After 3 wonderful days in Tbilisi and one around the Kakheti region, we decided to spend a couple of nights amidst the mountains of Gergeti. After a lot of thought, we hired a car (ditching the cheaper but slower marshrutka) so that we could stop en route and check out a couple of local sights.
The day turned out to be wet & rainy but, coming from the desert, didn’t cause us any grief!
Stop 1 was Jvari Monastery atop a rocky mountain. This world heritage site has a lot of historical significance but what makes the visit even better is the beautiful view of the town below that goes by the name of Mtskheta.
Which then brought us down to Stop 2, Mtskheta, the erstwhile capital of Georgia. A pretty town completely deserted by the rains which (in my opinion) only accentuated its beauty. With nothing else open, said hello to yet another church, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and wore a skirt to enter (the demands of religions!), listened to a mellifluous chorus of nuns in soprano (me thinks) and rushed back to the car before getting drenched in a downpour.
Stop 3 was another historical ruin, the name of which I have no memory of. However, this was a Bollywoodish-movie setting where I posed and took ample photos before another shower sent us scurrying into the car.
Stop 4 was Gori, the city best (and only) known for being the birthplace of Stalin. We spent a princely sum to enter the Joseph Stalin museum and a stocky long-faced lady showed us around with a wooden cane and gave us a 40 minute lesson on the life history of the communist leader before showing us his fancy little travel tram after which she signed off with a once-in-a-lifetime-smile.
Stop 5 was mandatory. The stomach was growling and though our driver friend recommended a restaurant another hour away, we decided to stop at the next available place. Which turned out to be a small non-descript inn in the middle of nowhere. A group of drunken elderly men were busy with their cha cha and on our arrival, turned their attention to the 2 very distinct looking indians and started singing Raj Kapoor songs (you may recall that he was popular among some of the locals of the erstwhile soviet era). While the food was something I’d avoid mentioning, the company was nothing short of boring. The men not only gave us some country eggs to eat (a post-Easter tradition) but raised a toast to the dead-souls (another tradition) and yet another toast for our well-being!
The last part of our drive was spectacular with the changing scenery and we cha cha-ed our way through to our final destination, Gergeti. More on that soon…