The City-Museum Reserve of Mtskheta Georgia
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Pottery Village
Surami sweet bread
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
Mtskheta Jvari Church of the Holy Cross
Rioni River
Uplistsikhe Cave City

Flag of Georgia  ,
Friday, October 4, 2013

Today we had a long drive in the afternoon, but several stops early in the day.  Somehow it seemed like an extra long day.

Our first stop after leaving our hotel in Tbilisi was at a small church way up on a hill (Mtskheta Jvari Church of the Holy Cross) - like most of them are.  The church was related to St Nino who came to Georgia to bring Christianity.  She was the daughter of a Jewish couple that embraced Christianity and left Nino with her uncle who educated her.  Then Nino convinced two friends to come with her to Georgia.  Meanwhile she had a vision of the Virgin Mary with a cross of grape tree branches so this church has an icon of her with a twisted cross. 

Then we went to the Cathedral in the center of Mtskheta.  Somehow I am getting all my stories confused, but with Emma's help I am trying to reconstruct it all.  I think there is the story here of Simon and his friends - two Jewish boys from Georgia - who wanted to go to Palestine because Jewish people were invited by Pontius Pilot to come to the crucifixion.  Simon was warned by his sister and mother not to be involved with the crucifixion, but the two boys missed it anyway.  Somehow Simon acquired the cloth that was used to wipe Jesus' face and brought it home.  His sister took it and clutched it to herself and died in ecstasy.  They couldn't separate her from the cloth and buried her there.  There is a big stone in the center of the church that is her tomb....I think. 

We had almost enough time for coffee in this reconstructed town of Mtskheta.  Emma and I got a bit lost and then Noel joined us, and we all finally found our way back into town to the cafe and ordered our coffees and teas....with barely enough time to get back to the bus in time.  I burnt my mouth on the hot Turkish coffee and then had to leave half of it.

Then we stopped in Gori where we will go to the Stalin Museum when we next pass through.  We had something like 50 minutes to eat and do other things.  I needed to mail my Armenian things so that I wouldn't have a problem going to Azerbaijan.  Emma accompanied me - it was too bad because it took so long, but Emma is very tolerant and said it was an adventure.  First I got a few envelopes, then I needed to be instructed on how to seal the flaps and Emma reminded me to address the envelope while it was flat before I put the stuff into it.  Very good advice - she is very wise for one so young.  The postwoman did a lot of typing on her computer and while she was entering my address, she told us how she wanted to go to New York, but she was stuck here is Gori, Georgia.  I asked about postcard stamps which she said were 4.80 lari - which is like 3.50 in dollars.  Luckily for me, she didn't have enough stamps to make up 4.80 but had to wait for her supervisor.  She said I should be able to get them anywhere else like Kutaisi.  She was very nice. 

After that Emma and I went to the Sports Cafe where we saw most of the others. We sat down and ordered a few things - I got a mushroom-walnut salad that was extremely salty and Emma ordered a Fanta.  We got extra food from Steve - some wonderful cheese pie - and from Tony - a tasty bean dish.  Again, I had to gobble up my food to be in time to get to the bus.

I forgot to mention that the trip to the first church was against a very strong wind as we walked up the steep hill.  Our next hike up a steep hill was to the Uplishtikhe Cave City - here there was also a chilly wind but we did get sheltered in spots.  The sandstone was wavy and curvy on the sides as we drove up to the site.  You could see the church on the top - on a hill as always.  There were also sections of steel steps up to the caves.  Nick pointed out some of the different features - the theater which had another section with tiers of seats before an earthquake - a bunch of little shelves that was where the inhabitants stored various herbs used for medicinal purposes, the temple where bulls or other animals were sacrificed in pagan times and we saw quite a few rooms cut into the rock as well.  There was a little snake in one hole that I think I took a photo of.  Then we climbed up to the church which was quite plain on the inside.  I can't remember much more than that at the moment.  Maybe when I see my photos, my memory will be jogged.

From this point, I guess, we had another 3 and 1/2 hours to go to get to Kutaisi.  We have been traveling west mostly.  Somewhere we went through a second tunnel that marked the line between East and West Georgia - also where the watersheds separated - going toward either the Black or Caspian Seas.  The landscape also changed.  There had been fields with agriculture - cabbages, corn, fruit tree orchards - most of what we had been seeing before in eastern Georgia.  Then, after the tunnel, it was wilder and woolier - mountains covered with trees, deep valleys with brownish waters rippling over the rocks.  We made one stop in Surami, whick Nick told us was an area famous for pioneering - I think that meant camping or scouting - because there were lots of pine or conifer trees and tables and things and people were selling a special bread made only there:  it had flour, lemon, sultanas and cinnamon and maybe something else.  He bought 4 or so loaves from the woman with the turquoise Croc-like shoes and he gave us all some to taste - I thought it was very good and ate a big piece.

Our next stop was along the road in a village famous for its pottery.  There were mostly different kinds of tableware, but also little knick-knacks:  shoes, some piggy banks and decorated horns - not sure what they were for.  A few of our group bought some pieces - they were too heavy for me - but I took a few photos of the vendor ladies with their sweaters and homey footwear.  I had also taken a few photos of a lady by the bread stall because she had on those snappy crocs.

Finally we arrived at our family guest house.  We were behind schedule so instead of dinner at 7 pm, we had dinner at 7:40.  The food was similar to what we have had elsewhere - with some cold salads and some hot dishes.  Western Georgia is known for incorporating walnuts into their cuisine.  We were offered some mushroom salads and I thought they were OK - but for some reason I don't find these mushrooms that tasty.  The vegetable soup, though, I thought was excellent.  I may not have been that hungry after that big hunk of bread because I didn't take very much food.  Oh, yeah, the eggplant was very good too.

Emma has fallen asleep I think - it was 9:30 pm when I started and I couldn't remember much from today so I think this blog went faster.  It is cold in our room.  Emma was brave and took her shower.  I gave some clothes to be laundered and that may be my washing for the day after my scrub at the baths yesterday.  I'll have to get in the shower tomorrow morning and we have an earlier start because of our optional trip to Batumi on the Black Sea coast.  I am now under a really thick comforter and may not want to get up....but I will have to eventually.

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