Gori is famous for being the birth place of Stalin! I would like to think that THAT is nothing to be proud of, but then, who am I? Their famous son has a wonderful museum dedicated to him. It doesn’t mention the atrocious crimes against humanity he has committed, that part was not there! ( that I saw!)
I was so fortunes to meet the gorgeous Eleni yesterday. A stunningly beautiful Russian dentist who is married with a Georgian man. She offered me a lift. Eleni has never been to Gori, so she took this opportunity to visit the Stalin museum with me and the cathedral. We laughed so much, she was good fun. Racing car driver material, we arrived much too early and ended up sitting outside a cafe drinking coffee and chatting with the local taxi drivers. Russians are not liked here! This is due to the fact that in 2008 there was a war over South Ossetia, 30 km north of Gori. The Russians bombed Gori, with at least twenty civilians killed, most people fled to Tbilisi.t
The Stalin museum is in a very impressive building from 1957. There is a small wood and mud brick house, in which Stalin’s parents rented a room for the first four years of his life! One room is devoted to Stalin’s eerie death mask. Outside is Stalin’s railway carriage in which he travelled. He didn’t like flying! It was still closed when we arrived, since we were the first visitors!! The cathedral was lovely, I have no idea what it is called!
After Eleni left, I showered and had a nap! It is very, very hot and humid, so during the afternoon napping is the smartest thing to do!
Afterwards I climbed up to the Gori Fortress. This oval citadel stands on top of the hill at the centre of Gori. The views were magnificent! And I ended up meeting a local journalist who interviewed me for the local television station! Ah, the fame follows me every where!! At the bottom of the fortress, stands a circle of mutilated metal warriors, a strange memorial to the people who lost their lives in the 2008 war.
There is also a small war museum, devoted to the Gori’s people involvement of WWII. A small display on the 2008 war as well. Row upon rows of photographs of handsome young men, rather depressing, really. Outside was a large memorial, with a long, long lists of local people who died fighting over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 1990.
I took a taxi to the Ateni Sioni, an impressive ancient church, in an absolutely fabulous setting, the grape vine strewn Tana valley. All around are high hills and cliffs. Ateni Sioni was built in the 7th century. There were beautiful reliefs of hunting scenes and Knights. Inside are stunningly beautiful frescoes, for which I visited this church! Alas, the church was being restored and locked up for visitors!! My kind taxi driver to me to a near by monastery for nuns. There was a cute little chapel, with surprisingly stunning frescoes. After I took a lot of photos, encouraged by my driver, the nuns told me photography was ” forbidden” ! Oops!
The next stop was Uplistsikhe, a fascinating and enormous cave city! Beautiful views over the Mtkvari valley. Uplistsikhe was the chief political and religious centre of pre Christian Kartli, with temples dedicated to the sun goddess. ( between 6th century BC and 1st century AD )After the Arabs occupied Tbilisi in 645AD, Uplistsikhe became the residence of the Christian Kings of Kartli and a very important trade centre, with a main caravan road from Asia to Europe running through it! At its peak there were over 20,000 people living here. The town was destroyed by the Mongols in 1240.
I was fascinated by the Uplistsikhe Eklesia, from the 10th century. It was built over what was probably the most important pagan temple. I didn’t climb all the way to the top, as it started to rain, and the rocks were difficult enough to climb without he extra difficulty of being slippery as well. It was an amazing place, and I wandered around for a very long time! I liked the idea that the room for the queen was right next door to the wine cellar and the chemist!! So when she got a hangover, the tablets to cure her headache were right next door!!
The day was overcast, and slightly rainy, which doesn’t make for good photographs. This is a shame, because the landscape, the caves, the church were all absolutely amazing! Tomorrow Kutaisi! My next adventure awaits me! Isn’t life just marvellous? I am so enjoying all of it!