From Saints to Sinners – a long road

DSCN4798Uplistsikhe/Gori/Kutaisi  

There are many notable cliff dwellings around the world, however I dare say none are more amazing than the “the lord’s fortress” . – Uplistsikhe – here in central Georgia.  The country can boast several, but the two most stunning examples are Uplistsikhe and Vardzia(in south central Georgia).

This morning we find ourselves driving west from Tbilisi to visit one of the rock-hewn towns.  It’s trying hard to rain so we are contending with low clouds and a brisk wind as we arrive at this UNESCO hopeful.  The site has been listed since 2007 and hopes to be accepted to the illustrious list.  We’re early….but after much cajoling and pleading….we are allowed to enter.  Did I mention a brisk wind?  How about gale-force winds across these hillsides.

DSCN4753The colony is built on a high rocky hill above the Mtkvari River.  These dwellings are dated from the early Iron Age and appear to have been occupied through the late Middle Ages.  Millenia has taken a costly toll to these mountains-victim to the wild winds, rain and a few earthquakes, the caves have eroded or caved in on themselves.  We scramble up the rocks, climb a multitude of steps all to explore the ruins. It’s all I can do to stay on the rocks with this crazy wind…but after an hour or so of exploring and taking pictures we make the precarious climb down.

From here we head back to Gori…home to the infamous Stalin.  His hometown has erected a museum to their “great leader”…but then Georgia has been under the influence of Russia for many centuries.  Even a world leader of his “stature” certainly deserves to be remembered.  Hopefully there will never be another of his magnitude. Our memorable guide “Olga”…no, really, her name was Olga, had the smoothest delivery of facts and figures…all “good” of course…during the entire tour.  She was so smooth it was spooky.

DSCN4831We were able to see and walk into the small house where Stalin was born and walked the length of Stalin’s special train car.  All I could envisions were scenes from Dr. Zhivago. It’s a little hard to imagine why this museum is still here…but even evil history needs to be recorded.

DSCN4839

For some reason the rains held off on our drive this afternoon through the mountains to the western side of Georgia….but then enveloped us as we arrived in Kutaisi.  The town is currently the parliamentary headquarters for Georgia. I say currently because there seems to be discussion afoot regarding moving it back to Tbilisi.  The current president Mikheil Saakashvili established the headquarters here in 2011.

cropped Bagrati CathedralDSCN4896We made a late evening stop at the Bagrati Cathedral. The cathedral was  rebuilt officially on September 16th, 2012 after sustaining heavy damages throughout previous centuries and it’s an amazing amalgamation of modern and ancient architecture.

The light was fading fast as we made the final stroll around the cathedral and then headed into town for …you guessed it….more food!

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