Kutaisi


Monday, 09 September 2019

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Before leaving Batumi we visited it’s last remaining mosque (Orta Jame Mosque) with it’s pretty pastel woodcarvings and then a small fish market.  Batumi has retained some good old pre-Soviet buildings which are being done-up.  Our hotel was the old Hotel London built in 1889.

We then drove on to Georgia’s second largest city of Kutaisi.  They drive on the right in Georgia but our vehicle is right hand drive, as are about a third of all vehicles on the road, judging by a random sampling, but it all seems to work (so far).

Georgia does seem a strange place and definitely stamped by it’s long Soviet domination.  Like the other ex-Soviet countries we have visited (Lao, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Czech and Slovak Reps, former E Germany), they all have a certain peculiarity to them, not only in their infrastructure and architecture but even in the look of the people themselves.  Common to a lot of ex-Soviet countries are lots of overhead utilities, not only phone and electricity, but gas and central heating which make for a very ugly streetscape.  There also seem to be a great number of new buildings that have made it to the concrete frame stage but not much further.

In Kutaisi we visited the State Historical Museum, the colourful main market (Green Bazaar) and the Bagrati cathedral.  The Cathedral was built in the early 11th century, destroyed in 1692 by Ottoman troops and has since been restored.  It was once a UNESCO World Heritage site but de-listed in 2017 after some inappropriate restoration work.  We have to say we agreed with UNESCO, it was totally inappropriate.

Afternoon explorations were cut short by a tempestuous wind which persisted into the night.  It was strong enough to knock you off balance.

 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Whereas Turkey has cats, Georgia has dogs, lots of them.  From our brief experience, they don’t seem to mind tourists but are quite happy to gang up on and have a go at locals.  As you pass them they all wake up, tag along and follow you for blocks only breaking away occasionally to molest a passing local.  Instead of impounding them, it seems the authorities vaccinate and sterilise them then put them back out on the streets with an ear tag showing that they have been “done”.

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Today we visited the 12th century Gelati monastery where Georgia’s most famous King David “the builder” is buried.  This monument is also, and still is, a UNESCO site and they are proceeding most carefully with the restoration work.  It is one of the largest medieval Orthodox monasteries.  The inside of the church is just about covered with frescos.  It is still an active monastery and the monks were hard at work chanting away.  Unfortunately, no ice creams were available today.

Second stop was the nearby Motsameta monastery built in the 11th century and perched on steep slopes above the Tskhaltsitela river.  It is much smaller than Gelati but similarly ornate and still active.  Again, chanting priests were in attendance.

Continuing the ecclesiastical flavour of today’s tour we visited another church in the town, the Khareba (Annunciation) Church (not sure why it was on the agenda as it did not seem distinguished in any way).  It was built in 1823 and started out as an Orthodox church.  It became Catholic in 1856, but returned to being Orthodox in 1989 (not sure how that all works out).  There was a marriage ceremony going on when we visited which involved only the priest, bride and groom (very private – apparently no witnesses are required).  There was a lot of chanting, touching/kissing of crucifixes and sprinkling of holy water involved.

We attempted to visit the town’s one remaining synagogue but the “man with the key” was absent so we passed on that one.  In our experience synagogues either don’t make it easy to visit or want to charge admission so we visit very few.

We tried our first proper Georgian food at dinner tonight.  Portions are large and a good deal of oil seems to be used in the cooking.  Cheryl had a pork and potato hot pot type dish and Clive opted for a plainer barbequed pork skewer accompanied by a shared grilled veg.  It was OK and inexpensive.

On the other hand, Georgian wine is diabolical.  Clive reckons he has given it a fair chance so far and hasn’t had a palatable one yet; each one has been mouth-puckeringly sour.  Not only that but, despite trying different ones, they have all tasted pretty much the same - bad. 

   

© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20