I’m staying in a hostel that also does tours around Georgia. I decided on a tour to a few places north west of Tbilisi and it turned out to be an awesome day. Mtsheta, an old city just outside of Tbilisi, Gori the home town of Stalin and then Uplistsikhe.
Mtskheta and Jvari
Our tour headed out to Jvari first thing. About half way to Jvari it turns out the diver had forgotten to pick up some people which isn’t a good start. We got to Jvari and the people left behind were heading out in a taxi. Jvari is a famous old monastery on the top of a hill and you get a good view over the nearby town of Mtskheta. We just chilled on top of the hill and looked around the monastery. It was already 24 degrees at 10am so it was nice to sit in the sun and take in the views. Once the stragglers turned up we headed down the hill to Mtskheta.
We pulled into Mtskheta, had a walk around the old town and looked at an old church. You’ve seen one church and you’ve seen them all but it was nice to see the outside. The stone at this church was green and the guide had explained some story about it but I wasn’t listening. I stayed outside in the sun chilling out whilst the others went into the church. It’s funny watching the monks chucking ‘holy’ water at everyone as they left the church complex.
Joseph Stalin’s birthplace, Gori is an hour north-west of Tbilisi. I’m not sure if the name is irony or just a coincidence. I don’t care much for seeing or hearing about someone like Stalin so it was a bit of a waste of time going there.
I got to go into the original bullet proof train carriage that Stalin used to travel the country in. It sounds interesting but in reality it’s just an old train cabin with soviet branding on the side. For some reason the home that Stalin grew up in is still there. It’s a little shack with another building built over the top to protect it. People were queueing up to go into the house for some bizarre reason. It was just a small room.
Finally there’s a museum on the site and it’s just a big room with some soviet relics, presumably things Stalin owned. There’s some weird items in cabinets and then some photos on the wall explaining his life. I just walked in one side, straight out the other and took a picture of plates with his face on as I walked through.
After seeing the weird existence that is Stalin’s birthplace museum it was lunchtime. We headed to a village outside of Gori nearby the South Osettia border and ate lunch in some lady’s home. I didn’t take pictures of the food but it was tasty and the home-made wine was really tasty. I love trying new food and roasted eggplants with walnuts doesn’t sound amazing but it’s so good.
As we were eating the guide was telling everybody about how Russia had shelled the village in 2008. War sucks.
Uplistsikhe is an ancient cave city on the way back to Tbilisi from Gori. As we pulled into Uplistsikhe you can see something off in the distance. Petra in Jordan is the most famous cave city and I’ll visit there one day but for now Uplistsikhe was impressive enough.
Walking up the hill, you can see the old drainage and big holes in the ground where they would store water and wine. Further up the hill you get to what is left of the old cave houses in the side of the hill. Originally the caves would have been covered but now most of the rooms have collapsed in. Earthquakes and numerous invasions must have destroyed most of the city. I don’t know exactly.
Uplistsikhe is awesome and some of the original buildings are still intact. Some of the small caves still have chisel marks on the walls. The larger communal caves were a bit more fancy with theatres and throne rooms also in the city.
This is the first cave city I have been to and it was the highlight of Georgia so far. Just standing at the highest point in the city, looking out at the valley and the rest of the city was awesome. Georgia has some beautiful views and it is an amazing country. After the cave city, the sun set then we headed back into Tbilisi.