Dec 7, 2009

Lilo Market Tbilisi, 6 december 2009

Sunday our trip went to the Lilo market, just outside Tbilisi on the main road east to the wine district.

Vlado had found out that bus No 67 from the main railway station drove to the market so we went to the station to catch the bus. We found the bus without any problems, but it was already full, but we managed to press us in. Later at a bus stop a bunch of people managed to press them into the bus, so we were really socialising, at least we were close.

The enormous market was equally full with people. It was mainly selling clothes. Ordinary Tbilisi inhabitants seem to buy their clothes at this market, and not in the fancy shops at Chavchavadze Avenue where I live (last picture).

Nov 29, 2009

Georgian Dancing, Saturday 28 November 2009

Vlado invited us for with a performance traditional Georgian dances in a modern arrangement at the main newly refurbished theatre.

It was a very impressive performance, and very popular event, every seat in the theatre were occupied.

Nov 24, 2009

Davit Gareja, Sunday 22 November 2009

On the border with Azerbaijan, Davit Gareja comprises about 15 old monasteries spread over a large, remote area, its uniqueness is heightened by a lunar, semidesert landscape. We visited two of the key monasteries, Lavra (the only inhabited one today), and, on the hill above it, Udabno, which has beautiful frescoes.

Lavra, the first monastery here, was founded by Davit Gareja, one of the 13 ascetic ‘Syrian fathers’ who returned from the Middle East to spread Christianity in Georgia in the 6th century. The religious complex grew until there were monasteries spread over a wide area. Here manuscripts were translated and copied, and a celebrated Georgian school of fresco painting developed. The monasteries were destroyed by the Mongols in 1265, revived in the early 14th century by Giorgi V the Brilliant, sacked by Timur and then suffered their worst moment of all on Easter night 1615 when Persian Shah Abbas’ soldiers killed 6000 monks and destroyed most of their artistic treasures. In 1675 King Archil initiated some restoration and gave stipends to the monks. The monasteries never regained their former importance but remained working until the end of the 19th century.

During the Soviet era the area was used for military exercises, and some of the first demonstrations of the perestroika period in Tbilisi were protests against this vandalism. Ironically, the Georgian army then used the area for training in the mid-1990s. These manoeuvres were stopped when protesters camped in the firing range.

To get to Udabno, we had to climb to the mountain ridge. The plains and low hills on the other side of the mountain ridge were in Azerbaijan, and the caves alongside and above the path along the ridge were the Udabno monastery. Some of the caves were churches or chapels or rooms, and their inner walls still bear frescoes painted by the renowned fresco school that flourished here between the 10th and 13th centuries.

From Sighnaghi to Tbilisi, Saturday 21 November 2009

On our way back we spotted a brown bear in a very small cage just beside the road. It has probably been installed there as an attraction for visitors to nearby shop and a restaurant. It seemed that the main attraction was to feed it with some fluid (fruit juice?), which it could drink from the plastic bottle in a very human way. The fact that the brown bear is an endangered species strictly protected in Georgia did not seem to having gained understanding all over Georgia.

Being in the wine distinct we decided to buy som locally produced wine. We drove to a small village where we spotted an old man transporting some firewood home on his donkey. We asked him where to buy some local wine and he offered his. We went to his house nearby, and were invited to taste the wine together with cheese and bread. The old man (86) lived in very well maintained house together with his wife (78), so their wine must be very healthy. I have now 10 litres in my flat which will keep me healthy for a long time. When we had socialised for some time the donkey felt that it also should join the party and hammered on the door to the yard where we were enjoying our cheese, wine and bread. It was let into the yard and relaxed. The old couple told that they were very happy for the money, as they were going to a wedding next day and it was custom to give some money. It seemed that it was not every day they had money in their hands.

Sighnaghi, Saturday 21 November 2009

Sighnaghi is a town in Georgia's easternmost region of Kakheti. Sighnaghi has recently undergone a fundamental reconstruction program and has become an important centre of Georgia's tourist industry.

At the elevation of about 790 m above seal level, the town overlooks the Alazani Valley and faces the Greater Caucasus Mountains. On the day when visited the place it was nice and very clear weather with fantastic views of the white mountain peaks of Caucasus.

The town has a well preserved defensive wall around a big area. The wall was build of the settlements in the valley, so people could seek shelter when invaders came.

The picture of the communist monument at the entrance to the town shows the focus of Georgian culture: Wein vieb und gesang (Wine, Women and Song - op. 333 is a waltz by Johann Strauss II).

And cabbage seems to be an important part of the local diet.

Oct 30, 2009

Biking trip: Zhinvali, Tianeti og Ghulelebi, 18 Ocktober 2009

Vlado and I decided that our next biking trip should be away from the chaotic and unpleasant car traffic in Tbilisi, so we asked our driver Dima to give us and our bikes a lift to the Zhinvali reservoir north of Tbilisi.

We had planned to bike along the reservoir to its start, but we had no specific plans on what to do next.

The weather was beautiful with sunshine and autumn colours. We had reached the north end of the reservoir, where we observed a lot of cormorants and herons with their own heron tree.

Then we took a decision that we were going to regret. We took a jeep track up in the mountains that the local told us would lead to Tianeti, the centre in the Tianeti district. The road was were bad steep and not suited for cycling, and in the end it totally disappeared. After 2 hours of dragging the bike we finally reached the top where a dirt road was going down. Soon we reached the first village which seemed to be very poor and with a lot of drunken men.

As 2003 studies of poverty in Georgia suggest that Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region, and Tianeti district in particular, are among the poorest regions and districts of Georgia. In 2003, 63% of the population of Tianeti was below the poverty line, compared to 47% of the Georgian population. 14% of Tianeti families were receiving social assistance in December 2008, compared to 8% countrywide . During the Soviet times, Tianeti was a district (‘rayon’) center. Several food processing enterprises, factories, as well poultry and meat producing farms were functioning in the district, providing employment opportunities for the local population.

From Tianeti with its ruins from the glorious the soviet past (intourist hotel etc.) and a beautiful newly painted statue of good old Stalin we continued direction Tbilisi.

We thought that now we could drive downhill the whole way, but we were soon found out that we were totally mistaken. We had to crass several mountain passes (or hills) on our way. So after a couple of hours cycling we decided to call Dima and ask if he could pick us up. Unfortunately there was no signal for our Mobil phones, so we had to continue over a couple of hills before we could ask him to come and pick us up.

He missed us in the dark, bur some help from friendly locals we succeeded to find each other.

Oct 20, 2009

Tbilisi Reservoir, 18 October

The Sunday bike trip was once again going to the Tbilisi Sea, this time we started along the Kura River biked upstream. An impressive amount of fishermen along and in the river were busy socialising and fishing, and also seemed to catch a lot of small fish. The strong smell of sewage originated from the many small outlets of untreated wastewater along the river did not seem to bother them.

On our way Vlado and I decided to visit the gigantic monument at the northwest end of the lake, visible form nearly all over Tbilisi. It was made in 1982 according some local policemen, but it not popular place to visit for neither tourists nor Georgians. Even though it sis very impressive with its gigantic bronze sculptures. The present regime is probably not so proud of the the soviet past of Georgia.

On the way down from the Reservoir we passed several cemeteries, one especially for military persons, judging from the old tank just after the entrance.