Thursday 31 August 2017

Travel day to Telavi, Georgia

Today we drove to our next destination, Telavi. We stopped along the way to see a few sights.

First up was a short tour of the Khareba winery tunnels. The winery has approximately 8 km of tunnels that they use to store and age the wine they produce. The tour only takes you in a small section of tunnel, but it's interesting and a welcome escape from the heat.

Tunnel entrance

Winery "museum" in the tunnel

Gardens at the tunnel entrance

Our next stop was the Nekresi Monastery. We sweated our way up the 1.5 km steep road to the monastery in the heat. A couple stray dogs adopted us for the hike up and back.

The road up to the Nekresi Monastery

Nekresi Monastery

View of the tower

On the way back down

Final stop was the Gremi Fortress, dating from the 16th-century.

Gremi fortress from below

The Church of the Archangels

Inside the church

View from the fortress tower

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Sighnaghi, Georgia

We spent two nights in Sighnaghi, a small hill top town overlooking one of the major wine regions in Georgia. We explored the cobblestone streets, old fortress walls, and the nearby Bodbe Monastery.

View of Sighnaghi perched on a hill

The road to our apartment was rough and narrow

Our apartment


Gate in city wall

Walking a portion of the city wall

Street with traditional style Georgian architecture

Fountain in main square

Church tower at Bodbe Monastery (actually now used as a convent)

Bodbe Monastery

Gardens at Bodbe Monastery

Cemetery at Bodbe Monastery

Bodbe Monastery

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Davit Gareja monastery complex, Georgia

After breakfast we left the Oasis Club and drove to the nearby David Gareja monastery complex. The complex is an area on the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan that consists of about 15 different monastery sites. The monasteries were originally built between the 6th and 10th centuries. Lavra is the only one presently inhabited. On the ridge above Lavra are the caves of the abandoned Udabno monastery. We visited both of Lavra and Udabno today. No tickets, no lines, no tour guides, just explore what you want to see.

Breakfast at the Oasis Club

Looking back at the town

View from the parking lot at the David Gareja monastery complex

Rock slope used to collect rain water

Groove cut into rock to collect water

Inscriptions on top of main entry gate

View of Lavra Monastery from outside the gate

Buildings inside the monastery compound

Cave rooms inside the monastery

View of part of the monastery compound

View of the Lavra Monastery as we hike up to the Udabno caves

Udabno caves just below the ridge

Azerbaijan desert

Cave rooms of Udabno monastery

Walking back down

Monday 28 August 2017

Udabno, Georgia

We picked up our rental car this morning. When we first began planning this trip, I was a little worried about how driving in Georgia would work out. We talked to a lady from the USA who had been living and driving in Georgia for a year. She said that you should drive as if there are no rules other than not colliding with someone else. It's similar to walking on a sidewalk, it mostly sorts itself out (although we have seen some crazy stuff already)!

We are planning to go to a cave monastery tomorrow, so decided to stay overnight in nearby Udabno. This was new settlement built by the government in the mid-80s. Most of the houses were constructed of huge pre-cast concrete panels and many are now sitting empty or used as barns. The Soviets loved their concrete; concrete houses, concrete panel fences, concrete apartment buildings.

We stayed at the Oasis Club, a restaurant/hostel/cabins place operated by a Polish couple, complete with free range dogs, cats, pigs, cows, horses, donkeys, etc. The free range part applies to the entire town. I don't know how anyone figures out which animals belong to whom. Except for the cows - they wandered in from the fields and seemed to know which yard was theirs.

On the road to Udabno

Our rental car


A typical street in Udabno

A couple pigs sheltered under an old tractor

Oasis Club

The "cottages" where we stayed

Sitting on our patio 'til the cows come home

Outside of town