Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Georgia: From Akhaltsikhe to Batumi

A long but interesting and scenic drive today, from Akhaltsikhe in the interior of southern Georgia, over the mountains to Batumi, Georgia's main port on the coast of the Black Sea.

Many cattle grazed in the mountains.

The weather got very foggy as we ascended.

Once over the mountains, we visited the ancient ruins of Gonio-Apsaros,
connected to the legends of Jason and Medea.

Having reached our hotel in Bakumi, we wandered over to the walkway along the Black Sea port. 
The beach is very stony along this section of the coast.

This sculpture, the "Alphabet Tower", celebrates the Georgian alphabet.

Statues of the lovers Ali and Nino

Monday, May 30, 2016

History Along the Mtkvari River

With Akhaltsikhe as our base in southern Georgia, we visited three major, and very impressive, ancient sites in the hills above the Mtkvari River.

Khertvisi Fortress

The meadows were full of vivid spring wildflowers.

The star attraction was Vardzia, a magnificent cave town. 
At its peak, it held about 3000 occupied caves, stretched along miles of the river.

The interior spaces are imposing — very much a match for the 
Ancient Pueblo ruins in the American southwest.

View from the caves down to the river

The last of our sites for today was Akhaltsikhe Castle. This is a rather strange complex, recently renovated and modernized, that contains four historic buildings along with some modern ones. 
This is the castle.

A golden-domed mosque

A Christian church

A fort, whose first floor is now used for administrative offices, flying the Georgian flag

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stalin, Cave Dwellers, and Prometheus

Today we drove south from Tbilisi into the Kartli region of Georgia.

Our first stop was Gori, the city in which Stalin was born and which now houses his museum. 
Here a guide talks about his life.

We next drove to Uplistsikhe, a first millenium BC cave town.  
There were lots of kids running around.

After lunch we proceeded to Borjomi, a lively and attractive park famous for its mineral water. 
This photo is of a statue of a long, slender Prometheus flanked by a long, slender waterfall.

We're spending tonight and tomorrow night in the town of Akhaltsikhe. Much to our pleasant surprise, our hotel — like all the others we've stayed in so far — has excellent wi-fi, which has enabled me to post daily updates to this blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Scenes in Tbilisi

Today we toured various spots in Tbilisi, the capitol of Georgia. Here are a few of the things we saw in this attractive city.

The prelate (seated) of one of the many Orthodox churches in Tbilisi, 
conversing with a parishioner before a service

Saturday service at a synagogue

Mourners waiting outside a church at a funeral

Wine merchant in his bottle shop and wine bar

Bridge over the Kura River that runs through Tbilisi

An entrance to the bridge

Statue of the Mother of Georgia, on a hillside overlooking the city

Shadows and reflections at an exhibit of golden objects from the Colchis civilization, 
at the National Museum

Statue of a poet in an attractive park setting

Caricaturist at an art fair

Friday, May 27, 2016

Winery, Monastery, and Coffee

We began the day by a visit to the Nodaris Winery near Telavi.

The proprietor pouring tastings of his Georgian-style wine

We then had a long drive to the 8th C Davit Gareja monastery, 
preceded by a picnic lunch on a vast, empty sheep field.

The monastery overlooks striking hills rich in iron ore.

The Davit Gareja monastery is a dramatic structure carved into the rock..

A wall of the interior courtyard has some simple but striking brickwork.

An entrepreneur outside the monastery prepared coffee drinks from the trunk of his VW.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

From Azerbaijan into Georgia

More precisely, from Sheki in Azerbaijan to Telavi in Georgia. A long day on the bus, but we visited some interesting and photogenic sites.

Bee keeper with a few of his hundreds of hives, along the road on the way to the border

Old woman cleaning up the wax dripped by votive candles in Gremi church in Georgia

Our local guide, Nino, in the Gremi church

The Aliverdi Monastery, framed by roses

A section of the Great Caucasus range, viewed from our hotel window

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sheki, Azerbaijan

Today we visited sites in and around the very pleasant northeastern Azerbaijan city of Sheki. There were quite a few sites, thus quite a few pictures.

 Two vendors in the Sheki market - a very colorful place

Albanian Church in Kish, dating from the 1st Century AD

Part of the beautifully ornate facade of the Khan Palace in Sheki

Piece from a stained glass workshop near the Palace

Display in a museum near the Palace

Colonnade in the Caravanseray

Detail in a madrassa mosque near our hotel in Sheki

Boy in the madrassa mosque

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Baku to Sheki

Today our bus took us from Baku to Sheki, a city in northwestern Azerbaijan. The long drive was broken up by some interesting stops along the way.

Mud volcanos a few miles outside Baku. They are small (about 10 feet high) and the "lava" 
(a fine clay) is cold, probably bubbled to the surface by natural gas.

Mihrab of a large and impressive mosque in Shemakha

Pickles for sale at a roadside stand in the countryside

Proprietor of an amazing collection of metal objects: 
pots and pans, wheels, samovars, trumpets, etc., all covered in gray dust

Refugee woman baking bread for sale along the road. 
Just out of the tandoor oven, it was delicious.