My last two blog posts have been all about traveling elsewhere. Today I’m going to focus on traveling in Georgia, which I’ve been doing a lot of over the last few months. After I returned from Yerevan, I went to a conference that we call MST – mid-service training. It was at a really luxurious hotel in Borjomi. There were a lot of classes, a lot of meetings, a lot of lectures, and a lot of eating a drinking. I did have to take the mid-service LPI, um, language proficiency … something. Too many acronyms! Anyway, even though I had not spoken a word of Georgian in about 6 weeks, I achieved my goal, which was – just, please god, please, don’t let me regress. And I did not. That is all I have to say about that!
We took a few fun photos at Borjomi, which I’ll share here:
I left Borjomi a little early to trek into Tbilisi to meet my friends visiting from Dhaka, Bangladesh (Malcolm), Tokyo, Japan (Ric) and West Meon, UK (Helena). They all converged at an Airbnb apartment off the main drag in Tbilisi. That night we climbed an unbelievably steep hill and ate at the fancy Funicular Restaurant, where my non-regressed Georgian skills came in very handy. In fact, I spoke a lot of Georgian over the next week. Broken, incorrect, barely intelligible Georgian that was greeted with delight and amazement by nearly everyone I (tried) to communicate with. It was an interesting contrast to Gori, where the same efforts are often greeted with English as broken as my Georgian (or worse), Russian, a blank stare, or, less commonly, straightforward Georgian, with no extravagant praise whatsoever. I really like the last one, btw!
The next week was filled with excursions to Tbilisi (National Museum, Old Tbilisi walking tour, parks, restaurants and shops), Kazbegi, Mtskheta, Gori (Uplisitkhe, Stalin Museum, Gori Castle) Borjomi (again), Akhalsitkhe and Vardzia. Rather than write reams about all these places, I’m going to try and give a contained presentation of the highlights in captioned photos below.
The one place I will write a little about, because it was my favorite, was Vardzia. An interesting history of the site can be found here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vardzia. Suffice it to say that it is an extraordinary cave city built in the late 1100’s by Queen Tamar (see my earlier post on her bridge). There’s a church with beautiful wall paintings (no photos allowed), windy tunnels, hundreds of uneven stairs cut into the rock, all different size and configuration of caves, and unbelievable views. There’s a feeling there, especially in the church, a feeling of the people who once created and then lived in these caves. They are present, in some way. I’ve experienced this before, once in Japan in a Samurai castle; in India, at a Jain temple … not that I feel there are ghosts, or real spirits, nothing like that. It’s just that some essence of them lingers, somehow. You can imagine them there. These special places are more than historic monuments, as much as I like those. They’re more alive. We spent several highly enjoyable hours there; it was the highlight of the trip for me.
So, here are a few of the photos. Please feel free to click on them to see them full-sized – they are a lot better that way.
There was more, of course – much more – but in the interest of brevity and not overwhelming my myriad of readers, I’ll leave it at this for Mal’s visit.
But wait! There’s more, because just a few weeks ago, I took yet another little excursion, this time to Kakheti and the lovely city of Telavi. The purpose of the trip was to do a tour of the countryside surrounding Telavi, including visiting some wineries, monasteries, churches, fortresses – the usual. 🙂 A good time was had by all.
Well, that’s the end of my sojourning in Georgia – for now. I’m back home in Gori, back to work, back in the routine. Next month – Thanksgiving. We have two celebrations planned, one here in Gori, and for one I’ll be traveling west to visit the village of a fellow volunteer. In the meantime, plenty going on at work – redesigning the web page, working on an “evergreen” video, grants, projects and events. CHCA had its 20th Anniversary Celebration bash a few weeks ago, and I’ll leave this post with a few shots from the big night – it was a lot of fun, actually! ‘Till next time …