April 28, 2011 1 Comment
April 28, 2011 1 Comment
Better weather so we decided to walk up to the monastery. The walk took an hour and a half. It was steep, cold and the air was thin. We trudged through last night’s snow. The summit was worth the pain. Those who drove up instead of walking risked getting bogged in the mud. The monastery was small. Centuries of graffiti were etched in the stone walls. Inside UNESCO had helped the monks uncover a 14th century mural of Jesus from beneath several coats of paint. It started to snow again. Some Israelis, once unbogged, kindly let us hitch a lift back down the hill. We caught the 5pm bus back to Tbilisi and finally saw the views we missed the first time.
April 28, 2011 4 Comments
Bus from Didube Metro Station to Kazbegi for 10 lari. The weather rolled in and it started to snow. Visibility was less than 50m. The windows fogged up. We went over a mountain pass. The roads were narrow. Beyond the road’s wooden palings were steep drops to the gorges below. We bumped along. The fences were replaced by head-height snow drifts. Two and a half hours after leaving Tbilisi we descended into Kazbegi (Stephansminda). Kazbegi is known for its skiing, its icecapped volcano and a 14th century monastery. It is home to an alpine ecology research institute. It is also right near the Russian border. We stayed at a guesthouse run by an old friendly lady. There was a picture of Stalin on the wall and a Russian army coat with polished buttons. There were no cafes or restaurants open because it was out of tourist season. A neighbour cooked us soups and stews with fried potatoes, fresh bread and cheese in a small room heated by a stove. Spanish tele-novellas dubbed in Georgian played constantly on the television. Outside chickens of Easter Show prize-winning standards scratched in the mud, dogs and cats bolted at the first sign of human movement and unpolled cattle roamed in the streets.
April 24, 2011 4 Comments
Some of the earliest hominid remains outside of Africa have been found at the archaeological site of Dmanisi. The remains have been dated to 1.8 million years ago. Several of the skulls are typically on display at the Georgain National Museum. The museum was unfortunately closed for renovations. I was determined to at least see the site. The site, as it turned out, was closed until the peak tourist season (beginning in May) and guarded by three policeman sitting around doing nothing. If not for a friendly Georgian man named Vassily, a friendly man and his carload of small children, a friendly dog, an amazing landscape, an old church, medieval ruins, engraved stone sheep and an open excavation our trip to Dmanisi might have been a complete waste of time…
More photos (including excavation photos) at Flickr
For a summary of the geology, history of excavations and maps of the site see Chapter 3 of Adam Van Arsdale’s thesis
April 22, 2011 1 Comment
Day trip to Mshketa, approximately 20km from Tbilisi. Our hostel organised us a taxi for 12 lari.
Carefully reconstructed stonework, clean streets and a certain sense of charming sterility.”I bet it’s a UNESCO World Heritage area,” says Clare. We went to the shiny new Tourist Information Centre. One of three women at the desk helpfully answered our questions. There were no town maps. We visited the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Through the haze of smoke we could see murals, pictures of saints and lit candles. Church goers prayed with their heads against shrines. Priests chanted and stirred the contents of large pots. A giant mural of Jesus gazed down on us through the haze.
After a forty minute wait as the sole patrons at the Old Tavern, one of four waitresses served a very oily lunch. We went elsewhere for coffee. The local museum was closed. We got into a taxi to go to the Jvari monastery. The taxi broke 200m down the road. We found three other taxis and asked the driver of the most intact looking car to take us to Jvari. He led us to the most decrepid of the three cars with rust and a broken windscreen. 25 lari for a return trip.