GeorgiaThis is my third trip to Georgia. Every time I go, I find an improvement in the Georgian way of life. But there's more to life in Georgia. Maybe my photos will show this...
The opposition political party was staging protests outside of the Parliament. The police blocked off Rustaveli Avenue in front of Parliament to allow them space to protest. Unfortunately, this meant that the city buses had to go around Parliament through the old city. Medieval cobblestone streets are tight for buses.
We met Bob and Mira's friends Chris and Mia. They brought along one of their friends Mari. We all walked up to Narikala ("little fortress") that overlooks Tbilisi, which is visible in the top background.
In this photo you can see the beautiful and personable Mira posing on the trail to Narikala. Bob and Mira are now married and living in Tbilisi. You can also see the rest of us continuing up the path in the left background.
Here's a chapel we saw on the way up to Narikala.
This is a zoomed-in photo of the Georgian equivalent of the White House. The Georgian president lives in this building. The egg-shaped dome reflects the sky and clouds so clearly that we wondered if the dome was painted to look like a globe of the Earth.
Behind the walls of Narikala is a small chapel (out of the frame to the left) that I visited last visit.
The view from the walls is impressive. Here you can see some of the new buses that are now operating in Tbilisi.
The view is impressive, however, I wouldn't sit on the edge like this guy. This photo displays the amount of liberty available in Georgia. In contrast, in the West, no one would be allowed to climb the walls much less dangle their feet over the sides.
Here Bob, Chris, and I stand in front of a section of wall.
Here's a cool part of the wall bordering the botanical gardens.
We continued to climb the walls and took this photo. In the lower left of the photo you can see the lower wall. Here Saint Nicholas chapel, which I previously mentioned, is visible.
Continuing up the walls, we saw Tbilisi's TV antenna in the distance. It's called Anza. I hope that I have the spelling correct!
Bob has evolved beyond the obligatory arm shot. This is a big step! Now in addition to my arm you can see me scowling into the fierce wind!
And God said, "This is my people, my city--oh look, a hot babe! I made her, too!" I couldn't resist the rather sacrilegious joke. Though you have to admit that it could be the hand of God surveying his creation in this photo!
This is a cool shot of the Anza and the city.
The statue Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia) holds a wine goblet in one hand and a sword in the other, both of which represent the Georgian character. You can see this statue in the glare of the center of the photo. Also, you can see the remains of a lower section of the Narikala wall.
I wonder what they're building in the botanic gardens. Next visit it'll probably be built and operating.
We walked down the path to the main road by the river. Here you can see a statue of the 5th century Georgian King Vakhtang Gorgasali. They're also refurbishing a side of Metekhi.
The next day we visited Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Living Pillar Cathedral) in Mtskheta. Getting there is not easy without a car. I got to witness that Georgians don't line up well. We took a Marshuka (van operating like a taxi) to Mtskheta. Boarding was an affair of elbows and pushing.
Being a fairly patient person I know I would be elbowed out of the way if I didn't drop my courtesy. This was a lesson that I learned the hard way. I left Georgia with a prominent bruise on my arm from a person on one of the Tbilisi buses. One must be bold in Georgia, which re-affirms my idea that Georgians aren't that different than the Italians and Greeks.
Chris's wife Mia explained that this church is special because Jesus Christ's robe (the one he wore before being crucified) is buried under the church. The story goes that a woman touched Christ's garment and immediately she died of emotion. The cloak couldn't be wrenched from her hands so they buried her and the cloak together. A large cedar tree grew from her grave. They chopped down the tree and hurriedly built a church on the site. One of the seven columns (above the grave) sprang up all by itself.
I saw under this "living" column because people had excavated the base to allow visitors to see the relic. I'm not a religious person but could still feel the power in this church. Whether or not I was sensing the feelings of the people in the church or the power of God, I cannot be certain. I just knew this place was special.
Outside we walked around the cathedral. On one side there is a tribute to the architect who redesigned and rebuilt the cathedral after centuries of earthquakes and invaders. The hand and chisel above the window is the tribute:
Chris explained that this represents Arsukidze the architect who successfully redesigned and partially rebuilt the great cathedral. All was well until a priest who had taught the architect became insanely jealous of Arsukidze's achievements and of his beautiful wife Shorena. The priest convinced the king to chop off the architect's right hand. This is a common theme and reminded me of what affected Mozart as described in the movie Amadeus.
Inside this church are buried Georgian kings. Unlike today, their royalty was modest in death and was buried in the floor so they would be beneath the feet of living people. There are not just a few graves but many. I found myself jumping around like a child playing hopscotch to avoid walking on these great leaders. The tombs are marked with flat stones that blended into the floor. This humility is largely unknown in the West.
Jvari Monastery is visible from outside of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. I visited the monastery during my first visit.
We also visited Samtavro Church where the famous monk Gabriel is buried. The architecture of the church is interesting.
This is a wood carving (of the monk) on which the halo alledgedly appeared overnight. Call me a doubting Thomas but I just don't see this monk Gabriel as anything more than a good man.
I respect religious people so that's why, after seeing the architecture, I tried to figure out my mobile telephone while I waited patiently. Curiously the phone would get the correct time but would not make calls. Hmm. Bob caught me at it when he rounded the church.
The ladies then arranged a taxi ride up into the hills to see a remote monastery. The taxi they chose had no intact reflectors. I wondered if the machine would make it. Little did I know that we would be on rocky roads that would rival the trails that I take in the desert to go camping.
The driver seemed like a decent guy. Knowing only a few words in Georgian, I thought it prudent to keep my mouth shut. I would rather he think that I am an arrogant Russian than a rich American and raise the fare.
This is Shio-Mgvime Monastery. Mari explained that it was founded by an Assyrian monk in the Fourth Century. Yes, remember that ancient civilization we learned about in history class? This remote monastery was founded by one of them. And Mari descends from that people. Many Assyrians live in Iraq but most have emigrated to the West or Georgia undoubtably to escape persecution. They are not to be confused with Syrians. Mari was adamant that I get this fact right, if nothing else. She explained in her broken English that she is not "a Syrian" but descended from the "Assyrian" people.
Chris, Mari, and I climbed a hill near the monastery to get a better view. And what a view it is!
Behind the monastery are lots of holes in the cliff. Chris told me that these are caves in which the monks used to live. Perhaps this is where they holed-up when the Persians invaded?
The scenery was wonderful and remote. Only this small convent (?) in the hills is nearby.
The rocky road up to the monastery. Distance does it wonders...
Here's another view of the caves behind the monastery.
Back at Bob and Mira's apartment I saw the Anza at night. The lights on it flash in three distinctive patterns. Click the image to see a video of one of the patterns. It's very cool.
The next day we hopped on a bus with one of Mira's friends. In the photo above you can see a couple of typical Georgian girls at a street market. In the fuzzy foreground are two fairly typical Georgian guys walking by.
We took the bus into the hills to Mtatsminda Park. This amusement park near the TV antenna is situated high above Tbilisi. I was told that the man who refurbished the park was assassinated by the government. The reason and the truthfulness of this statement are not known.
Any park that makes the toilets (W.C.) so important and aesthetically pleasing cannot be bad, even if it is shrouded in mystery and deception. Perhaps the founder is the John DeLorean of modern Georgia?
The park is definitely colorful and off-the-wall.
It was excellent to see the TV antenna up close. (It is next to the amusement park.) It is a cool structure to say the least!
This is the map of Mtatsminda Park. Bob and I were interested in the Formula 1 ride but declined when we saw the workers beating each other up in bumper cars. F1 is not bumper cars! You see, Georgia has a little ways to go before being Western!
This may not be quite Main Street in Disney, but it may be the Georgian equivalent. There's a car driving on the fake tracks for the train and the houses are brightly-colored. It just goes to show that even though we may think the Georgians are naive with their strong appreciation of church, history, and other seemingly outdated ideas; they know fake when they see it. They don't perpetuate the fake just for the sake of the children!
Imagine if someone were to drive a car on an American amusement park. People would freak out even though they know they aren't living in the early 20th century. The Georgians don't forget that they are not living in the past when in an amusement park. This a wonderful aspect of Georgians: they are traditional without being stuck in the past. We Americans could learn a lot from them.
The next day it was wet. This is the view out of Bob and Mira's apartment. Yes it may seem dismal, but I remind you that the beginnings in America weren't beautiful either.
This is an example of the Soviet tower blocks (apartment buildings). We can't let the colorless and faceless greedy conquer Georgia again. Not only will they stiffle the wonderful Georgian culture and make them feel like lesser people; they will erect these crap, ugly, and bullshit buildings and say "what? don't you like your new home?" Never forget the atrocity of Soviet control.
Because Georgia will always poke out from behind the clouds of oppression... The people are unstoppable and they are unconquerable. It's really no wonder that Americans love Georgians.
Normally when people expect to fly halfway around the world, they get a good night's sleep. For the last night we visited Tornike and his mother Dali. (In my past visits of Georgia I stayed with Dali and Tornike.) I spent many a night drinking with Tornike. I remember one of my first nights in Georgia: Tornike, Bob, and I finished an entire bottle of American whiskey while watching a movie about a few Georgian guys who are killed in Azerbaijan.
So they weren't going to allow me to leave Georgia without a good send-off. Dali overfed us with good food and Tornike plied us with whiskey and his XBox. It was good to see them again. Just being in their company was enough.
Above you can see Bob, Mira, and Dali in Dali's kitchen.
Originally I planned to explore Munich during my nine-hour layover. Little did I know that I would still be drunk when I arrived in Germany. The Georgian hospitality is immense and without bounds.
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