A Travellerspoint blog

Abastumani - Vardzia - Kutaisi

Cave Towns, crazy drivers and amazing fortifications

sunny 26 °C
View In Search of the Golden Fleece - Armenia and Georgia 2012 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At 03:30 David woke me up to show me a perfectly clear sky full of more stars than I've ever seen. Typical.

Abastumani Village

First stop of today: Abastumani village to take some photos. The village is charming (read: rickety) and rustic (read: run down), and very photogenic.

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Vardzia

The 12th century cave monastery excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain is one of the highlights of the trip so far (along with the observatory last night). It is very different from the cave town we visited yesterday, and incredibly impressive. What we see today is a mere shadow of what it was like in its heyday – when everything was covered and invisible to would-be invaders. In its time, there were 13 storeys and over 3000 caves, but an earthquake in the 13th century destroyed nearly all the outer walls, exposing the carefully hidden caves. Over 800 monks lived here back then, now only six remain.

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I am everything a visitor to this place should not be – fat, unfit, claustrophobic and with a bad knee. Salome took us through narrow tunnels with steep, narrow, sloping steps, with low ceilings. Oh, and did I mention it was dark? To say I was scared is an understatement – but I am so glad I did it! It really was awesome!

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Fortifications

This whole area and valley in particular is dotted with fortifications, some of which have been beautifully restored, other are completely run-down and very little known about them.

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Suspension Bridges

Not many vehicular bridges cross the river, but there are plenty of gorgeous suspension foot bridges such as this one.

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Once we turned off the road towards Kutaisi, we joined the main highway to Turkey, and it was full of trucks and other vehicles. We saw some really crazy driving and several near-misses; and were very grateful we have such a careful and considerate driver in Temo.

Ceramic Market

Last stop of the day was in the ceramic market at Shrosha – this area is known for its excellent clay and every few hundred yards a market along the side of the road sells pots, jugs and souvenirs made from clay.

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Argo Palace

Tonight's hotel is a small guest house with wonderful views across the town – shame about the other extremely noisy guests. I hope they don't continue their drunken singing and clapping all night.

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Posted by Grete Howard 11:07 Archived in Georgia

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