What to do in Georgia

Uponarrival in Tbilisi
Tbilisi International Airport serving variousforeign airlines as well as Georgian ones is located about 20 km from the citycentre. There are several ways to get to Tbilisi centre from the airport:
1. The most comfortable way is to makearrangement and contact the companies dealing with airport transfer beforearrival. That option is more convenient for you, if your flight arrives late atnight. Please for transfers contact our managers on infotraveltogeorgia@gmail.com
2. Also bus #37 transfers passengers fromTbilisi International Airport from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It's the cheapesttransportation means and just costs 0.5$ but doesn't provide door to doordelivery service. However after using that bus you can get to the city centerand then change to another public bus and reach any desirable destination.
3. There is the railway station near theinternational airport of Georgia. A very comfortable and modern train with thecapacity of 100 passengers will move on the rail road taking them to thecentral railway station. Traveling from airport to the central railway stationwill take only 20 minutes and it leaves in every 40 minutes. Fee is only 2GEL-(about $1.5)
4. Taxi is the best and fastest way to travel.Upon leaving the arrivals terminal, taxi drivers are the first locals you see.Unlike the buses taxi rates are higher and start from 15 Lari (about $10-12)depends on the destination. We strongly recommend you to negotiate the pricewith the driver beforehand, because they may charge you more instead of theusual rate. 
 

How Can I survive if I don't speak Georgian?
I assure you will manage to survive even though language barrier might seem confusing. Some knowledge of English and Russian will help you a lot. And if you possess a few Georgian words in your vocabulary, then you are never going to get lost in Tbilisi. Here is a useful vocabulary of essential words and phrases. Check it out please:

 

Hello

გამარჯობა

Gamarjoba

Good Morning

დილა მშვიდობისა

Dila Mshvidobisa

How are you?

როგორ ხარ?

Rogor khar?

I am well, and you?

კარგად, შენ?

Kargad, shen?

Thank you

გმადლობთ

Gmadlobt

Nice to meet you

სასიამოვნოა თქვენი გაცნობა

Sasiamovnoa tqveni gats'noba

Where are you from?

საიდან ხართ?

Saidan khart?

I am from New-York

მე ნიუ-იორკიდან ვარ

Me New-Yorkidan var

How was your trip?

როგორ იმგზავრეთ?

Rogor imgzavret?

Good bye

ნახვამდის

Nakh'vamdis

See you later

მომავალ შეხვედრამდე

Momaval shekh'vedramde

Good evening!

საღამო მშვიდობისა!

Saghamo mshvidobisa!

Good night!

ძილი ნებისა!

Dzili nebisa!

Please

გთხოვთ

Gtkhovt

That's good

კარგია

Kargia

That's bad

ცუდია

Tsudia

I love you

მე შენ მიყვარხარ

Me shen Mik'var'khar

I like it

მომწონს

Mom'tsons


 

Yes

დიახ

Diakh

No

არა

Ara

I am sorry

ბოდიში

Bodishi

Georgia

საქართველო

Sakartvelo

Today

დღეს

D'ghes

Yesterday

გუშინ

Gushin

May I have a bill, please

ანგარიში მომიტანეთ

Angarishi momitanet

Stop right here, please

აქ შემიჩერეთ

Ak shemicheret

Year

წელი

Tseli

Water

წყალი

Tskali

I am bad

ცუდად ვარ

Tsudad var

Help me, please

დამეხმარეთ

Dame'khmaret

It is expensive

ძვირია

Dzviria

I need a doctor

ექიმი მჭირდება

Ekimi Mchirdeba

Night Life

ღამის ცხოვრება

Ghamis tskhovreba

It's tasty

გემრიელია

Gemrielia

Happy Birthday!

გილოცავთ დაბადების დღეს

Gilotsavt Dabadebis Dghes

Congratulations!

გილოცავთ

Gilotsavt!

Sights

ღირშესანიშნაობები

Ghirs'shesani'shna'obebi

Wine

ღვინო

Ghvino

It's cheap

იაფია

Iapia

 

What about currency? Do I need to have Soviet rubles in my wallet?
No, Soviet rubles are no more useful in Georgia. Georgian currency is Georgian Lari (Gel) and you can have your own currency exchanged as soon as you arrive in the airport. Walking through the city you can find exchange boxes with signs above showing the exchange rates, or simply visit the bank nearby


What about hotels and accommodation?
If you are not visiting friends in Tbilisi then you probably need a hotel to stay at.
There is a wide choice of hotels in Tbilisi from cozy family-run guesthouses to 5-star hotels, and the prices vary accordingly from 30$ to 300$. There are some options of choosing the desirable accommodation for you:
1. It's better to plan ahead and start looking for a hotel before arrival.
2. Or just start doing it after arrival. However we don't think you will enjoy doing so directly at the airport when you are tired of traveling, furthermore, if the flight arrives late at night  

Well, I've settled myself...How shall I spend my leisure time?
You have already found a cozy corner to stay at and have had quite good rest. Do you feel like having a snack? Visit a restaurant a few stairs down in the hotel or just use the room service there. There are really good restaurants in Tbilisi. Some of them offer delicacies and specialties of Russian, Italian, Austrian, Spanish cuisines, as well as eastern food - Chinese, Japanese and Thai. You are notgoing to leave Tbilisi without visiting Georgian eating areas and enjoyinggrand feast of Georgian delights: Tsiskvili , Phaeton , Mravaljamieri etc.  

Whatare MUST SEE places in Tbilisi? 
Tbilisi is 1500 years old city, so it certainlyhas lots of things to offer. You can take a walking tour to see the city'shistorical sites or if you'd like to have a look at some must see places notonly in Tbilisi but also throughout Georgia just visit www.traveltogeorgia.com.ge  and request the tourto your likes. Also you can use guide service to have a complete picture of thesights you want to visit. If you wish your memories stay with you forever justpurchase some Georgian souvenirs for you and your friends. Find some popularsouvenirs and gift shops with items for sale at: Chardakhi (Sharden str. 17; Tel: +995 32 75 53 99), Dano (Rustaveli ave. 5; Tel: +995 99 98 9802), Souvenirs (Erekle II str. 11; Tel: +995 32 32 2288). 

Oh,I left my car at home, how can travel around the city? 
Although Tbilisi is not a big city, today youcan find almost any type of transportation in the streets. Call a taxi by phoneor stop it right at your doors and enjoy the most time-saving journey.Mini-buses, mainly called "marshrutkas" by local travelers, alsotakes you to different destinations except for the downtown, while public busesmoving slowly, extensively but peacefully takes you from the heart of the cityto the suburban areas. Metro as the cheapest and fastest journey-provideroperates till late. Metro trains run every 2 to 5 minutes during rush hour andoff-peak times.

What about nightlife? 
Tbilisi became involved in clubbing and activenightlife not very long ago, but today there are already plenty of clubs andbars worth visiting without hesitation. You can taste there various Georgianbeer as well as German, Austrian, Czech ones while enjoying live music. Mostfrequently visited nightlife areas are Akhvlediani (former Perovskaya),Kiacheli and Chardin streets. The latter is situated in the old part andhistorical district of with full range of sightseeing.

Am I safe traveling by myself?
Bad times are left behind. The police arepatrolling for 24 hours throughout the city and they take care of your safety.Though, it doesn't mean than you can be careless with your handy, cell phonesor wallet at public places. 

 

Cultural Hints:
- Handshakes are a common form of greeting, but Georgians often embrace upon meeting with a kiss on the check
- Georgians are friendly and hospitable people who welcome guests and treat them like family.
- Never use bad words while talking to Georgian (no matter what language you speak, offensive words are easily understandable in any language for Georgians :)
- Gay clubs... sex shops... there are no such places in Tbilisi. You will just lose your time looking for them.
- Public displays of affection are generally avoided.
- If you are going to be in Georgia for any length of time, you should not miss one the most typical Georgian experience, the "supra" and its art of toast-making.


We hope the guidelines above will become useful for the first-time visitors of Tbilisi. Please, don't hesitate to contact us infotraveltogeorgia@gmail.com 

 

10 Great Thingsto Do and See in Georgia

Cities of Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

In 2008 Tbilisi is going to celebrate its1550-year-old anniversary. It means that the history of this amazing citythrows back as far as the 5 th century when the Georgian tsar VakhtangGorgasali ordered to build a city in the centre of the fertile valley cozilylying between two Caucasian ridges. The city's name was not incidental. Itoriginated from the word “tbili” - warm. In fact the plain between MountSololaki and Metekhi cliff, where the city is situated, is rich in warmsulfuric springs.
 

Kutaisi,Georgia

Formerly it was theancient capital of Colchis and Imeretia kingdoms. Today it is the secondlargest and significant city in Georgia . Kutaisi is located in the Rioni rivervalley on Colchis lowland. The river Rioni is mentioned in the myths of theGolden Fleece for a reason: local residents used to extract old there. They puttheir sheep skins across the flow and waited for a few hours and then combedout gold dust from them. The symbol of a sheep skin covered with gold was laternamed the Golden Fleece. 
More on Kutaisi
 

Rustavi,Georgia

Rustavi is one of the youngestcities of Georgia . The official year of Rustavi 's birth is 1948 when itreceived the city status. Before that in Gabardan steppe on the bank of theKura river there was a settlement which emerged there due to the fact ofconstruction of large metallurgical plant (1941. In days of the Soviet epochRustavi was the largest center of heavy industry, chemistry andmachine-building. Today Rustavi is the fourth largest city in Georgia . Anumber of industrial enterprises is still active there. Its central streets arevery busy thanks to the variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. 
More on Rustavi

 

Batumi,Georgia

The sunny Batumi personifies allthe charm of a southern city and a sea resort. It is located on the Black Seacoast and is exquisitely framed by exotic subtropical flora. Palm trees,cypresses, magnolias, oleanders, bamboo trees, laurels, lemon and orange trees,thuyas and box trees spread their sweet fragrance literally everywhere. Batumiis located in a convenient natural Black Sea bay and is an important seaportfor entire Georgia. The romantic picture of ships departure from the harbor isbetter seen from Batumi Quay. Batumi citizens name this place SeasidePark-Boulevard. 
More on Batumi and Batumi Landmarks 


 

Ananuri Fortress, Georgia

Georgian Medieval Monuments – Ananuri

Ananuri is one of the hundreds of Georgian medieval castles, almostimpossible to drive by, if you set off on a surface joutney from Russia to Georgia.If you plan to reach the fortress from Tbilisi, you can take a shuttle van fromTbilisi to Gudauri, Pasanauri or Stepantsminda.

Ananuri is found in the same-name village on theGeorgian Military Road, 64 km from Tbilisi, and 12 km from Zhinvali. Thefortress was built in the valley between the two rivers of Aragvi andVedzatkhevi, so that no enemy army could pass by unnoticed, but foundthemselves caught in a natural “gate“, formed by nature itself, at gunpoint ofthe defenders. In the XVI - early XIX centuries, Ananuri was the mainstronghold on the way from Daryal Valley to Dusheti and from Russia to Georgia.It played a critical role in numerous wars between local feudal princes –eristavis, and in the course of its history was never carried by storm.

In course of time, the fortress lost its importanceand fell to desolation. Today it is one of the main points of tourist routes inGeorgia. The main advantage of the Ananuri fortress is its relativepreservation: for the last few centuries no stone walls or towers havecollapsed, what is more, some slabs have survived. It is still possible tocontemplate the Assumption Church and Church of the Savior with ancientfrescos, belfry, main tower and bath.

Below the castle there survived an old road and old bridge,which regularly flooded by water from the reservoir. Other interestingmedieval ruins can be also found there.

 

Alaverdi Cathedral, Georgia

Kakheti shrine is located 20km from Telavi. It is one of the most well-known medieval temples in Georgia – Alaverdi cathedral (located in the settlement with the same name). It was built in the beginning of the 11th century and was one of the tallest structures of the time. The temple was built on the site of a small church of St. George . The temple is still called St. George Cathedral (Tsminda Georgi).

 

Alaverdi cathedral was repeatedly destroyed. Its first restoration was accomplished in the 15th century. The second one was in the 18 th century after the disastrous earthquake. Restorations have changed the cathedral a little but nevertheless it remains the outstanding example of medieval Georgian architecture. The cathedral is an architectural complex surrounded by a fortification. The complex includes medieval refectory, the bell tower with defence wall and the summer palace. The main building of the cathedral is of rectangular form. Its center is crowned with the dome resting on a high drum. But in fact the most amazing is its interior . The high dome increases the feeling of space infinity . Alaverdi Cathedral has the fragments of wall paintings of the 9th , 15th and 17th centuries. From the 17th to the 18th centuries there was the dwelling for women of imperial descent who took the veil.


 

Bodbe, Georgia

St. George monastic and Episcopal complex, situated in Bodbe (Kakheti) is the national Georgian relic. In St. George cathedral are kept the remains of Nino of Kappadokia, Equal-to-the-Apostles, the great Baptist of Georgia, the harbinger of Christianity.

According to the legend, St.Nino, 60, died in Bodbe in 335. She crossed the entire country healing and preaching people the true God. St. Nino bequeathed to bury her in this land. Later when tsar Mirian wanted to move her body to Mtskheta, all efforts to shift the ark with Nino's hallows from its place were in vain. Originally, a little temple in honor of great martyr St. George was built on the burial place. But this temple did not survive. In 850 instead of the old temple the new Cathedral, the main building of the complex, was erected. It is a classic temple in the best traditions of Georgian architecture. The interior is decorated by the 9th-century paintings and fragments of the 12th – 17th-century pictures.

The cult complex in Bodbe was repeatedly repaired and restored. In the 16th – 17th centuries Bodbe was the important educational centre. In 1837 the monastery was abolished. And in 1889 the convent of St. Nino Equal-to-the-Apostles was opened and is active until now.

 

Gremi, Georgia

Medieval Capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti

Standing above the green valley of Alazan, Gremi attracts travelers whose road goes between Telavi and Kvareli. Gloomy and monumental, the castle is the one of the most visited tourist points in Georgia.

The architectural ensemble of Gremi in the look that it has up to present day was built in the 16th century in the times of King Levan of Kakheti, who announced Gremi the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti.

By order of Levan, a castle and churches were constructed on a small mountain and a rich trading town appeared at the foot of the mountain with a population of over 100 000 people.

Levan’s rule was peaceful, thus the Kingdom of Kakheti had reached economic growth and became stronger during his time. Some historic sources note that one branch of the legendary Silk Road was going through Gremi that more or less favoured the welfare growth.

Alas, Gremi lasted only one and half century. In the beginning of the 17th century it was razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia. The city could not fully recover and by the middle of the 17th century Kings of Kakheti moved the capital to Telavi.

 

It is moving to see the ruins of once glowing city where one can still depict outlines of a caravan-saray, a bath, merchant stalls, wine cellars, remnants of weapons and water pipes. There is an exposition of objects from everyday life of that period in the local museum.

Take a look at almost erased frescoes in the stone Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It was designed according to all rules of medieval Georgian architecture with local interpretation of the contemporary Iranian architectural taste. Levan of Kakheti was buried here, whose tomb has a fresco with his image on it. The bell-tower also houses a museum where several archaeological artifacts and the 16th-century cannon are displayed. A secret passage could lead you to the Intsoba.

It’s also worth visiting the restored royal castle. There is a museum on the ground floor. The castle has three floors. Perhaps, what stirs curiosity most is a royal toilet.

Visitors can also go up to thetop of the castle to get the panoramic view of the Alazan valley.

 

Svetitskhoveli, Mtskheta

Not far from Dzhvari there is another cult monument of Christian Georgia – one of the major Orthodox Georgian temples – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

It was built in the 11 th century (1010-1029) on the site of the Twelve Apostles Church, the first Christian Georgian church erected in the 4 th century. There is a religious legend, connected with this church origination, about Elioz, a citizen of Mtskheta, who found the Tunic of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Elioz's sister – Sidonia – died as soon as she touched the tunic. She was buried wrapped in it . Soon a big tree, cedar of Lebanan, grew on Sidonia's grave. When the ruler Mirian decided to build a temple on the place where the Tunic of the God was buried the cedar was cut down. They made seven columns from the tree and began to install them in the church. Six columns were in place but the seventh was not; it was hanging in mid-air. The Baptist of Georgia, St. Nino prayed all night long and then the column “without a touch of a human hand” froze on its place and … started shedding holy ointment. The miraculous chrism cured patients of heavy illnesses. Hence the temple's name – Svetitskhoveli; in Georgian it means “the Life-Giving Pillar”. One of the greatest religious holidays of Georgia is Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba is dedicated to the Life-Giving Pillar and the Tunic of the God. It is marked two times a year (on July13th and October 14th).

 

In the 11 th century Melkhisedek, the Catholicos of Georgia, began building the new patriarchal temple on the place of the old church. There is a legend connected with this building too. “To build the temple Arsukisdze, an architect, was invited. When the building was ready it turned out that the masterpiece considerably surpassed the creations of his teacher. The teacher's pride was hurt so he slandered his pupil and the architect's hand was cut off. According to an alternative version the hand of Arsukidze was cut off by the king's order so that he was not able to construct anything similar to Svetitskhoveli.” Probably the latter version is true as over one of the facade arches there is the relief with the image of a hand holding a setsquare. The inscription under the relief says: “the Hand of the servant of God Arsukidze. Remember”.

 

Svetitskhoveli is a grandiose cathedral of cross-dome design. The side-altars decorated with arch reliefs symmetrically depart from the high cross-shaped facade from two sides. Behind the facade as if the second tier rises the basic building of the cathedral. It is of rectangular shape and in the middle of it towers the faceted drum topped with a peaked dome with 16 windows. The temple facades are decorated with stone carving characteristic for Georgian architecture of the late 10 th - early 11 th centuries. The arches frame the windows, carved reliefs and niches. One can see the figures of flying angels; they are the fragments of the previous temple built in the 4 th century.

 

The windows ledges and frames are entirely covered with carved relief ornament which with other decorative ornaments harmoniously merges in the overall architectural and artistic image of the building.

 

The interior of the temple is simple and full of light. The paintings fragments which still can be seen on the temple walls were mainly done in the 16 th – 17 th centuries. The fragments of frescos depict the scenes from the legend about the Tunic of God.

 

Under the big arch there is the legendary “Life-Giving Pillar”.

 

In front of the altar there is the burial place of Georgian rulers including Vakhtang Gorgasali, the founder of Tbilisi; Irakli II, the king of Kahetia; the rulers of Bagrationi dynasty and others.

For the period of its existence Svetitskhoveli has been destroyed and restored a number of times. The most considerable reconstruction took place in the 15 th century when the current dome of the cathedral was installed and then in the 17 th century when the existing the hipped roof of the current dome was made along with repairs and the walls whitewashing. Despite this Svetitskhoveli has preserved that noble shape which Arsukidze gave to it in 1029.

 

Even in the Middle Ages Mitskheta was the heart of Georgian church. Since then traditionally all major church ceremonies including the enthronement of the Catholicos-Patriarch are held in Svetitskhoveli Temple.


 

Jvari, Mtskheta

Jvari monastic temple immortalized by Michael Lermontov (“Mtsyri”poem) is the most ancient cult monument constructed in the beginning of Georgian Christianity in the 6th century (585- 604). The name Jvari means “cross” in Georgian language. It explains the ancient legend which says that it was there that St. Nino of Kappadokia put the Sacred Cross symbolizing the acceptance of Christianity by Georgia. Later over the cross the Temple of the Sacred Cross was built. It is worth mentioning that Small Jvari temple was built first (lying in ruins next to the main temple), and Big Jvari was erected afterwards for the purpose of preservation of the Sacred Cross relic. According to the ancient records the Cross was open to be seen from afar and was the object of worship until the 6 th century.

 

“The columns of the brought down gate, the towers, and the church arch...” – that was how Lermontov saw Jvari. Today Jvari looks the same as during the visit of Russian classic poet. The brought down stone walls with arch entrance and the temple itself seem majestic and strict. Its ascetic beauty is expressed in ideal proportions of the halls and the dome, in strict and straight lines, in smoothness of the external walls which do not bear any unnecessary decorative elements except the reliefs on their facades. Outwardly the temple looks like a big octahedral drum crowned by hexahedral cross-topped dome. Four premises adjoin the temple from two sides.

 

Jvari interior is no less harmonious: pure, sound and complete classics enchants with its perfection. From the inside the church is decorated by a mosaic which has survived only in fragments. In the temple's centre one can see the foundation on which the Sacred Cross brought by St. Nino of Kappadokia used to be fixed to.

 

Jvari is standing on the edge of a high rock and is in wonderful harmony with the severe but extremely picturesque nature of this area. Below, at the foot noisy Kura and Aragvi, two most known rivers in Georgia, are flowing by. Right across lies the extensive panorama of Mtskheta. On the windy slopes near Jvari grows the Tree of Wishes. The pilgrims come there to fasten ribbons with the hopes that their wishes will be granted.

 

In 1996 Jvari monastery reopened.

 

Samtavro, Mtskheta

In Mtskheta there is an active Samtavro convent Самтавро (the 11 th century) in which the ruler Mirian and his wife Nana, the first to accept Christianity from St. Nino in 337, are buried.

 

The convent was constructed in 1820 instead of a small ancient wooden church of the 4 th century erected by the king Mirian. Its dome and some of the parts were reconstructed after the earthquake in the 13 th – 14 th centuries with addition of the sanctuary screen. The three-storied bell tower was built in the 15 th – 16 th centuries. The frescos there are dated the 16 th – the 17 th centuries. In the 17 th century the convent was renovated for the last time.

 

In the church yard there is the grave of St. Gabriel; one of the most esteemed Georgian saints. This place is always full of pilgrims and worshippers of the saint. In 1906 the monument to the king Mirian and queen Nana was built in the convent.

 

Mtskheta,Georgia

Ancient capital of the Georgian kingdom Considered as the cult and sacred place for each Georgian, Mtskheta, theancient capital of Georgia is located 20 km from Tbilisi. Nowhere in Georgia isthere such a quantity of sacred and cult places as in Mtskheta. This is thereason why this ancient city is also named “the Second Jerusalem”. It is therethat St. Nino of Kappadokia brought the good message to. It is there that oneof the greatest relics of the Christian world, the God's Tunic, is kept. It isthere that streams of Christian pilgrims and tourists from all over the worldflow to. The main attractions there are: one of the most ancient and esteemedtemples – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and ancient Dzhvari Monastery. They both areunique amazing samples of religious architecture of the medieval Caucasus.

                                                                                                                         

Mtskheta is located at theconfluence of the two mountain rivers, the Aragvi, and the Kura on the riverterrace surrounded by majestic mountain tops. The city legend says thatMtskheta was founded during times immemorial by the legendary ruler Mtsekhotos,the son of the first king of Kartli, who named the city in his honor.

 

The facts of history testify thatthe city was founded in the second half of the 1 st millennium BC, i.e. at thesame time as Eastern Georgian Kingdom - Kartli (Ibeia), the capital of whichMtskheta was. That is why Mtskheta is often called “the cradle of Georgianstatehood”. As the political centre of Eastern Georgia, Mtskheta experiencedits first blooming during the time Alexander the Great. The ancient city wallscould withstand attacks of Roman legions and Persian soldiers. Mtskheta ownedthe status of capital for almost one thousand years until the end of the 5 thcentury AD – when the ruler Vakhtang Gorgasali decided to move the capital toTbilisi. But despite this Mtskheta remained an important religious centre ofthe country, the residence of Georgian Catholicoses, the heads of Georgian church.

 

In the Middle Ages Mtskhetaremained played the significant part as a trading, crafts and religious centre.Today it still remains the spiritual centre of the country. Along with Tbilisiand Пицундой Mtskehta is the cathedra of the Catholicos - thePatriarch of all Georgia. In the late 19 th – early 20 th centuries Mtskhetaand its vicinities were declared the architectural and historical memorialestate in the list of the World Legacy of the UNESCO.

 

Stepantsminda(Kazbegi), Georgia

Empyreal church at the footsteps of the Mount Kazbek

In the northof Georgia, at the foot of the Mount Kazbek, there is a small settlement calledStepantsminda. For about 100 years till 2007 it was always known as Kazbegi,and only recently it received its historic name. It is located 165km in thenorth from Tbilisi and only 11km from the Russian border. Also, GeorgianMilitary road crosses this town, that connects Russia and Georgia and this isthe road that lead tourists traveling by car.

 

Vicinity of Stepantsminda ispicturesque. There is a river Thergi running below the town, with snowed peaksof Caucasus rising among which the Mount Kazbek standing out, with its 5033mheight. There are quite a few valley glaciers and forests, both deciduous andconiferous. Fresh mountain air and mineral springs of Stepantsminda areconsidered to be the main therapy for breathing or eating disorders.

 

Climate of Stepantsminda istemperate. Winter is mild with temperatures of average -5 degrees Celcius, andsummer is relatively warm with temperatures of +15 degrees Celcius.Precipitation consists of 800mm a year, mostly snowfall. One of theshortcomings of its weather is cold mountain winds.

 

Population of Stepantsminda isaround 1850 people, besides being the only town in the mountain area of theMoheve region. Administrative, medical and cultural institutions are alsosituated here, as well as small enterprises from which factory for bottlingmineral waters ‘Kazbeg’ stands out. Besides, Stepandtsminda is a starting pointfor alpinists who want to conquer the Mount Kazbek. One can find some hostelsand a small hotel nearby.

 

There are not too many sights intown. There is a Russian church of St. Nicolas, ethnographic museum and theGergeti Trinity Church. However, most tourists are attracted by natural beautyof the place, they come for paragliding, horsing and trekking.

 

Mestia, Georgia

Mestia is a historical, cultural and religious center or Svanetia, the most original and mysterious area of Georgia hiding high in the mountains. Mestia is located on the southern slope of the Major Caucasus, 128 km to the northeast from Zugdidi at the height of 1,500 m. There lives a special ethnic group of people – heroic and courageous Svans - distinguished by their culture, traditions and customs. The genetics and cultural heritage of the Svans has been preserved for 4,000 years!

 

Svanetia is also known for its original architecture and is called “the Country of Thousand Towers”. From ancient times the Svans built high and very strong quadrangular towers at their houses which played both economic and defensive parts. Mestia still has dozens of such medieval stone houses with the watchtowers and inhabited towers which were used to protect valleys and churches (the 10th – 14th centuries). The unique medieval architecture of Mestia is included in the list of the World heritage of UNESCO. Svanetia has been the keeper of treasures of Georgia for ages. The settlement has a historical - ethnographic museum where you can see unique icons, manuscripts and other relics saved from enemy invasions.


 

HouseMuseum of Chavchavadze in Tsinandali, Georgia

Manor of the great Georgian family

A manor in the village of Tsinandali that you see the on the pictures isan ancestral estate, a palace of princely family of Chavchavadze. There aremany amazing, beautiful and tragic events in the history of Georgia areconnected with him.


The father ofAlexander Chavchavadze, the first owner of the manor – Garsevan Chavchavadze,was one of the initiators of annexation of Georgia to Russia; Treaty ofGeorgievsk has his signature. He participated in the war with Napoleon incampaign to Europe in 1812, 1813, and 1814. He conquered Paris and achieved therank of general-lieutenant. After, tired from the military campaigns, AlexanderChavchavadze decided to leave the capital. He took his family from Saint-Petersburg and movedto a quiet village of Tsinandali where he started his project oneuropeanization of Georgia.
 

The manor in Tsinandali is thereflection of his aspirations. He not only applied European architecturaltechniques in the construction and inner planning, he laid out an Englishgarden around his palace.

 

Moreover, there were not onlytrees, but also gardeners who came from the Great Britain. He did not stop onthis. Chavchavadze invited the best winemakers from Europe, with whom he builtthe first wine factory that produces wines according to European technologies. Thus appearedpopular in present “Tsinandali” wine.

 

Chavchavadze was not only amilitary general, but also the most educated figure of his time. He was awriter, translator, polyglot, a big landowner and a great poet. His poetryreached our days as folk songs. The manor of the poet and a general had becomethe center of the intellectual life of Georgia in the 19th century where peopleof culture and art, social figures gathered. The first grand piano in Georgiafirst sounded in these walls. Great Russian poets such as Alexander Pushkin andMikhail Lermontov, poet-Decembrist Alexander Odoevskiy and French writerAlexander Dumas Sr. stayed there. Playwright, poet and a composer AlexanderGriboedov met in Tsinandali the princess Nina Chavchavadze, his future wife.

 

The history of the Chavchavadzefamily and their ancestral estate is closely tied with the history of Georgia.Today there is a museum busy with tourists from all over the world. Theinterior of the 19h century has almost been fully restored. It was alsopossible to collect touching material evidences from the relatives of thebygone period: suzane, embroidered by the daughters of Chavchavadze, thepicture of Imam Shamil painted by Anna Ilinichna held in captivity. The museumhas the working desk of the poet, the first grand piano, personal things andbooks. There are regular art exhibitions held in the museum, and basement ofthe building hosts Kakhetian wine tasting ceremonies.

 

If you are in Kakheti, make sureto touch the history of the most famous family in Georgia.

Vardzia,Georgia

Vardzia is 18 km from Akhalkalaki right next to the border with Turkey. The city was erected in the 12 th – 13 th centuries during the rule of George III and his daughter of Tamara for the purpose of the southern boundaries of Georgia protection. Vardzia is not just a set of random rooms cut in rocks. It is a multi-storied (!) complex with streets, tunnels and stairs leading to monasteries, temples, fortresses, baths, libraries dwelling houses and so forth.

 

All in all there are over 600 premises connected by passages which stretched along the mountain for as long as 800 meters, to the depth of 50 meters standing 8 levels tall. In case of an enemy attack the monastery turned into a fortress for inhabitants and could host up to 20, 000 people.


 Georgian soldiers could use three secret passages and defeat enemies with a surprise attack. The cave complex, besides protective, carried out spiritual function as a Christian monastery with the big temple of the Assumption of the Virgin. The temple still has the fragments of wonderful frescos of the 12 th century including the ones showing tsar George III and Queen Tamara. Some historians believe she was buried there. In order to confuse vandals 8 funeral processions went different directionssimultaneously from Tbilisi. They arrived both in Gelati and Vardzia.
 

In the 13 th century Vardziasuffered from a major earthquake (1283) when a 15-meter rocky slab fell in theKura . As a result the monastery lost its function as a fortress. Later Vardziasuffered from Mongol invasion in the same 13 th century, Iran defeat andTurkish yoke in the 14 th -17 th centuries – all those events led to the city'sdestruction. In 1828 Dzhavakhetia was liberated by Russians and life returnedto Vardzia. During the Soviet period the monastic life in the monastery stoppedand renewed only in the late 1980s. Today about 15 novices live in themonastery. Since 1938 Vardzia has been a memorial estate.


 

Uplistsikhe,Georgia

Uplistsikhe - Fortress of God

10 km from Gori on the bank ofthe river Kura there stands one of the rarest monuments in the world – theancient fortified city Uplistsikhe cut inside the volcanic rocks of theKvernaki ridge. It was first mentioned in the annals of the 1st century BC andprospered in the 9th -10th centuries.

 

Even from afar this quaint rockycity looks bewitching. Looking like giant pores on the rocks gape the cavegrottoes, which used to be full of life. Long time ago there were huge majestichalls, temples, dwellings connected by winding corridors of streets. It is hardto believe that this grandiose titanic creation of the whole city from stonewas done by human hands. 

 

Hundreds of different structures– temples, public buildings, houses, streets, squares etc. were cut inside therock. Despite the non-standard approach to the construction, the buildings ofUplistsikhe accurately repeat the samples of conventional architecture:columns, pilasters, capitals, arches, etc. The city was surrounded by theprotective moat surrounding it from the east and the north. Uplistsikhe hadfour gates from all parts of the world.

 

The cave city still has thetwo-column “reception hall of Queen Tamara” with arch niches and huge pylons.It is magnificent in its sizes, perfect workmanship and graceful architecturalforms. Some premises, wine storages, fragments of temples and fortifications,the secret underground tunnel used for water supply are still intact.