Because we visited the David Gareja Monastery.
Little did we realize that the monastery complex, located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia also shares border with Azerbaijan and has been subject to political and religious dispute (Yeah, tell me something new). Situated on a mountainous slope in Georgia, we could see one of the border cities in the distant horizon with a no-man’s land in between and security bunkers on either side. The drive to David Gareja was long and rickety but totally worth it. The monastery is a structure carved entirely from a rock and set amidst acres and acres of a landscape that is eerily gorgeous. Eerie because, but for the 5 of us, there was not a single person in sight over the 4 hours that we were there and inside the monastery, we just came across just one monk. Who promptly told me that ladies weren’t allowed inside a particular area (which as you guessed, was precisely where we were).
Which then brings me to the 5 of us. While we were at our Tbilisian base, we got talking to an American-Mexican couple and the four of us decided to hire a cab for a day to Kakheti and back. Our driver-cum-guide Giorgio (who spoke nothing but Georgian) was a handsome middle-aged fella who walked all over with us, dined with us, drove us around and didn’t speak a word. In the last leg of the tour, he went to answer nature’s call and came back with a bunch of beautiful wild flowers – just for me – attempting to explain that they were rarely found. It was my turn to be speechless.
The region of Kakheti is best known for its wines. They even claim that Georgia is now the birthplace for wines (uh oh, I can sense les francaises shaking their heads in dismay). Qveri, or a huge clay jar is where grapes are originally stored underground and aged before they produce delicious organic wine.
That said, we spent a day in Kakheti without a drop of wine.
After our morning at David Gareja, we moved into the interior of Kakheti on our way to Signaghi. We pit-stopped at Bodbe Monastery (Georgians are a religious lot, I tell ya). This is a 4th century monastery and apart from a serene setting is the burial place of the famed St. Nino, revered by most Georgians, who brought Christianity to the region.
If there was one regret, it would be to not have spent a night at Sighnaghi. A picture postcard medieval-looking town with cobblestone streets, Italian-styled architecture and huge walls surrounding it that creates an absolutely charming, ‘dont-want-to-leave’ atmosphere. We had a long-winding lunch post which we walked through the town. I had almost narrowed down a nice little shelter to stay for the night but the overpowering love for Tbilisi sent us back.
Sighnaghi. They call it love-city for a reason.