Four Cathedrals and a large lunch
25.09.2012 - 25.09.2012 30 °C
Checking in on line for our flight back home tomorrow.
The 11th century cathedral, now in ruins, is regarded as a masterpiece in the history of medieval Georgian architecture. In 1692, it was devastated in an explosion by the Ottoman troops, who had invaded the then Kingdom of Imereti. The incident caused the cupola and ceiling to collapse. Little is known about how the cathedral originally looked. Recent renovations and the plan to install a modern lift in the church has displeased a great number of people, including UNESCO, who are threatening to remove Bagrati from its Heritage list. I have to say the ultra-modern steel and glass within the ancient relic looked hideously out of place.
As we exited the church, a small, friendly commotion was going on between the priest an a young usher, with a lot of pushing and giggling, as the usher was so obviously keen to do the bell ringing. The priest graciously let the young helper win, and the happy peel of church bells, ever increasing in speed, rang out over the landscape.
A quick driving tour of Kutaisi took in some of the important sights:
The New Parliament – the president decided to moved the parliament from Tbilisi to Kutaisi this year (2012), and this building has been the functioning seat of government for a couple of months now, despite suffering unexplained damage.
The Golden Fleece
Kutaisi was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis, and it was here that Jason stole King Aeetes' Golden Fleece when he fell in love with the king’s daughter Medea.
Although a myth, the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece has roots in history: sheep fleeces are still used in remote regions today for collecting gold. The fleece is stretched over a wooden frame and submerged in a stream, where it collects gold flakes floating downstream from deposits further up. The fleeces are then be hung in trees to dry before the gold is shaken or combed out.
The statue symbolising the Golden Fleece.
Spectacularly sited on a cliff-edge, a long cobbled path leads down from the road, crossing the railway line. It was extremely windy here this morning. In order to enter the church, all women must cover their heads and wear a skirt/dress – fortunately they rent out wrap-around skirts.
According to the legend the monastery was constructed on the place where Muslim aggressors executed David and Konstantin Mkheidze, Georgian princes, who refused to accept Islam. A monastery was built on the site in the 11th c by King Bagrat, and the remains of David and Konstantin (who were later canonised) are displayed in the church. The name means Temple of Martyrs. The church is full of beautiful frescoes, repainted using only natural colours made from ground stones mixed with egg yolks.
The remains of David and Konstantin
Gelati Academy Complex
King David the Builder began constructing the monastery and academy in 1106 as a grand tribute to his victory over the Turks. The academy was one of the first institutions of higher education founded in the Middle Ages, and became a principal cultural centre in Georgia, with over 1000 students at one stage. Although the academy ceased to function in the late Middle Ages—after which it was converted into a refectory—the monastery remains in use. The site is renowned for its collection of 12th to 18th century mosaics and wall paintings with the whole story of the bible depicted on its walls.
“I'll just order a small lunch” Salome said. 'A small lunch' in Georgia includes leek with walnuts, home made cheese, marinated tomatoes and pickles, tomatoes with walnut sauce, potato fries, pork BBQ, corn bread and Georgian bread, calf ribs with spicy sauce, mushrooms in clay pot, a local vegetable salad (the vegetable is called agala and is a little like spinach) and plum sauce. All washed down with pear lemonade, grape lemonade and cream lemonade. No wonder I have not been hungry at any time during our trip!
This 9th cent monastery is dedicated to St George, with its walls completely covered with 14th century murals. The whole life of St George is depicted, as well as general scenes from the Bible. It's a really peaceful and beautiful little church, preserved exactly as it was.
On the way back to Tbilisi we stopped to buy some famous 'sweet bread' – a little like a cake or doughnut with a sweet coating. Very nice. The area we passed through is known for this particular bread, and all along the side of the highway, ladies were waving the loafs to passing motorists, hoping they'll stop and buy.
It is almost like coming home, although I don't think I could live with the 84 steps up to our room permanently. It's our last night in Tbilisi and we just had a quiet night in the Old Town with a meal and a couple of beers. It's an early start tomorrow.
Night out in Tbilisi