Glorious Georgia 8 – 19 July, 2012
As the second country to embrace Christianity, Georgia has many treasures to offer those with an interest in history.
Foremost amongst them is the cave town of Uplistsikhe or “the Lord’s fortress,” one of the oldest urban sites in the Caucasus. Carved in soft stone, it lies about 15 kilometres from Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Archaeologists have found traces of a settlement dating from 3000 years ago.
Cave complex at Uplistsikhe
Most of the caves were cut during the period of classical antiquity with the city flourishing as a major religious, political and commercial centre of the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Karti (Iberia) during Hellenistic (third to first century BC) and Roman times (first to third century AD).
Uplistsikhe had a defensive wall, ditch, tunnels, streets, water pipes and drainage channels. At the summit of the complex is the Church which was built in the second half of the tenth century. This is a three-church basilica typical of Georgian Christian architecture.
The church at Uplistskikhe
Some structures were reshaped or carved out in the Middle Ages when the city was part of an important silk route connecting Byzantium to India and China. With streets, churches, storerooms, temples and residential dwellings, it was a complete city.
The Mongol raids in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries marked the ultimate eclipse of the town, after which it was virtually abandoned.
A second must-see is the sixth century David Gareja cave complex located in the stark, semi-desert landscape straddling the border with Azerbaijan. The wonderful painted caves retain their vivid colours, despite the harsh conditions.
Cave paintings at David Gareja
The complex has also had to survive use as a military training area, with heavy shelling of the cliff-face for target practice.
Georgia has beauty as well as culture. The last few days were spent walking in Ossetia, through mountainous terrain smothered with colourful flowers.
Spectacular backdrop to walks in Ossetia
Picking a route through the flowers