Tag: Georgia

Akhalkalaki, my last town in Georgia.

The drive to Akhalkalaki was again stunningly beautiful. The drive was all the way along the river. Green, quiet, and a responsible driver. Made for a lovely change! Although when he started texting while driving, I made it known, in no uncertain terms, that I found that unacceptable! This cracked the driver and all the passengers up! Another crazy tourist with strange ideas on how to drive in Georgia! He did comply however, and put his phone away!

Before I knew it I was at the place I wanted to go. It was only about ninety kilometres, so about a two hours drive. I picked an hotel on maps.me, and I won the jackpot! Albeit expensive for Georgian standards, it is beautiful, comfortable and a very friendly family who run it. Excellent wifi, after the last few days were it was not really available at all. I had an afternoon nap, before exploring the town.

The town is small and compact. Very little traffic. Lots of police cars on the road, and in A very short time I saw a police car stop cars three times! I have not seen this before at all. It is a quiet town, men playing back gammon in the park. Children on the playground. Very few stray dogs, also unusual. However, there could be a  gambling issue here! I saw two casinos in the small centre! Hm! Interesting!

There is a castle, which I gave a miss! Nothing can compete after the last fabulous castle complex I saw. I did visit the little Armenian church. The population here is ninety percent Armenian. This part of Georgia used to belong to Armenia! After the Russian occupation, new borders were drawn on a map. Families who have lived here through the ages, now suddenly find themselves living in Georgia! I looked for a place to eat, and ended up in this fancy place, where the staff was so friendly!

 Interestingly  enough, walking along the streets of this little town are all the pipes! Yellow pipes for gas! An ugly Russian left over, seen in every country I visited, except Iran.  The other is the down pipes, which just stick out above your head on the footpath. I did think of going for a walk in the rain just to see what it would look like with all this water pouring down! I was too lazy! I did enjoy the decorated gutters. Little pieces of art.

It rained all night, which was great, as I was snug in my very comfortable bed! I had planned to get up early, but there was no sunrise to speak of, so after breakfast, I went back to have a snooze! I decided that I didn’t have to do anything at all, and stay a second night. No climbing, no walking, no churches, castles or lakes! Just wander to the markets, buy some fruit for dinner, change some money into Armenian money for tomorrow. Work in my diary, write and update my blogs, watch you tube videos, and sleep! Ah, what a life I lead!

I sat in the park for a while, watched the men play back gammon, which is a national past time by the way! Didn’t take any photos, as I didn’t want to disturb their game! Rested and relaxed I am now ready to move on to the last stage of my travels; Armenia! The count down has started! Flying home from Muscat, Oman, on the 16th of August! As yet, I have no flight booked to Oman, but I will make this priority number one as soon as I arrive in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. All in good time! Ah, life is so good! Good Bye and thank you Georgia! It is hard to leave. I am planning to come back in the near future. I need to explore the east now.

Kutaisi, Georgia

The trip to Kutaisi was made special because of the lovely Hungarian family I met. Bogi, who lives and works in Holland, spoke excellent English, and time flew by as we chatted away. Meeting new and interesting people is one of the highlights of travelling. Everybody has a story to tell and this fascinates me. So Hungary was put on my list of countries to visit in the future! We shared a taxi on arrival in Kutaisi. My guesthouse was near the fabulous Bagrati cathedral and I was welcomed with open arms. Giorgi lives in a house that is over a hundred years old. It is fascinating. Very high ceilings, an antique chandelier and a fabulous garden. Giorgi is one of the best hosts I have ever had. On arrival a cup of tea with a piece of home made cake and an invitation to meet the other guests later at night.

Niklas and Gesa, a couple from Germany and Jesper from Denmark were going on a day tour the next day to explore Prometheus cave and the two of the canyons. We all had breakfast together and left on our next adventure. The Prometheus cave was first. Twenty kilometres northwest of Kutaisi this 1.2 km- long cave is more beautiful and impressive than I have ever seen. It was only opened to tourists in 2011. Slippery, colourful and mightily impressive. The four of us stayed away from the main group of Russians and enjoyed the silence and impressive beauty by ourselves.

The next place was the main canyon. ( the name escapes me at this point in time)This has a boardwalk along the top of the cliff. I was fortunately not the only one who was shit scared of heights! Shared fear diminishes! We were thrilled to make it to the platform. Due to the heavy rains the boardwalk was not only very high and scary, to top it of it was incredibly slippery! (My fear of falling seems to have increased since my very nasty fall in Tanzania.) the view from the platform was stunningly beautiful. My legs were killing me, as there were a million steps going up. It was lunch time and a shared khinkali lunch in a local restaurant was delicious.

The next canyon was a bit of a rip off, I thought. As hundreds of boats went on a short boat ride on the canyon, the whole experience took a short time. Although the canyon was stunningly beautiful, the A$15 charged was over the top for what it was. The it was home time. We had an incredibly crazy driver, who attempted at every opportunity to kill us all. Speeding is the norm in every country I have been to so far, but cutting corners, over- taking in corners were you have no sight of the oncoming traffic, while speeding like mad, seems to me foolish indeed. Often the driver would be on the mobile as well! We made it back safely and Giorgi was waiting with supper as was his daily habit.

The next day, when I was supposed to do my washing, I caught up with Bogi. We visited the museum, had lunch and ended up doing “girly” stuff! In the most expensive salon in town! Bogi had hoped to get her hair cut but ended up with just a pedicure! I had my wild and woolly eye brows tamed. Mind you to be honest, I thought the price included a facial! No such luck, so I paid the same price as I would have at home!! This is what happens if English is barely spoken, and my Georgian has not as yet extended past three words!! Not to worry we felt terrific!

Georgians have always chosen beautiful locations for their churches and monasteries. Gelati is no different! Nine kilometres out of Kutaisi, on a hillside full of pine trees this complex was amazing. I was dropped of at the bottom of the hill and the hike up was steep and hard. Of course it was raining as well, but the pine fragrance and the silence made it all worth while. Gelati was founded in 1106 as a centre for Christian culture and Neoplatonist learning. According to written records of medieval times it was a second Jerusalem. Many of the Georgian rulers are buried here, including King David the Builder and Queen Tamar. It was burned down by the Ottoman Turks in 1510. Then restored by Bagrati III of Imereti. The communists closed it down in 1922, but the churches were reconsecrated in 1988 and president Saakashvilli was inaugurated here in 2004.

The interior of the main cathedral of the Virgin is amongst the brightest and most colourful in Georgia. The frescoes were painted between the 12th and 18th century. It has a painting of the emperor Constantine and his wife, Helena. There are many restorations going on, mainly on the roofs. There is a smaller church, the church of St Nicolas. I was conscious of the fact that a marshrutka would be going back to Kutaisi soon, or I would have to walk all the way down the hill again! Walking five to ten kilometres a day seems to be the norm, but when raining, not a pleasant activity! I was fortunate, the marshrutka was waiting, and would go past Motsameta.

Motsameta is a small monastery on a spectacular cliff top promontory above a bend of the Tskhaltsitela river. The river’s name means “red river” which derives from an 8th- century Arab massacre. Among the victims were the brothers David and Konstatin Mkheidze, Dukes of Argveti. Their bodies were thrown into the river, but the story goes that lions brought them up to the church where their bones were kept afterwards. If you crawl three times under the side altar where the bones are kept, your wish will be granted! ( information from the Lonely Planet) as there was a wedding ceremony going on I was unable to try this!

At Gelati, on the marshrutka, I met Filip and Ewaline from Poland. Two lovely young medical students, who were fun to be with! We spend the rest of the day together, visiting the markets, were a woman was chanting her Georgian chant, ” chacha, vodka, vino”! I turned this into a song, and before we knew what was happening we were chatting away to the women at the market, tasting their delicious homemade wine, feeling guilty, I bought a bottle, and so my year of no alcohol ended after six months!! Two new friends were made, and later that evening both young Polish people walked all the way up to the hill, where the Bagrati was lit up displaying all its glory! Filip and Ewa were introduced to my wonderful host, Giorgi, while I went to bed! What a country! What a magnificent country.

Magical Mestia and Unique Ushguli

Mestia, a small village in the Svaneti, is a welcoming place. Ultra friendly people, lovely Cafes every where. Queen Tamar stands proudly in the main square, a statue that is not particularly liked by most locals!

A great art gallery with a
wonderful display of contemporary and historical works of art. Scattered through out the city are the famous Svan towers. These towers were built in ancient times to defend families and live stock against invaders. Food was stored in there as well. The concrete mixture was so strong that invading armies could not break them down. They add an interesting aspect to the already gorgeous little mountain town.

Surrounded by the magnificent Caucuses mountains, whose high tops are still covered in snow in the middle of their hot summer, adds atmosphere and an impressive backdrop for this gorgeous little village. It is ideal for hikers, mountaineers and people who like to take risks in their lives. The famous Ushba mountain peak dominates the landscape. I took the ski lift up, I was incredibly fortunate that Merian decided to come with me as well, I would not have been able to do this on my own! When I reached the top and climbed out on wobbly legs, I found out that I was only half way! I had to go even steeper and higher! Mind you, the view from the top was just absolutely unbelievably beautiful. I was totally in awe. Magical!

Of course what goes up must go down, eventually! I have to be honest, going down was so much worse! So steep, such a wobbly ski lift, here is me breathing in courage, breathing out fear, except I am sure I muddled it up! Half way, Merian took pity on me, told me to wait, and went to fetch his car! I literally felt sick. I have promised myself that I don’t ever have to do this again!

However, I quickly recovered and walked to the Svan tower museum, which was just an empty shell, with very wobbly, wonky bamboo ladders inside. It said it was a museum, but the insides were just empty! I climbed up two and a half ladders, when I remembered promising myself that I don’t have to do this any more! Two German tourists told me that the view was great from the top! I told them I took their word for it, and climbed down!

Ushguli is the hiking end destination of many tourists. People walk for four day to this lovely little mountain village, with stunning Svan towers. The village is much poorer than Mestia, and not at all developed. I had understood, that we would have four hours there, only to find out we had less than two hours before we would have to return. I met some lovely Polish people on the bus, who started their hiking in Ushguli. I also met Reiner, from Germany, with his gorgeous son, Felix. Felix spoke three languages fluently (German,French and English) and was now studying Russian.He was twelve years old, very smart, intelligent lad!

I walked back for a while to get a good look of the first lot of Svan towers. The lighting in the middle of the day was not ideal. I had thought about staying here I. The village, so I could hike, and take late afternoon or early morning photographs. I am so glad I didn’t. After about an hour and a half I sat down in the newly build restaurant, where I bumped in to Reiner and Felix again. We had a pleasant chat, with a magnificent backdrop. I can kick myself that I didn’t take a photograph of them.

It took over two hours to get back to Mestia. At one stage there was a traffic jam, as the road was being fixed, nobody placed a man with a stop sign at the beginning and the end. So all the cars tried to beat each other to get past the road works! This was impossible and cars were forced to reverse. Georgian drivers are completely crazy, every single one is a potential Peter Schumacher, and not one of them wants to give up their first place!! This resulted in complete chaos! It was interesting to watch! Kept us amused! Not enough to take photos of the traffic jam, however the road workers appreciated all the tourists attention and felt like celebrities, while the “paparazzi” were clicking away!!

The Svaneti area is a stunningly beautiful part of Georgia and I am looking forward coming back one day and just painting my life away!

Beautiful Batumi

At first before I start writing, I need to apologise to Batumi! My first reaction was, ah, tourist action town, Surfers Paradise in Georgia! However, when I went in to town to have lunch with my friend Ozkan, from Turkey, I did some sight seeing! Some of the architecture is just absolutely amazing! Let me just put in the photos and write a discription of the best ones! The photo above is taken from the Ferris wheel, which is at my back, looking towards the Alphabetic Tower. It has the 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet. It is a 135- meter- high structure and it resembles a DNA molecule. The old light house is on the left.

Piazza Square, is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Batumi! Live music is played here daily and the square usually hosts concerts of world famous musicians visiting Batumi. The architecture of Batumi Piazza is distinguished by mosaic and stain glass art. There was only one old man playing when I was there, but he was lovely to listen to! Although in theory, he wasn’t actually in the square!

The Neptune Fountain with the Chavchavadze Batumi State Drame Theatre in the background. The theatre was opened in 1952. The Neptune a Fountain was established in 2010 and is a copy of the Giambologna’s fountain in Bologna, Italy.

Armenian Apostolic Church built in 1885, under the supervision of the Austrian architect Manfred. The church did not function during the Soviet period, it did re -open in 1992.

There are so many more buildings I could write about, but what blew my mind away was the amazing moving sculpture, Ali and Nino.

this 8 meters high sculpture is a symbol of eternal love and understanding amongst the people of different nationalities.

The statue is created by the Georgian sculptor and painter Tamar Kvesitadze and installed in 2010. It moves very, very slowly and then the two become one, only to move slowly away from each other again! It was mesmerising! I regret not taking a video, but it moves so incredibly slow, and I have so little storage on my gadget, that I declined!

I had a lovely lunch with my dear friend Ozkan, and I promise that the next blob will be about Georgian food! I have been eating mainly fruit, as the heat and the high humidity have killed my appetite! Hallelujah! I could be so lucky! I am sure I have lost weight, as I am eating little, drinking lots of water and walking a minimum of five kilometres a day, most of the time, much, much more! Now the rains are here, it is cooler and I relish the starchy food of Georgia! This blob is a tad long, and I could write much, much more! I will save it for another rainy day!




Chuckles in Chakvi

The view of Batumi from my balcony was amazing! It looked like Surfers Paradise! A playground for the foreign tourists. I was going to say the rich and famous, but that is a tad over the top! I had a fabulous night sleep and after a rather ordinary breakfast, quite disappointing for an ” expensive” hotel, I caught the marshrutka to Chavi.

The guesthouse didn’t expect me until tomorrow, but I figured I could wing it for an extra night. I don’t mind the occasional “expensive” hotel, but not on a daily basis. When I say expensive, I mean expensive for here! The average hotel, except Tbilisi, is fifty Lari, about A$25, guest houses on average between A$7,50 and A$10 , so when a hotel says it is 56 and I assume they mean the local currency and after a while I realise they mean American dollars, the look on my face was worthy of a “you tube video”! One of the side effects of long term travel, is paying attention to these things!

As far as hotels go, in my humble experience, more expensive is often NOT better! The sheets might have a higher thread count and there might be a hairdryer in the bathroom, but I often find that the extras in smaller places is better. Often the staff in the fancy hotels are slightly arrogant, while in smaller hotels the staff is friendlier. I see it as a place, where I will dump my bags, I need cleanliness, hot showers and the mattresses not too hard!! Easily pleased.

Anyway, I went to Chakvi. Walked with MAPS.ME to the guest house. Lovely garden, the owner spoke English. Great room. It took a while to realise that this was NOT the guest house I booked! Oops! Same name though! By the way, it didn’t matter, as my booking at the Batumi U Guesthouse was for the next night!

I walked to the Botanical gardens, about two kilometres away. Spend a wonderful afternoon, wandering, looking and enjoying nature. The views were spectacular. I took a little bus to the top, and walked back, through the greenery. The weather is very much Darwin weather. Hot and humid, rains in the late afternoon.

I managed to find a super market and after getting lost several times, (of course my gadget was flat!) I finally found the guest house, just in the nick of time, as all hell broke loose!! The storm went on for most of the night! Seem to me it kept turning around, just to please me! Finally I fell asleep, dreaming of snakes in the garden! I have encountered three small snakes, all dead! They are not poisonous, people laugh when I ask! Mind you, everybody wants to come to Australia, but they all watch the National Geographic channel, and are petrified of all the deadly animals we have!!

The owner’s husband  dropped me off at the next guest house! I am so glad he did! I would have never found it! It is a few kilometres out of Chakvi, high up in the mountains. Lovely room, large guest house.

Walking down the mountain lands you on the highway, cross that and the railway line, and one reaches the beach. It is less than ten minutes walking. The beach, by Australian standards, is terrible. Full of rocks and garbage. ( mind you, the stones are great for building cairns!) The sand is black, but the water is lovely and warm. Nurgaz and his two children took me to the beach, by car! Wica, whose name is Anastasia, is seven years old. The son, Sapa, is eleven and a big Messi fan! I am a Ronaldo fan, but we decided they were both very good players! We watched some of the World Cup after we came back from the beach!

On Sunday the whole family went out and I spend the day on the beach, and in my favourite restaurant, where there is free wifi, great Georgian food and very cheap beer! I found out via Facebook, that my friend Ozkan, from Amasya, Turkey, is in Batumi right now. We are planning to have lunch together and while down there I will look into the train to Zugdidi, my next stop, before going to Mestia, high up in the mountains.

Family from Kazakhstan came to stay as well, lovely, lovely people. I was invited to come and have dinner and taste the home made Georgian wine! It is hard to explain that I don’t eat meat, and that this my alcohol free year! ( okay, except for beer! But it is very hot and humid! And I can never drink more than two glasses!) I had two small glasses which gave me the biggest headache ever, which lasted all the next day! Very unpleasant and not to be repeated!

Georgian people toast for every glass and then in one BIG gulp empty their glass! They all laughed that I sipped my wine! Trust me, it was the best I could do! Georgian’s hospitality is famous in this part of the world.

Although the truth is, it focuses on drinking vodka and/or beer at nine in the morning! So sorry, not for me at all! Shock horror that I don’t drink vodka! (Not without some nice orange juice to go with it, and much , much later in the day! )Some things are just not explainable, being vegetarian is one, travelling on my own is the second one! The whole family is shocked that I don’t have a husband, and are now dedicating their lives to finding me a Georgian Man! How lucky am I?

on my last evening I went and had a lovely dinner with live Georgia music! Hereby a  photo of the lovely staff, and the Georgian band! I was given a present, a bracelet by one of the girls, and after lots of hugs, Instagram exchanges it was time to say good bye to all these wonderful, wonderful people here in Chakvi. Sometimes it is really hard to move on! Zugdidi is next on the list!!

Kutaisi? No, Samtredia!

Dancing away early in the morning, I slammed my toe against the bed! Don’t ask!! I taught the whole neighbourhood how to swear like a real trooper. Boy, did that hurt! I still decided to walk to the bus station, bags and all. Telling myself that once I did this for sixty five days, so get on with it! I had expected a BIG bus, instead it was a marshrutka I told the driver three times, ” Kutaisi, this bus goes to Kutaisi?”Yeah, sure, it did!! Every stop I would ask, are we there yet? We stopped in Kutaisi, but I needed to be dropped off at the bus station, which is where I thought we would be going! Wrong!

I was dropped off on the highway, bags chucked out of the bus, lots of yelling and gestures to cross the road. Okay, something is obviously not right? Hm! Wonder what could be wrong? Duh, I was dropped off in Samtredia. Okay, now what? Three very stoned and drunk men, offering me a joint, when I told them I was totally allergic to the stuff, ( which they didn’t understand, but they got the drift I didn’t want any!) then I was offered a glass of whiskey, I don’t mind the occasional glass, after dinner, preferably with my father, but at eleven in the morning?? No thanks! There I was, sitting on the highway, sweating like a pig. The humidity is so incredibly high here, it was hard to think what to do next.

So “Romeo” offered me a lift back to Kutaisi. Except he wanted something else in return! I had to laugh, this young man was so stoned /drunk, as if I would even consider to get into a car with him! I did need to make up my mind, and I had to leave this situation as fast as possible. I was getting ill on the fumes! People who know me well, know that I get terribly ill, even on marijuana fumes, I don’t even have to smoke it myself! There was no English spoken, but the sign language is a “world wide” language! Finally I got the owner of the shop, to ring me a taxi. Since the dapper trio was going to Kutaisi, I decided to stay the night in Samtredia and consider what to do next.

According to maps me. there was one hotel in town. I decided to try my luck there. I won the lottery! The hotel was indeed the only on in town, plenty of rooms, hot, hot water, big room and a wonderful new late aircon! All that for twenty bucks. I asked what there was to see and do in Samtredia, not a lot! Since it was much too hot and humid I decided to have a nap and think of what to do next. Late afternoon I found a little church being restored, a mural and a train station. With google translator I managed to get a train ticket for the next evening to Batumi. It left at seven in the evening. Deep sigh, I had seen all the sights in the last half hour, I can do this!

Spend a wonderful cool night and morning in my super room. Updated my diary, started some drawings, worked on my blog, and the wonderful staff let me stay in the room till two in the afternoon. Only a few more hours to go. I found a lovely cool cafe, had a beer and spend the next hour or so playing games on my phone and ipad. Nobody spoke English! I had my first argument in Russian at the chemist. They doubled the price on the item I wanted to buy, indicating that it was an “old” price sticker on the item. Thanks but no thanks, I wasn’t born yesterday! Often prices get doubled for tourists. It wasn’t something I was in dire need for. I wanted to buy a nail file!! Yes, dear friends, a nail file!! Since I had my two teeth removed just before I left, I haven’t been able to bite my nails!! They do keep breaking though!

Anyway back to the hotel, cool lobby, comfy big armchair and wifi! Tourist heaven! The next thing there was this enormous Big Bang! No aircon, no wifi, the Big Bang was followed by many small bangs. The staff was hiding behind the desk, I sat in an overstuffed arm chair and figured that this was as safe as anywhere else! Police sirens! Me not understanding a word, whatsoever! I decided to stay where I was. In the end, an hour or so later, all was back to normal. There were some people working on a car(??) and they blew something up. Everybody was very exited as it was probably the best thing that had happened here in years! At six o clock I packed up my bags and walked to the station. The staff asked me to come back soon, but if the truth be known, I will never set foot in Samtredia again!

The train was punctual, comfortable and there were no problems until they came to check my ticket! It was for the night before!! So much for google translator telling them I wanted to leave the next day! Lucky for me I could buy another ticket on board of the train. The cost? One Lari! Which is not even fifty cents!! I met a lovely young man from South Korea, who spoke fabulous English and the time past very fast, discussing the world up football, travel and drone photography. We arrived in Batumi at ten o’clock in the evening. The lad needed wifi and I had picked a guest house near the station, which no longer existed! A wonderful hotel provided the young man with wifi and me with a gorgeous room for the night! Hello Batumi, can’t wait to explore here! Onto Chakvi soon where I have made a booking for five nights! Hoping for some rest and relaxation near a beach!

More Magical Mtskheta

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral dates from the 11th century. It was enormous for its time! My hotel is just opposite the cathedral, and it is my view during breakfast! The cathedral has an elongated cross plan and is decorated inside and out with stone carvings. According to the stories, the robe of Christ lies beneath the cathedral, it works many miracles. Vakhtang Gorgasali is buried here as well.

I made an effort to go to Mass on Sunday, and sat for an hour on a hard wooden bench. The Georgian chanting, of which I only understood Hallelujah and Amen, was very impressive. I crossed my legs at one stage and the woman next to me told me off! Apparently, leg crossing in church is not allowed! When the first tourist bus arrived I left! The nice part of Georgian Mass is that you can come and go as you please. I like that idea! Most people stand for the Mass, the only benches are around the edge of the church and are for the elderly, pregnant or disabled people. First time I am happy being ” elderly”!!!

The Samtavro church is also very famous. This is where the first Christian King Miriam and his wife, Queen Nana are buried! Photography is not allowed, although I sneaked one of the royal tombs. The church is part of a nunnery, but once it was part of the palace church of the Lords of Metskheta.

I visited the Jvari monastery , I took a taxi to the top and decided to walk back. According to the lonely planet this could be done! The path was steep and terrible over grown. After five minutes I decided this could not be done safely, so back up I climbed. Walking back to Mtskheta was quite a challenge along the main road. Dodging tourist buses, crazy drivers and bulls was interesting, however not really pleasant! In between I looked at amazing wild flowers on the edge of the road.

It was only seven kilometres, all down hill, so not too challenging. Just before I reached the highway a taxi stopped and took me the last two kilometres, which I would have been able to make easily, but there was a storm brewing, and people who know me well, know that I am shit scared of electrical storms. I managed to get back just in time, before all hell broke loose. There is not much more to do here except the archeological site on the other side of the river.

I wanted to walk along the river to this archeological site, however this was not possible. Such a shame, but it would have been another ten km along the road, a repeat of the downhill Jvari Monastery experience, I declined. It was hot and humid, and I ended up doing very little, visited a small monastery with amazing frescoes.

Did some washing, worked in my diary, googled flights from Armenia to Oman, and went to booking.com to look for reasonable accommodation in Batoumi, a seaside resort place. I just want to spend some days on a beach before visiting the mountains. All of this is time consuming, not really interesting, but necessary. Sometimes it is just lovely to have these days of relative quiet! Gives the body a change to recover! There are many more churches to see here as well, but one can even get saturated with looking at churches.

Next town, Gori, the birth place of Stalin. Will be interesting to say the least!

Marvellous Mtskheta

Tbilisi was just amazing. I have written about the capital of Georgia in my last blog. I had only planned eight nights there, nine days, it was not enough. I extended by three more nights, still not enough, but as time is slipping away from me, I decided to move on to the next town, Mtskheta. Most people, just go there on a day trip from Tbilisi. I like to spend some time in a town, to wander, dream and explore.

My last day in Tbilisi I treated myself to a sulphur bath after I visited the amazing sculpture by the Tbilisi sea. The sculpture is made by Zurab Tsereteli. I had seen the video of how it was made and put together, in the museum of modern art. I asked the girl where this was, as I really wanted to see it in real life! Awesome, just absolutely awesome. I can’t remember all the details of the sculpture, but I am sure people who are interested can just google the artist.

I had planned an early start to go to Mtskheta, but due to the lack of sleep, this didn’t happen! I itched so badly during the night, even three showers could not take the itch away! I wonder if it was sulphur bath? Or the scrub? May be the massage? I had quite an experience with a vertically challenged Babushka. Did she scrub me! It felt like my skin was coming of! Afterwards a massage, with hands like sledgehammers, beating upon my poor back! At one stage she pulled my head forwards, between her enormous mammary glands, nearly choking me to death! It was not pleasant to say the least! Moments like that I wish I could have a real proper massage , with my friend Jenny! Anyhow, the reason for the sleepless night is totally unimportant, I ended up with a very late start to the day.

I arrived in Mtskheta about one o’ clock. I had been unable to make a booking, so first things first! Coffee!! Next door to the cafe, was a small hotel. I knocked on the door, and yes, there was a room available. I booked three nights! When oh when will I learn to start with one or two and just add to it when needed?

Anyway, it is lovely but about one day too long. Mtskheta was the first capital of Georgia. It is also the spiritual heart of Georgia, since Christianity was established here in about 327. It holds a near mystical significance in Georgian culture. It was the capital of most of Eastern Georgia from about 3rd BC to the 5th century AD, when King Vakhtang Gorgasali switched his base to Tbilisi.

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is still the setting for important ceremonies of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The cathedral dates from the 11th century, early in the golden age of Georgian church architecture. According to tradition, Christ’s robe lies buried beneath the cathedral. It works many miracles, apparently. The word Svetitskhoveli means ” life giving column”. The King Vakhtang Gorgasali is buried here as well.

Terrific Tbilisi

Amidst the most impressive lightening show I arrived in Georgia. The landing, in a lightweight plane, was frightening to say the least! The heavy rain, the enormous thunderstorm, should have prepared me for an intensely, emotional encounter with Tbilisi, Georgia! There is nothing subtle about this place!

Tubilisi is heaven on earth, for artists and creative people alike.The narrow alley ways make for ideal photo opportunities! Every nook and cranny is filled with sculptures, murals or quirky gardens. Garden benches galore! Huge green, leafy trees, intensely green, giving the necessary shade and creating the feeling of secret hideaways, ideal for romantic couples or illegitimate affairs! I have fallen in love with place!

I found my spiritual place in the world! I always felt that way about Florence, but here it is the contemporary artists that make feel like painting, I cried in front of the works of this amazing artist!
At the Zurab Tsereteli Museum of modern art, I saw for the first time in my life, the works of Zurab, and of my most favourite artist of all time, Natela Iankoshvili, a spiritual heir to Pisosmani! This year marks her 100th anniversary of her birth. I cried in front of her work! This only happened twice before! At the Tate gallery, when I saw Munch’s painting of his sick sister, and at van Gogh’s sunflowers! Oh, and at the Jewish bride of Rembrandt! I wasn’t aware that these amazingly bold, strong and powerful paintings were painted by a woman!

I walked around for over three hours, crying, speechless and in total and complete AWE!! I want to be here, live here, and never, ever leave! To imagine, that I am in Georgia by pure “fluke”! I carried a photograph with me, which has no indication where it was taken. I made the assumption that it was in Uzbekistan, where people told me over and over again, no, that is Tbilisi in Georgia! I didn’t hesitate to change my travel plans once again! How glad I am I did! How wonderful is this serendipity in my life! I am here just by pure “fluke” if there is such a thing!

After my wanderings through the gallery, I entered the bookstore and without even hesitating, nor trying to work out HOW much these books were, I bought two books, heavy as, on these two Georgian artists! Google them! Zurab Tsereteli and Natela Iankoshvili! What a talent! How bold and strong they both are! I was fortunate enough to be allowed to take photographs. Although my camera broke yesterday, I have to use the i pad now, but to be allowed to take photos of these wonderful images was such a blessing! I want to paint! This is the same ineke who decided three months ago to give up painting altogether! Okay, so I am allowed to change my mind! It is the privilege of being a woman and an artist, that I can chop and change as pleases me!

Blessed, I feel incredibly blessed, what a country! What a town, what a talent and joy. In case you didn’t realise it as yet! I feel I have come home! I will now have to organise to send some goods home, as these two catalogues weigh a ton! I will also go and look for an art shop! May be I will start painting here! I am seriously considering renting a room, outside a hostel, so I can paint NOW! Here I am, in the coffee shop, drinking a wonderful coffee, looking at my wonderful books, and realising I am in absolute heaven. This is a place for wandering, exploring and being in the here and now. What a town, what a wonderful, wonderful town!

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