This post follows on from A trip to Racha: Day 1
Because some of our group were enjoying the previous night’s supra (Georgian feast) until 3am, Sunday didn’t get off to an early start. After we’d breakfasted and got everything ready, we finally left the guest house at 1pm. The weather on the Saturday had been hot and dry, on the Sunday it was cooler and more overcast with some rain.
Stalin’s first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, was born in Racha, tragically she died of typhus at the age of just 22. Stalin reputedly said ‘This creature softened my heart of stone. She’s died and with her have died my last warm feelings for humanity.’ Stalin allowed her funeral to take place in an Orthodox church despite his atheism.
Our first visit would be to another church, the chapel of the Virgin at Barakoni in the village of Tsesi built in 1753.
The grass around the church is still cut with a scythe.
The church was closed and desecrated under the Bolshevik rule. It suffered further damage, though not serious, in the 1991 Racha earthquake, but was quickly repaired.
After Barakoni we took a long unpaved muddy track up into the Khikhata range to the church of St George in the mountain village of Mravaldzali. The views over to the peaks of Svaneti were awesome. We passed another vehicle, whose driver suggested we had just another 2km to travel, half an hour later we finally reached Mravaldzali church. Nika’s driving was exemplary.
The interior of the church felt holy. A sanctuary from the outside world.
We didn’t stay long at the church and returned along the muddy track admiring the view until we came out by the River Rioni.
Then, as is the Georgian custom another supra, I sat out most of this feast, my stomach is not Georgian.
We finally got on the road home at 9pm, arriving in Tbilisi around 1 am.
Tbilisi is stiflingly hot in July, it seemed like a good time to head to the cooler mountainous regions of Georgia. This trip was taken over two days with “აბოდიალებულები” (which roughly translates as “the wanderers”) in a Mercedes Sprinter driven by Nika. We met at Marjanshvili for an early 7.10pm start (true to form this was later than the scheduled 6.30pm).
Racha is a highland area in Western Georgia. Our first stop was by the scenic Shaori Reservoir. It would be even more scenic if previous visitors hadn’t left their litter.
After a short pause by the water, it was back in the minibus to visit Nikortsminda Cathedral, originally built in the reign of Bagrat III in the 11th Century, the inner walls are painted with frescoes dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Continuing the religious theme we went on to visit the ruins of the monastery complex at Chelishi, which involved a short walk along a very muddy path.
After the monastery we ventured to the source of the Sharaula River. This path involved negotiating some piping; Khato had no problems with this, I managed okay (although I was fearful my legs might start shaking, like on my third failed driving test) but some of our party needed a helping hand.
The source of the river proved a photo opportunity for some of the group to pose with the “Adrenalin Hiking Club” banner. You can check out their Facebook page here : Adrenalin Hiking Club Facebook Page
After the source of the Sharaula, it was time to find an ice cave, which was cool in both sense of the word.
We finished the day with a dip in the reservoir for the brave.
Then made our way to a guest house in Ambrolauri for the obligatory Georgian supra (feast).
I left the supra at 11pm, but many of the Georgians more conditioned to such feasting, continued toasting each other, eating and drinking until 3am.
Continued: A trip to Racha: Day 2
From the Racha region of Georgia, a mix of pop and traditional music and costumes and some images of this beautiful country.