In Tbilisi many monuments and churches are lit up at night and this offers a glorious sight.From the window I could spot this mammoth structure bathed in golden light and it can be seen from most parts of Tbilisi.This is the Tsminda Sameba Cathedral-main cathedral of the Georgian Church and third tallest orthodox church in the world (first two are in Russia) measuring 98 metres.Also the most recent addition to this land of churches .It was consecrated in 2004.
There are nine chapels within the cathedral.I felt like a lilliput seeing the towering structure.Once inside it was again calming and serene.I get this feeling whenever I am in a church .Quite a contrast from the noisy temples especially the popular ones.I would rather go to a small temple than spend hours among millions jostling to get inside and get pushed out in no time.
CHURCH BELL TOWER
There is a nice garden around the cathedral.
That night I was again at the window taking in the golden glow.It looked as if the dome was on fire.
This is one place I want to come back .
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?
There are four UNESCO heritage sites in Georgia and we had the chance to visit the Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral included in the hisorical monuments of Mtskheta.Mtskheta was the old capital of Georgia and it was from this place that Christanity was adopted as the state religion of Georgia.
Jvari Monastery was the first stop.It is about 20 km from Tbilisi and is on top of Mount Armazi.
According to legend Saint Nino who brought christanity to Georgia erected a wooden cross at this site and a church was built over the remnants in c .545.The entrance to the monastery
From the top we can see the confluence of Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers.
I had a feeling of deja vu.This is the confluence of indus and zanskar rivers at Nimmu in Leh I had seen two years back.
It was a cold windy day and we could not stay long outside.Inside the church there were few worshippers..We also lit candles and stood in reverence .
Though the church looks well preserved it is facing damage from the rains and strong winds and is on the 100 Most Endangered Sites List of the World Monument Fund.
This monastery does not have impressive frescoes or statues like most of the churches we saw in Tbilisi but it has its own simple charm.
Soon it was time to leave St.Nino and go to the first orthodox church in Georgia.
I was very happy with the location of our apartment in the old part of the city.This area has an interesting mix of crumbling old buildings with high doors,open balconies,courtyards,cobblestone streets ,bakeries and churches. There are churches at almost every corner .One can see smartly dressed people setting out for their daily chores and school children waiting for their school bus.You may get lost in the labyrinthine alleyways but I was not a bit concerned .Mother of Georgia could be seen from everywhere and she guided me .
This balcony reminded me of the famous balcony scene in Romeo and
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.
One of the highlights of the visit to Nubra valley in Ladakh was the trip to Hunder valley to see the Bactrian camels.
Other than the distinct anatomic feature I did not know much about them.So it was interesting to learn later that they belong to the critically endangered species.The humps are used to store fat which can be converted to energy and when the fat is used up they become floppy.
As it was the peak tourist season there was a long queue for the mandatory rides.I chose not to do that and was happy just being there and observing these gentle animals.
A TENDER MOMENT
Kavita is 12 years old and Uma is 10 years .These two cousins would come to our village stay early in the morning with a huge sack and spread out the wares like experts.They won over us with their charming ways.We chatted with them and came to know that they are staying in a joint family and the stuff they have displayed is made by the family members.These girls have never been to school.They are learning embroidery at home.I found them very cheerful and smart.They are quite used to tourists and have even picked up a few english words.One of them told me that she had been featured in a “foreign” magazine.The harsh living conditions have not dampened their spirits and it was heartening to see these impish duo conducting their sale like veterans.All of us bought something from them.
I wish I could do something more.I wish they get a chance to have some form of formal education and relish all the joys of childhood.
Ladakh is fast becoming the most favoured destination for Indians.I was happy to see “desis” of all age groups when I went there in August 2014. This was on top of my wish list for a long time .Whenever I read a Leh travelogue I would tell myself that I am going there at the first opportunity.Well ,finally I found myself in this magical land and it was a dream coming true after months of frenetic planning and unanticipated delays.
How can one process so many emotions ?Can anyone do justice to its beauty?We can take zillion pictures but can we capture all the moments?You have to be there to experience the magic .I wish this land retains its purity and charm and that one never gets to see a KFC or Pizza hut there.
.You may go there with minimum expectations but I assure you that you will return a different person.I have read that many got the wander bug after being there once.As for me,I want to go back and explore more .Are you a wanderer? Do you have a dream destination?
Do you belong to that group who can just take off on their own to any place of their choice or are you someone like me who like to travel with at least one person ?Though I am not a socially challenged person, large group of total strangers unnerve me and I had avoided such trips for a long time.I have considered solo travel but somehow havent yet accomplished that in the true sense.There was a Singapore trip 10 years back but I was staying with a friend and explored the city with some of her friends.But it was thrilling to travel to a new place and go around without a preset itinerary.
After that most were with friends.Of late it is getting a wee bit difficult to find someone to go with you.One must have someone with similar interests and drive.It is not easy sharing your space with others..One of my friends feel that a couple should travel together before marrying as this is the best way to get to know each other.Travelling together can be really challenging.
Presently I am looking at a winter trip to the land of Seven Sisters.Should I go solo or start calling up friends ?
Feel elated after coming back from my first trek to Deotibba.What an awesome experience-wish I had gone when I was younger and less physically challenged.We were a group of thirty -youngest was a sprightly 9 year old&oldest-a robust experienced 66 year old gentleman.We started off as strangers and came back as a team-bonding over a period of 10 days in difficult terrains.I had gone with some apprehensions & came back a lot happier,calmer&energised.It was fascinating to see school kids staying focussed and behaving like seasoned trekkers encouraging and helping the nervous first timers.I did not see any tantrums or mood swings.
A challenging and rewarding experience and I am looking forward to more .Thank you,Himgiri Tours & Adventures.