Georgia Road Trip, April 2014

These are pictures taken on the back roads from Tbilisi to Gori and back in April with the spring blossoms just coming out and green buds just beginning to tip the limbs of trees and bushes.  The last picture is a housing development for internally displaced people (IDPs, or refugees) from the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.  The three before that are entering Tbilisi.  The one what looks like a lattice was an award winning Soviet building.  It is now the Bank of Georgia. Continue reading Georgia Road Trip, April 2014

Uplistskhe Cave City, Georgia

Uplistsikhe was a town on the Mtkvari River along the Silk Road.  It thrived in pre-Christian times.  It was carved into sandstone with an amphitheater, worship chambers (with pits for animal sacrifices) and apothecary (with stone niches for different herbs.)  Some of the chambers were carved to look like they were wood plank inside.  Portals were carved into the stone to make entering the caves seem like entering a building. The nobility lived up on the hill, the commoners lived on the river flats.  From the top you get a good view of the abandoned stone houses below.  There is … Continue reading Uplistskhe Cave City, Georgia

Ateni Sioni Monastery and Church

The road from Gori to Ateni Sioni Church goes past the oval shaped Gori fortress.  The church was not opened and I did not get to see the fabled frescoes.  In fact it is under renovation and is surrounded by piles of stones that look like they will be used in replacing walls around the compound.  There is scaffolding around one side of the main church.  With the state of deconstruction the church does not look actvie.  The Atenis Soni Monastery (actually a convent) is about a mile away.  It is small and lovely.  A nun showed us around.  It … Continue reading Ateni Sioni Monastery and Church

Gori, Georgia, Stalin’s Home Town

On Saturday I took a field trip a little to the east.  This is my last contracted trip to Georgia and the IREX project ends in September.  From the start of the summer it will be mostly clean up.  I visited three sites, Gori, the Birthplace of Stalin, Ateni Sioni with its Monastery and convent, and Uplistsikhe, an ancient town carved out of sandstone. Gori was invaded by the Russians in 2008 with a lot of damage to the town.  Unlike Serbia, which seems to like to keep its damage visible for decades to prove how wronged they were, aside … Continue reading Gori, Georgia, Stalin’s Home Town

Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi

I’m back in Sitka now but on my last Saturday in Tbilisi I went to my favorite gallery to look at some gorgeous textile art on UN Circle (Known locally as Round Square) and walked back to the hotel for a couple of miles, mostly along Rustaveli Avenue.  It was a clear, cold day and I took some pictures.  The Cafe Elvis is in the Philharmonic Hall, I like that.   At the end of Rustaveli is Freedom Square with the column with a gold St. George slaying the dragon on top.  The Art Nouveau bank building is around the … Continue reading Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi

Tbilisi Through My Window

IREX is kind enough to put me up at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel on Freedom Square.  The front rooms have a wonderful view.   I get to watch the traffic circling around and around the monument in an automotive ballet of near misses and skillful maneuvers.   The monument had the cable skeleton of a Christmas Tree.  The lights were gone but the ice frosted the cables so they formed a delicate spiderweb around St. George’s column.  I got to watch the workers climb on that latticework to take it down once the ice melted.  I was able to watch … Continue reading Tbilisi Through My Window

Tbilisi Balconies

Tbilisi has had a lot of influences being the crossroads that it is, between Black and Caspian Seas, between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Some people say the balconies come from the Arabs, but they look almost Spanish (which, thinking about it, could come from the Arabs.)   Some of these are wooden balconies from the Old City.  When I originally posted wrought iron balcony pictures on Facebook my colleague Tina took me to task saying Tbilisi was famous for its wooden balconies.  She is right, but I also enjoy the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of the wrought iron … Continue reading Tbilisi Balconies

Frontline, Tbilisi

Every city has its Journalist hangout.  In Tirana it was Fideli’s, a strange cross in décor and ambiance between Beethoven’s opera and Fidel Castro.  There were few working landlines in Tirana at the time, and no mobile phones.  If I wanted to meet a journalist I always went to Fideli’s and usually would find him or her.  My office, effectively, was there.  That bar is long gone, cleaned up when Mayor Edi Rama reclaimed Tirana’s parks.  In Prishtina it was Tricky Dick’s, named after Holbrooke not Nixon, although there is a famous autographed picture of Dick Holbrooke being led into … Continue reading Frontline, Tbilisi

Tbilisi from my window and other views, Sept. 2013

Working in Georgia is like being on a vacation; I stay in a luxury hotel, with a spa equipped with a pool, hot tub and sauna.  It has nice food and my room has a wonderful view over Freedom Square, up the hill to the Citadel and across to the Presidential Palace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.  St. George is constantly in the act of slaying a dragon on a pedestal just above eye level right outside my window. On weekends I get to go to see interesting places; walled cities, monasteries, mountain scenery; and on weekday evenings I walk through … Continue reading Tbilisi from my window and other views, Sept. 2013

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Sighnaghi, with only 2,100 people, is a mountain top architectural gem.  Its name comes from the word siginak, Turkish for “shelter.”  It was built in the 18th century as a fortified town on the frontiers of Moslem Azerbaijan and Dagestan.  It main industries are wine making, carpet making and, now, tourism.  The town is circled by about 4.5 kilometers of wall with 23 defensive towers.  The wall winds around the mountain side.  I walked along the top for about a half a kilometer between several of the towers with great views of vineyards running down the mountain. Continue reading Sighnaghi, Georgia

Bodbe Monastery (St. Nino’s Convent), Georgia

Bodbe, about two km from Sighnaghi, has a 5th century convent that shelters the remains of St. Nino, who converted the King and Queen to Christianity in the 4th Century.  The convent was rebuilt between the 9th and 11th centuries.  George tells me that all that remains from the 5th century is the foundation.  It, and St. Nino’s spring, a constant source of holy water a few hundred meters away are pilgrimage points.  The chapel’s frescoes are from the 1820s.  The Soviets plastered them over and used the building as a hospital.  Some of the frescoes have been restored.  The … Continue reading Bodbe Monastery (St. Nino’s Convent), Georgia

Alaverdi Monastery and Cathedral, Georgia

At Alaverdi, on the other side of the pass we visited a monastery that has a cathedral within its walls.  Until the new Tbilisi Cathedral it was the tallest Georgian church.  It, like the Tbilisi church, has a soaring feeling of light even though the walls are decorated with frescoes.  These frescoes were covered with whitewash or plaster by Moslem invaders, restored, and covered again by the Communists.  A monk Joseph (Yoseb) Alaverdeli founded the cathedral.  But Alaverdi has another meaning in Arabic “God Provides.”  God provides good grape and Alaverdi Monastery is at the center of Georgia’s wine industry. … Continue reading Alaverdi Monastery and Cathedral, Georgia

Gombori Pass, Georgia.

On Sunday I took another road trip.  I was the passenger in a Japanese, steering wheel on the right, Mitsubishi 4X4.  So I was the one facing traffic.  The pass other vehicles the driver pulled out into the oncoming lane so he could see if there was any oncoming traffic, and if needed quickly duck back in to avoid the head on.  I, of course, being in the “driver’s seat” saw it all coming — head on.  On broad curves to the right the driver pulled to the right to look around the truck in front.  If he didn’t see … Continue reading Gombori Pass, Georgia.