Oh, oh, What Did I Do Today??

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

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Where I stayed
Hotel Crystal Bakuriani
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Gelati Academy - Tomb of David the Builder
Sataplia National Forest - Dinosaur tracks, Colchic Forest & Caves
Motsameta Monastery
Gori Bazaar
Gori Central Square

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

I just looked at our trip notes and saw that not everything is written down about what we were seeing today so somehow I will have to find out - as well as what town we visited the first day out from Tbilisi.

We left our family guest house this morning at the usual time -  8 am.  Since I woke up about 15 minutes early and had a head start, I was able to grab my camera and look for some persimmon trees.  There were bunches of them in the neighborhood but, between the lighting and various obstructions, I was not happy with any of the photos.  So, as the day went on, I was still on a quest for persimmon photos.

Nick had briefed us that it would be a morning of churches.  Now I realize I don't know what churches that would be.  I thought there was a freestanding church - maybe in the city??  I really can't remember.  Emma just reminded me that we did yesterday's activities today so the name of the monastery church was Motsameta.  This was a pretty little church in a magnificent setting on a cliff edge.  When the area was invaded by Arabs, two brothers ruled here.  The Arabs wanted the brothers to convert to Islam but they wouldn't because they were afraid that if they converted, all their subjects would, so they refused and the Arabs threw them off of this cliff.  The Church is dedicated to their martyrdom and is called something like Church of the Martyrs.

I do remember our second visit but I don't think I have the full name - Gelati Academy was the educational part of this monastery complex.  Nick told us about King David the Builder.  He took over the kingdom from his father, who wasn't able to manage it at that time because of the hostile forces against Georgia.  David was only 15 years old.  He had a regent and began to put reforms into effect gradually.  There were 4 reforms that Nick mentioned - one was to get rid of the old corrupt clergy and reinstate the king as the ruler of Georgia.  Another was getting another Caucasian tribe to come to Georgia and contribute a soldier.  Out of this, he got 50,000 additional solders.  He also consolidated East and West Georgia - but I am not sure if that was one of the 4 reforms.  The last was to found two academies - one in the East and one in the West.  We visited Gelati Academy, the one in the West, here on a hilltop with a few other churches, a bell tower, and some other buildings.  We saw the site of his tomb - which is very long because he was a very tall man.  the tomb was in front of the gate to the complex - or maybe the original church - and he also brought an Iranian gate there to show that he defeated the Iranians.  He died a few years after reunifiying Georgia at age 54 and was buried in front of the gate so that Georgians could walk over his grave.  After he was canonized, his bones were moved to a reliquary in the church.

The church was quite ornate and had beautiful frescoes and a very high dome.  There was light streaming in through the high dome windows that created a very spiritual effect.  There was a service in progress - today is Sunday - with singing and a priest giving a sermon.  People walk in and out and kiss various icons and light candles, cross themselves.  It is informal in a way but also strict in that women have to have head covering and a skirt or long tunic.  I videoed some of the service so I could get the audio part but I am not sure if the people stopped singing when I started.

We did a lot of backtracking today.  We backtracked to Gori from these churches to go to the national park and then we backtracked back to Gorii for lunch.  So the trip to the national park was south of Gori I think.  This was an extra trip gifted to us by Visit Georgia - Nick's tour company.  Here we got to walk through the Colchic Forest - endemic to this part of Georgia.  There are predominantly birches, but also oaks and beeches that are varieties only found here.  Nick said there was rhododendron, then shrubs, then smaller trees and finally tall oaks forming the canopy.  There is a little dinosaur park here with replicas of dinosaurs - one of which roars.  Under a roofed building are found some dinosaur tracks.  I saw two different kinds but there may have been more.  I was curious as to what kind of dinosaurs they belonged to and then I looked at the walls and I think they had pictures of them.  We walked up the side of a cliff along a paved path and into the cave - or one of the many caves here.  Even though there was a railing and some lighting, I found it hard to see so I lagged behind the others.  I was so far behind I couldn't see or hear them, so I took the liberty of stopping now and then and trying to take a photo of the stalactites and stalagmites but I think it may have been too dark without the flash - my preferred method of taking photos.  I did manage to find my way out and rejoined the group.

Back to Gori, we had over 1 1/2 hours for lunch and exploration.  Emma and I went to the bazaar - market.  I got to ogle some stacks of fruit and vegetables and then we went to look for some nut crackers but didn't manage to find anything.  We may have run into some of the others - or not - in any case, we decided to go get lunch at the recommended Art Cafe.  It is a lovely spot with marble steps, Oriental rugs (probably Georgian) on the tables, high ceilings, books, a young woman playing the violin at the door and great food.  Emma ordered a tea called Sweet November and it was a pretty pink shade.  I ate part of her Greek Salad and had my own mushroom soup and shared some of my bread with her.  All in all, a lovely lunch.  By the time we were done, we only had about 20 minutes left.  Emma went to the money changer and I went to take some photos of the fountain with golden animal statues that were replicas of ancient Colchidian ones.  Off on the bus

After leaving the highway and more populated areas, we had a 3 1/2 hour ride to our ski resort hotel through wonderful mountain terrain .  At one point, Nick said we could stop to take photos of the graffiti at an old Soviet factory that was going to be demolished.  Trish had seen it on the way in and requested the stop.  A few of us die-hards hopped off the bus and walked until we could actually see something - not so much graffiti as mosaics or some very colorful representation of workers.  Nick cautioned us to be very, very careful crossing the street - Georgian drivers apparently do not try to avoid hitting pedestrians (or maybe they try to hit them) - but we had a casualty.  Brian's hand was cut by a passing vehicle.  The old Soviet factory buildings with their broken windows and otherwise rundown look were quite striking against the blue sky with gathering storm clouds.  Hope the pics turn out OK.

Once we were out of town and ascending into the mountains, we following the Mtkvari. River as it ran through very deep v-cut valleys.  At first the trees were mostly deciduous with some nice bright yellow ones now and then.  There were quite a few houses with the fancy iron grill-work and the cut-out ground floors and other more chalet-type variations.  Lots of fruit trees, including more persimmons, but no good photos of them.  Trish tells me she saw lots of pomegranates on trees too but I didn't see any of those.  After awhile we got to rockier mountainsides with cliffs and some rock slides and there were more conifers.  Now it was beginning to look more like the Caucasus of my imagination.  When we were quite close to our destination, we could see snowy peaks and began to speculate whether there would be snow on the ground tomorrow morning.  We all have on our heavy clothes now.  I hope it doesn't get too much colder because I don't have any more layers.

I forgot to mention that Nick talked about education today.  There was some history.  Then he talked about the current education system.  Kindergarten is private - about 1000 lari per year for public - 20 lari per month.  (This is what I wrote but it doesn't make any sense now.)  School from 6 years old for 12 years is free but there are also private schools available.  The education is the same quality but there are more extras in private schools, like swimming pools and psychologists.  Then comes university after students take their exams.  If they do well in the exams, they can get 100 per cent of the cost of university but if they do less well, the government contribution lessens.  University is 4 years with 2 more years for masters degrees.

We arrived at our hotel and, as Nick said, it is a very good one.  Very nice accommodation with heat, towel warmers, kettle, refrigerator, rain forest shower and good food.  They even had pickles.  I tried the Georgian white wine today since I finally finished my pomegranate wine from Armenia yesterday.  Oh, Nick showed us where the Russians bombed during the 2008 war.  A whole section of forest burned for 3 days until Turkish helicopters put it out.  The Russians wanted to damage the oil pipeline from Baku so Europeans would be forced to depend on Russia.  Russia also killed Georgian aristocracy and intellectuals in 1805 when they took over Georgia.

Emma and I are now in our room.  Emma has washed her whole wardrobe and it is hanging in the shower.  I started today's blog while she was showering and laundering and now it is my turn.  I will have to find a place for my laundry.  Maybe I will put it on the lampshades as I threatened.  Emma is very sweet and considerate so I really don't mind her doing her laundry every now and then.

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