supra

An Excursion to Dashbashi Canyon

route to Dashbashi

We assemble at 8am by Marjanshvili Metro, a group of 29 of us with Hiking Club Adrenalin, too big for one minibus, so we will ride out in an additional vehicle, a seven seater Honda Stream. On the map Dashbashi Canyon doesn’t look too far but the roads are twisty and uneven.

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Banners unfurled

It will be a long day. First stop along the route is Manglisi Sioni, an important Georgian architectural monument and one of the oldest Christian centres in Georgia. The first church was built in the 4th Century, today’s cathedral dates back to the seventh century, renovated in 1002.

Arriving around 11am, there was a church service being celebrated but in Georgian churches it is not unusual for people to amble in and out of the church during a service.

Next stop on the journey was Lake Tsalka.

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Lake Tsalka

Near Tsalka lake we visited “Fathers Region a Monastery of Three Priests” with its trout and holy water.

A second lake, Paravani Lake is located 2,073 m (6,801 ft) above sea level and has a surface area of 37.5 km2.

Near to the lake was the Convent of St Nino in Phoka village with a small shop selling artisanal cheese, jam and liquor.

Finally at 6pm we reached our main destination, Dashbashi Canyon. A canyon carved in the volcanic rock by the river Ktsia.

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Dashbashi Canyon

We descended to the river where we gaped at the waterfall and had some fun splashing about in the river.

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waterfall

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No Georgian excursion is complete without a supra (Georgian feast). Having climbed out of the canyon, we gathered around a fire, where Georgian Mtsvadi (Sashlik) was grilled and consumed.

We got home at 1.45 am!

A trip to Racha: Day 1

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).

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Welcome to Racha!

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.

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Ana and Khato by the Shaori Reservoir.

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.

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Ice Cave

We finished the day with a dip in the reservoir for the brave.

Khato takes a dip in the reservoir

Khato in the Shaori Reservoir (photo by Ana Xurcidze)

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

A Trip to Vardzia Cave City

28 March 2015: I hadn’t been further out of Tbilisi than Mtskheta this year, so it was great to go on an excursion to Vardzia a cave city in Samtstikhe-Javakheti,

Samtskhe Javakheti

Samtskhe Javakheti

a region in the South of Georgia bordering Turkey, three hours from Tbilisi. We went with my wife’s Police Academy colleagues. We got up really early (5.45am), we had been told to meet the minibus at 7.30am at Didube in Tbilisi. With true Georgian timing the minibus didn’t actually leave until 8.15am.

Our first stop, not counting a rest stop, was at the castle in Akhaltsikhe (literally New Castle). The castle dating from the 12th Century is a mix of styles and might be described as a Georgian Alhambra, having a Mosque and many Islamic elements.

Entrance to Akhaltsikhe Castle

Entrance to Akhaltsikhe Castle

Rabati, Akhaltsikhe A mix of styles.

Rabati, Akhaltsikhe
A mix of styles.

The mosque was built by Haji Ahmed-Pasha Jaqeli.

heads through the turrets

heads through the turrets

View from the top of the tower.

View from the top of the tower.

The town has a reputation for tolerance in addition to Orthodox Churches and the Mosque, there is also a synagogue, an Armenian church and a Catholic church. There is an interesting museum Ivane Javakhishvili Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum on the site partly funded by BP, a company which uncovered many interesting artefacts when building their pipelines through Georgia. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the museum, which contains a large collection of pottery, manuscripts,  arrow heads, clothing and carpets.

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Group Photo

After the castle we took the road that follows the upper Mtkvari river through some spectacular scenery to Vardzia.

The road to Vardzia following the Upper Mtkvari river valley.

The road to Vardzia following the Upper Mtkvari river valley.

At Vardzia we had a welcoming committee of 4 dogs, they were friendly employing their soulful eyes to extract some tasty titbits from tourist parties.

The welcoming committee.

The welcoming committee.

The cave city of Vardzia was the highlight of the trip, during Tamar Mepe’s reign (1184-1213) the city was inhabited by as many as 2000 monks with 409 rooms carved out of the rock. A massive earthquake in 1283 shook away the outer walls of many caves.

Vardzia: Cave City

Vardzia: Cave City

Vardzia Gallery, click on an image to open the gallery:

On our way back to Tbilisi, we stopped at a roadside restaurant to feast with a Georgian “supra” (literally “table” but applied to Georgian style feasts with plenty of food, wine and toasts).

supra

supra

Maybe there was a little much wine at the supra, some of the party were dancing in the minibus on the way home.

Georgian dancing in the minibus

Georgian dancing in the minibus

We got back to Tbilisi around midnight after a great day out. Emma also blogged about the trip https://cookiesandthecaucasus.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/postcard-from-vardzia/

Easter

 

a candle burning a midnight, lit on the eve of Easter

a candle burning at midnight, lit on the eve of Easter

ქრისტე აღსდგა! Christ is risen!

 ჭეშმარიტად აღსდგა

Easter is the most important date of the Christian Calendar.

I started the day attending a service of the Tbilisi International Christian Fellowship held at the Holiday Inn in Saburtalo, Tbilisi. The congregation comprised of many nationalities including 29 Koreans, Russians, Chinese, Georgians, Dutch, South African, German, Azeri, Indian and Brazilian.

Holiday inn, Saburtalo, Tbilisi

Holiday inn, Saburtalo, Tbilisi

Part of the service included a living tableau. DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper was recreated by thirteen men from the cosmopolitan congregation.

Living Tableau of the Last Supper inspired by Da Vinci's painting.

Living Tableau of the Last Supper inspired by Da Vinci’s painting

The disciples, having learnt one would betray the master from among them, address the congregation,each in turn, asking if they are to be the traitor.

 “Is it I? Is it I?”

Peter speaks while Judas Iscariot awaits his turn.

Peter speaks while Judas Iscariot awaits his turn.

After the service I met with my wife, her sister and her brother-in-law and we went to visit the grave of her father and uncle.It is an Easter tradition in Georgia to visit the graves on Easter day or Easter Monday.

At the graveside a few words are said some wine is drunk and red eggs are left on the grave and wine is spilt on the grave, so the dead are remembered as part of the celebration.

red eggs and red wine left on the grave

red eggs and red wine left on the grave

 

After, we leave the graves for a big Easter “Supra” (feast) with Khato’s cousins.

Easter "Supra"

Easter “Supra”

Easter ends the long Lenten fast, my wife observed the fast following a vegan diet for the forty days before Easter. In the last week she also omitted  any oil from her diet and on Good Friday (here Red Friday) she had just bread and water. I followed the Georgian fasts in my first year but have since been less strict about what I eat.

Khato with the eggs she has dyed.

Khato with the eggs she has dyed.

It is the practise here to dye eggs red on Good “Red” Friday, to be eaten on Easter Day with special Easter cake.

Easter Cake and Red Wine

Easter Cake and Red Wine

I notice one of the blogs I follow, covered the Pope’s Easter Message, this Pope has a pertinent message in these troubled times.

The Pope’s Easter Message

I was given a book at the TICF service, looks interesting.

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