Postcard from Georgia
Text and Photos by ANN MAUREEN CRUZ
IT WAS SUMMER TIME last year when my friend Monique invites me on a trip to Georgia. This country was first introduced to me as I wasn’t even sure whether it’s part of Europe or Asia or at least mistaken it for the U.S. State of the name; I’d come to realize neither were they. So, we booked a flight and flew there during summer season.
So where is Georgia? Georgia is situated in the South Caucasus and part of the region of Eurasia the border where Europe meets Asia.
This mountainous country with bordering countries of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. It has been influenced by the Persians, Mongols, Greeks and the Byzantine Empire also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire. Somewhere in the 19th century Russia invaded and strongly integrate Georgia into the Soviet Union until it collapse in year 1991. Since the independence on April 9, 1991. It is now a democratic republic, with the President as the head of state, and Prime Minister as the head of government.
Tbilisi, the capital it’s the largest city of Georgia this diverse city still offers an evocative atmosphere, the Georgia lies on the banks of the Mtkvari River and surrounded by mountains. Walking through the winding streets of old city you get to enjoyed the bliss of old-style balconies, those two-three storey houses remind us of what Tbilisi looked like two centuries ago, discover the classiest Art Deco Buildings and those charming Art cafes along street. After strolling take a look at Tbilisi’s flea market also known as Dry Bridge where vendors laid their wares on the ground you can find Art works, books, genuine antiques, old personal items, tea sets, and even old Soviet memorabilia.
Experience riding The Tbilisi Metro. This underground train was built between 1966 and 1979 during the Soviet-Era. It was the 4th Metro system constructed in the former Soviet Union after Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. The fare is inexpensive and flat rate, no matter how far you travel on the metro its cost 50tetri per journey. The trains are old but well maintained, stations are very distinctive Soviet design and very deep and so you will have a long escalator ride ahead of you.
Ancient Churches are all over the city like the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church commonly known as Sameba the main and grand Orthodox Church which stand as third tallest orthodox cathedral in the world, you shouldn’t miss Anchiskhati Basilica, our guide told us that this is one of the oldest building in Tbilisi, that did not have any major renovations over the centuries and was still functional.
Other places must see are the Sulfur bath of Tbilisi, Bridge of Peace, Sioni Cathedral and Metekhi Church. Take Cable Car and catch the sunset at Sololaki Hill overlooking the city of Tbilisi and where the monument of “Mother of Georgia” is stand. The statue of Mother of Georgia holding a bowl of wine in her left hand is to welcome the visitors or guests and a sword in her right arm for those who come as enemies symbolizes the true Georgian character.
This small town of Sighnagi also known as “City of Love”. I can say this is one my favorite place; it’s sitting on the steep hill overlooking the boundless Alazani Valley with the view of Caucasus Mountains. This town is popular for tourist as it the heart of Georgia’s wine growing land, as well as its scenic landscape that associate it’s narrow cobblestone streets and pastel color houses. A reflection of 18th and 19th century architecture with the town’s original style maintained. We enjoyed wineries as they offer wine tasting and traditional Georgian Cuisine.
Located at 2km from the town of Sighnagi is the monastery of St. Nino Bodbe commonly called Bodbe Monastery one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia where the relics of the female evangelist of Georgia are shrined. The monastery is surrounded by the tall Cypress trees and three-storey Bell-tower that stand still at the convent ground. Down the hill from the monastery church lies the spring of Saint Nino where visitors and pilgrims are plunge themselves and is believed to have healing power according to a local legend and believers. Bodbe Monastery is worth a trip if only to visit St. Nino’s grave inside the old church. St. Nino is the most important saint in the Georgian church, as she brought Christianity to the Georgian people.
A stand on the Coast of Aragvi River and close to Zhinvali Dam is the Ananuri Fortress. Many battles took place on the territory of this fortress. Ananuri was a castle from the 13th century and is on the tentative list of UNESCO World heritage site. Two churches are within the complex; the older is the Church of the Virgin dates from the first half of the 17th century and the larger one is the Church of the Assumption was built in 1689. Watch tower are place inside the complex, Georgian Script can be found on the south facade of the Church of the Assumption and several tombstones some of the Dukes of Aragvi. Don’t hesitate and climb with care the tower as the fortress overlooks views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains are spectacular.
The Town of Stepantsminda also known as Kazbegi, popular for trekking as is called to be one of the tallest mountains areas in Georgia and in generally in Caucasian regions. During the winter season the top of the mountain is always covered with ice and snow and in summer the valleys and mountains are shelter of lush of green.
In the stretch mountains of The Great Caucasus is the home of Gergeti Trinity Church the main landmark for cultural sites as during the Soviet Era, all the religious services were prohibited but now the church is active for Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church. I assure everyone that the 360? view from the top are really stunning and worth all the effort in reaching the complex and it will leave you speechless as if you realized you’re on the top of World, looking at the endless Mountains of Caucasus brimming with its untouched terrain.
You can hike up to the complex in about two hours or hire a 4×4 van (which the one we took) The Church of Gergeti is well kept Beautiful as there are monks living at the church. Reminder that Photography inside the church is prohibited.
Another UNESCO World Heritage landmark of this country is the historic and oldest City of Mtskheta it is the birth place and centers of Christianity in Georgia and it was called by Georgian Orthodox as “Holy City”. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral one of the most sacred places in Georgia and the place where Christ’s robe is said to be buried. Situated on the rocky mountain top is the Jvari Monastery fortified by a stone wall and gate overlooking the town of Mtskheta and it lies at the junction of two rivers the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers.
So where is Georgia? Today, Georgia is increasingly becoming a top destination specially for climbers, walkers or skiers looking for adventure. This country is truly rich of beautiful natures, a heart of Wine Country and filled with ancient tradition that they kept and still practice up to now. After my amazing trip in Georgia, This will be another addition to my heart-stirring collection of Postcard-perfect destinations. TP