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.
They are seen everywhere.Most of them look well fed and are friendly.. It is estimated that there are about 50,000 or more stray cats and dogs and Georgia is not a rabies free country.They need more animal shelters and vet clinics.
These are some of my feline and canine encounters.
I would find her at the door almost every day.
Saw this adorable pup at an old fort.
I hope he finds a home soon.
Like churches statues are a common sight in Tbilisi.There are statues honouring saints, kings,poets,philosophers, artists ,statesmen and traditional art forms.Street art/graffiti also seem very popular.
St.GEORGE at FREEDOM SQUARE
KING VAKHTANG GORGASALI
Tamada is the toast master of the traditional georgian feast known as Supra.
BERIKAOBA (DANCING RING)
Have a look at these insightful comments.
Narikala Fortress seen from the cable car
Narikala Fort is a prominent landmark in Tbilisi. It was constructed in the 4 century and was expanded by the Arabs and Mongols over the centuries.In 1827 an earthquake destroyed parts of the fort and today we see remnants of what was once a heavily fortified citadel.
We took the cable car to go up the hill.It costs 1 lari and takes 2 minutes.We could also walk up the hill but I had seen the cable car from our room and wanted to try it.
From the top you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the city.I was trying to identify the places and was delighted to locate our house.
It is a steep climb.You can find vendors with cold drinks and refreshments. Most of the fortress is in ruins though some parts look well preserved.
Finally we reached ‘HOME’ to see Mother of Georgia up close and personal.She did look massive and formidable.There is just a narrow strip in front of the statue and I was not adventurous enough to go across and take her anterior views.
From this statue there are many trails going up the hill We decided to walk down stopping at many places and taking pictures.One has to watch the steps as there are no railings and it is quite steep.
This fort offers a beautiful sight at night.
coutresy google images
I had another deja vu.
This was taken in 2010 when the fort was decked up to celebrate the wedding of the king of Jodhpur.
Tbilisi has its own share of shopping malls and bohemian art galleries.I was not keen on visiting any .I had heard about the Dry Bridge flea market and our host Teolina took us there.It felt like we were in another era.This open air market has something for everyone.Antique jewellery,furniture,porcelain,silverware,vintage cameras,coins,sepia tinted family pictures,relics from the soviet era like medals,flags, military uniforms,portraits of Stalin ,Lenin and bric- a- brac are displayed on the ground or wooden stands.Some have kept their wares on car boots. Most of the sellers were middle aged.This place attracts a lot of tourists and even if you are not buying anything it is interesting to take a walk through the past.
THE DRY BRIDGE
BRAND NEW SCISSORS !
LORD HANUMAN AMONG THE RELICS-I AM SURE HE DID NOT COME FROM THE SOVIET UNION
There is a park near by where nonprofessional as well as well known artists display and sell their paintings.
I AM HERE
We bought a pair of traditional drinking horns known as Kantsi.I would have liked to spend more time out there .Kitsch,vintage or antique there is something about this place that attracts people.
I still wonder whose precious companion this baby doll was.
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.
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.