23 february Gori (GEORGIA)

Today we leave the beautiful Georgian capital to enter the heart of this Caucasian country ...

We drive 100 km that separate it from Gori, Stalin's birthplace... the landscape is monotonous, flat and desolate... sometimes a camp of containers appears in the far distance,  and in the middle of nowhere:  here they are, the refugee camps of Ossetia, a region of Georgia, fled in 2008 to the bombing of the Russians ... suddenly another area, this time clearly military, is an area occupied by the Russians ... road signs indicate the direction to Sokhumi, Abkhazia's capital, another land occupied... sometimes it seems to me to travel on board of Risk...

Through barren streets, dominated by vineyards, it is said that the Georgians have invented wine, we reach "Atenis Sioni", an ancient church located on a bend of the Tana River and surrounded by high hills and cliffs.

It preserves wonderful frescoes of the eleventh century.

Not far away Uplistsikhe stands, a gigantic cave as well as one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus  which, in the Middle Ages, had a population of 20,000 inhabitants!

Situated along the Silk Way, it boasted about 700 caves dug into the rock; a great cities of the past of which now remains only ancient ruins witnesses of a distant glory!

Gori strikes me right away for its shabbiness, its decay and neglect... It recalls me one of those Soviet villages of a novel by Tolstoj...  decrepit buildings ... from graying walls to the smog of these old cars, empty and silent courtyards, sad trees leafless, even people seem to reflect the character of the town... old women with bent backs and a head scarf, dressed in black, scurry along the unadorned avenues, hard-faced men by the garlic breath chatting next to their car turned into taxis, scrap Lada are overloaded...

Gori is famous as the statesman Stalin's birthplace. Few people have left a historical legacy at the same time larger and controversial than, this son of a humble shoemaker  did, he has led for 25 years the largest country on the planet. If it were not for the role played by the USSR, German Nazi would surely won the Second World War.

Within a decade it has transformed the Soviet Union into a great industrial power passing from plow Lenin to nuclear weapons, as Churchill wrote in his autobiography.

However, the suffering of millions of people, the gulag, the NKVD (secret police), can not be forgotten.

Lunch at "Chinebuli", a small restaurant behind the museum with an excellent khinkali soup, stuffed with meat or cheese... we love the Georgian cuisine!

24 february Kutaisi (GEORGIA)

[Stefy]: "Avtosadguri (bus station) in Gori. A dwarf sells some chips, a driver devours in a few mouthfuls, voraciously, a khachapuri cheese baked... a little old lady opens the shutters of her shop of flour. Gori starts a new day and we leave by marshrutka (a Russian minivan) to Kutaisi.

Our driver smokes a cigarette after another incessantly, sometimes offers us a small apple given to him by a passenger who did not have the money for the ticket... in two hours and a half we arrive at the destination.

Kutaisi soon appears delicious! Left our staff in our small hotel, we go straight into the central square to enjoy a great khachapuri (Georgian cheese pie), a khinkali (spicy meatballs) and a adjaruli (boat of bread with cheese, butter and eggs) ..."

25 february Kutaisi (GEORGIA)

Kutaisi, in the morning it wakes up very slowly, old women from blacks scarves, cross, slowly, the Chachvis Khidi, the old bridge over Rioni River to roost along the sidewalks under construction and stretch their wares: used jeans and Tshirts coming from Western Europe or pots...

I look out and admire their daily lives unfold, I look with amazement at the Bagrati Cathedral with its green domes which, from Ukimerioni hill, overlooks the city of Kutaisi.

We visit the surrounding area.

Motsameta, an enchanted place! This small monastery offers beautiful views of the gorge below Tskhaltsitela river, whose name (red water), comes from a massacre committed by the Arabs in the eighth century.

We enter just during an Orthodox ceremony, a monk, by long hair and a long beard, with his back to the only faithful who sings nostalgic litany, sends his blessing.

The background is fantastic and we remain very impressed by the peace and tranquility that this place inspires.

 

The monastic complex of Gelati is not placed in a less beautiful place, Georgians have always had a particular skill in choosing the most enchanting position to build their own churches.

26 february Kutaisi (GEORGIA)

[Stefy]: "I love when we put ourselves in the shoes of the inhabitants of the villages we visit. When there is no alarm clock, no program but only free and spontaneous meetings, hidden places, life flowing and we are ready to join it to 100%.

Today, after breakfast with fried eggs, we dive into the streets to confuse us in the crowd...

Step by step we arrive in the Jewish quarter where we enter a synagogue, the weather is beautiful. There is nobody on the street except a few old man who walks with his arms behind his back and seem to study us when he meet us ...

The air is cool but the sun is really hot, the cherry trees and mimosa act as our background. Last night it rained and the wet moss is very green. We reach an Orthodox church on a hill, around a very respectable graveyard ".

We visit several museums: the ethnographic, the sport and the one of the military glories. Each of them leaves us something in the heart, we see pictures, documents, Olympic medals, cups of sports competitions held around the world, archaeological objects, jewelry of another time and who are now witnesses of an old story; photos of the Soviet period or the various wars in which Georgia has been protagonist or victim sadden us a lot ...

27 february Kutaisi (GEORGIA)

The last hours in Kutaisi, we spend them relaxing and getting lost among the many narrow streets of the town, between its hospitable people and the stalls of his market.

The clock strikes three in the morning when Rezi knocks at our door, time to go to the airport! I turn the last dreamy look, as if to impress as long as possible in my mind, the picturesque Bagrati Cathedral  that, enlightened, is even more austere.

...first journey in two and half... ;-)

საქართველოს მთავრობას მადლობას უხდის

 
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