I was getting saturated with churches , UNESCO heritage sites after 6 days in Tbilisi and wanted something different.That was when Teolina suggested a visit to her village and we did not have to think twice.So we set out on a 5 hour long trip through winding roads with snow clad hills and valleys to Norio village in Abasaha district ..This village is sparsely populated and farming is their main occupation.Maize is the main crop.
We reached by evening and were warmly welcomed by he parents and grandmother.They have a 2 storey house and a fairly large plot .Teolina’s mother is Erma and I was surprised to see her watching a Hindi serial dubbed in their language.It seems Hindi serials are quite popular out there.Tina is her 94 yr old grandmother and she is a charming sprightly lady.I did not see her sitting down even for a moment.It was obvious that Teolina dotes on her parents and granny.She visits them once or twice a month.Erma is fond of old hindi movies and she sang two lines of that all time popular song ”Mera jhootha hei japani”.It was getting very cold and Teo’s father took me to stay near the quaint old bukhari.It was very cosy and I did not want to leave that spot.
MAMA ERMA & GRANNY TINA
Georgians are known for their hospitality and warmth and we felt a part of this wonderful family in no time.
We were treated to a sumptuous dinner which was like a mini Supra ((traditional georgian feast) for me.It had georgian specialities like Gomi-maize porridge which is to be eaten with cheese,Khachapuri-cheese filled bread and corn fritters.All were home made and delicious.
I got up by 6 and saw that Granny Tina was already up and having her tea. .I went down with her and she showed me around.It was like a scene from my village.There is a sprawling plot with a cowshed ,chicken coop and corn fields .She let the hens out ,took hay for the cows, went over to her neighbour to get a bottle of honey for us and made sure that we had breakfast.She has stayed in the same village for most of her life and is content and happy.Teo told me that though she looks frail she has a robust constitution.It must be the genes,active village life and a healthy diet.She is also deeply religious.
I saw a persimmon tree for the first time and seeing my excitement granny made me taste some fresh persimmon and they were delicious.She also packed some to take back home.She also wanted me to carry some pumpkins but that I had to decline.
This idyllic village stay was a fitting finale and soon it was time to say goodbye.
Thank you Granny Tina,Mama Erma,Dad, Teolina,George and Eraqali for giving us such unforgettable moments.Tbilisi was a revelation and I can’t wait to get back for the summer surprises.
Uplistsikhe is one of oldest urban settlements in Georgia and dates back to the Iron Age.It had been through multiple invasions and also ravages of time and a massive earthquake.What we get to see now are these enormous rock cut structures.According to legends the slaves were given tools made of gold and metal and they had to toil till the metal wore out.And then they were granted freedom and also the gold .I wish they had a choice !
In its heydays this place had about 700 rock structures of which only 150 remain.The oldest inhabitants were pagan worshippers.
We reached the site at noon and set out to explore the caves.There is a bit of steep climbing and one has to watch out for the slopes and pits.I went inside the caves expecting to see some distinct features but most look alike.It is hard to believe that there was once a sprawling city with temples,houses, hospitals,pharmacy,prison and interconnecting streets.Amazing how they have they carved into the rocks with primitive tools.
There are no drawings or carvings .Just bare walls with empty nooks.
This is the 10th century church at the site of the original pagan temple.
I hope this unique cave complex makes it to the list of UNESCO heritage sites soon.
I do not know the total number of churches in Tbilisi but I saw quite a few.Apart from the popular ones there are some charming old churches near the old part of the city . I used to get up early and take different routes invariably ending up in a church .It was surprising that not many people attend the daily service .I was hoping to see a church wedding but no luck there.Maybe this is not the wedding season !
CHURCH OF BETHLEHEM
St.VIRGIN MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH
Though they may look similar in structure each one gives different vibes.
From the 6th century Jvari monastery we made our way to the 11th century Svetitiskhoveli Cathedral-very difficult to pronounce and meaning Life giving pillar.Our airbnb host Teolina and her friends George and Irakli accompanied us.This is the second largest church in Georgia and is a symbolic copy of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem .This is also supposed to be the place where Christ’s mantle is kept .My knowledge of christanity is very limited and I wish I had done some research.
There is a narrow street leading to the site dotted with souvenir shops,fancy restaurants, vegetable vendors and pretty houses.
There is a fort surrounding the church.
Though it was a sunday the church was not crowded.It has impressive frescoes,tombs and icons.The cathedral was the site of coronation of the Georgian kings and also was their burial site.Only three tombs have been found so far.I could see a few ladies praying in front of the altar .I did not see pews in any of the churches in Georgia.The serene and silent atmosphere was overpowering.
Teolina took me aside saying that she has something interesting to show and she asked me to look up at the external wall.After much squinting I could see a hand with a chisel and that is supposed to symbolise the unfortunate architect Arsukidze .The story goes like this-a priest who was the teacher and patron of the architect was so jealous of his success that he influnced the King to have his right arm chopped off.
Yet another folklore like Taj Mahal architects?
Tbilisi sounds musical and I knew almost nothing about this place other than it being the capital of Georgia. Digging into the history I found that Tbilisi is derived from the old Georgian word Tipli meaning warm.The story goes like this-King of Georgia Vakhtang I Gorgasali went hunting with his falcon and the falcon caught a pheasant.When he went to see the catch he found both the falcon and the pheasant in a hot spring .Impressed with this discovery he decided to build a city in that location and Tbilisi was born.
We booked an apartment through airbnb and reached there at 3 am.Our host and her two friends had come to receive us and soon we were in her 19 century apartment in the old part of the city.
In the courtyard are the ruins of an old church and on top of the Sololaki hill is this magnificient lady Kartvlis Deda or Mother of Georgia holding a bowl of wine to welcome the guests and a sword to ward off enemies.This 20 metre tall statue was made in 1958 and she symbolises the georgian spirit.
She stands tall and proud overlooking the city.I kept looking up at her in awe and tried to capture her from various angles.
The apartment was warm and cosy. It has a fireplace which I found charming.
This was the view from the window.I did not waste any time and set out to explore the city.