Mountainous scenery and Georgian Military Road stayed behind; we reached Shida Kartli region. It was different from the others especially due to its flat fields and fruit orchards. At least, that was what we had read because at the beginning it all seemed to be abandoned Wild West.
We will remember Shida Kartli and its ascetic scenery, but what also will stay in our minds is the border with South Ossetia. Map that we used showed Georgian area, whereas we found out that the border was moved again and belonged to Ossetia. We got to know that when we reached entanglements and the soldiers turned us back; there was no other way, we couldn’t go through. We had read about South Ossetia and its complicated history, but it is completely different to read at home, and to be there seeing people for whom the line on the map means freedom or its loss. At night that we spent with Georgian family living close to the border, we listened to their stories about their friends and family that over one night lost the opportunity to get back to Georgia, although their homeland is several dozens of metres away. We learned again that conflict genesis is often political division that affects mostly those who miss freedom and life without fear of losing own identity.
On the way from Tblisi to Gori, after the war finished in 2008, along the road there were built the big estates of identical little houses. Rows of red roofs became the place of living for thousands refugees. That picture intrigued us at the beginning, because we didn’t know about such places in Georgia, but the truth is that these houses tell the story about life without identity, with no choice and strength for changes. As how can you feel comfortable when somebody else is living in your house and you cannot get back to it.
Leaving Ossetia behind, we cycled to Gori, this time passing fertile grounds along the Kura River. Getting to Kaspi we were hosted by local Georgian family, who used to live two years in Poland. I guess we don’t have to write that it is a perfect chance to meet closer the people and see their habits… ‘Supra’ for instance – a kind of supper, meeting with friends and family, eating and drinking (typical long toasts, speeches of the host) till the late evening.
On the way from Kaspi to Gori we visited Uplistsikhe, rock-hewn city situated on the left river bank (the Kura River), dated around 5/4th century BC. It is one of the oldest and the most important civilization and religious centre in east Georgia. Archeologists exposed remaining half of it in the 50’s; It consists of caves, baths and pre-Christian temples, all linked with stairways, passages and secret tunnel that allowed inhabitants the escape during an invasion. Carved rooms in the rocks lead the imagination into primeval times when inhabitants of Uplistsikhe (which literally means ‘fortress of the ruler’) worshiped pagan gods, also solar gods.
After visiting cave city we arrived in Gori, the city that being on the front line suffered badly during Russian-Georgian War in 2008. This place anyway is associated mostly with some figure, right there Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born. We wondered how today the people from Gori reacts on infamous reputation of one of the greatest dictators in the world. However, there are very well working National Museum of Stalin, streets, squares or train station called with his name, which shows that some are still proud and react with sentiment to the most famous (infamous) Georgian. We didn’t go inside the Museum especially that it doesn’t pay attention to crimes he committed, for us it was enough to be next to it. From the distance ‘splendid’ shape of Museum building catches the eye together with a little house, covered with monumental roof; Stalin was born in this small house. Next to the the Museum you can find a green, armored wagon that Stalin used for travelling, as he was afraid of flying.
Gori, situated in the centre of Shida Kartli lies on the most important trade route, it is known for its rich vegetables and fruit ‘harvest’, what we could taste and feel at the huge open-space markets where you can buy almost everything! Of course fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and coriander – the seasoning queen for Georgian dishes.
Over the city the ruins of Goriscyche fortress dominate the landcsape. An interesting sculpture is the bottom of the hill; to memorise the victims of 2008 year war, it shows knights without some body parts.
Our time in Georgia was coming to an end, but there were more and more places we wanted to visit, so we took a train back to Kutaisi and cycled to Sataplia Nature Reserve and Prometeus cave AND our last night in the forest. The cave was found in 1984 but it was opened for tourists in 2012, not long ago actually. It hides in its corridors fascinating rock forms that have been created for thousands of years. The walk took maybe an hour, which was 1,4 km of nicely exposed and enlightened dripstones and ended with a short boat trip inside the cave. We have to admit that it really impressed us and also the place itself is very well organised.
We had quite a different impression after visiting Sataplia Nature Reserve, famous for dinosaur tracks and specific for that area kind of forest. We felt like being at Primary School trip and we were not fascinated by plastic dinosaurs, bored guide and big tourist groups. Amused by that visit we decided to find a nice place nearby to spend our last night in the tent, drink cold beer, eat big dinner with coriander and feel quiet surrounding.
The following day, on our way back we saw some big, abandoned buildings. It turned out later, that it was working not long time ago sanatorium in Tskaltubo.
To say goodbye, during our last two days we were sightseeing in Kutaisi, but we didn’t really focused on exploring the city but on enjoying: Khachapuri tasting, drinking beer in the park, looking for some souvenirs and taking care of Pawel’s image at the barber’s 🙂
Lead by the adventure and good weather (that is always with us), we visited more and less famous places. We had a chance to experience winding, stony and climbing up roads, equally demanding downhills; we had a chance to face Georgian hospitality (!) and to fill our memory with beautiful, mountainous and not not only, landscapes. There are so many stories we could tell. A month in such a small but so diverse country is not enough to see it whole; we saw only part of it and we hope that one day we will come back.
Gandzia and Piorun