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Pictures of our trip through Georgia – Part 1
- From June 4th until 13th, 2013 - Turkey Border Ajaria - Gori - Tbilisi - Kakheti - Azerbaijan Border
Turkey May 28 to June 4, 2013: Iran Border - Esendere - Hakkari - Van - Doğubayazıt - Kars - Ardahan - Hopa - Georgia Border
afterwards in the Caucasus:
Azerbaijan June 13 to 24, 2013: Georgia Border - Balakən - Şəki - Lahıç - Baku - Xınalıq - Quba - Laza - Baku - Gəncə - Georgia Border
Georgia Part 2a June 24 to July 2, 2013: Azerbaijan Border - Tbilisi - Armenia Border
Armenia Part 1 July 2 to 9, 2013: Georgia Border - Akhtala - Haghpat - Dilijan - Lake Sevan - Selim - Arates - Nagorno Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh July 9 to 17, 2013: Armenia - Stepanakert - Gandzasar - Martakert - Tigranakert - Tnjri - Shoushi - Armenia
Armenia Part 2 17 to 22, 2013: Nagorno Karabakh - Goris - Tatev - Noravank - Khor Virap - Echmiadzin - Geghard - Gyumri - Georgia
Georgia Part 2b July 22 to 31, 2013: Armenia Border - Ninotsminda - Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Kazbegi - Kutaisi - Zugdidi
Georgia Part 3a – July 31 to August 5, 2013 - Zugdidi - Swaneti - Zugdidi - Abkhazia Border
Abkhazia August 5 to 13, 2013: Georgia - Sukhumi - Tsebelda - Novyy Aton - Lake Ritsa - Gagra - Pitsunda - Georgia
Georgia Part 3b – August 13 to 15, 2013 - Abkhazia Border - Poti - Ferry to Ilyichevsk/Ukraine
Georgia Map
       Mid-East Map           Caucasus Map
latest picture: June 13, 2013
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001  June 4th, 2013: From the border town
of Sarpi south of Batumi we look back to
Turkey where at the Black Sea a lonely
mosque “keeps watch”. Georgia practices
predominantly the Georgian Orthodox Church
002  The former building of the National
Bank of Georgia at the Europe Square in
the center of Batumi has now an
astronomical clock on its tower –
like in Prague and Venice
003  Futuristic buildings line the Seaside
Boulevard in Batumi, Georgia`s main
summer holiday town: Left to right: Hotel
Radisson-Blu; Batumi Tower Business
Center; Grand-Hotel Kempinski
We are completely euphoric – we are breaking new ground: Georgia, our 173rd country. In the clear morning of June 4th, 2013, arriving from Turkey, we reach the borderpost of Sarpi near Batumi. The first surprise: There is no queue. The second: Customs, the first check point, waves us through to the immigration. The third: Merely due to our full passports we get stuck for a couple of minutes because the two ladies in the booth try to find a free space for their entry stamp. (The new passports are ready for us at our consulate in the capital Tbilisi). The forth: We do not have to buy an insurance for €25, mentioned by a friend. The fifth: The first travelers we meet are Swiss – three motorbikers on a four weeks tour through Georgia.
004  The pebble beach of Batumi is
stretching 5 miles along the coast –
from the port to the airport
005  The Miracle Park of Batumi. Batumi
with a population of about 200’000 is the
capital of the province of Ajaria
006  On the way from Batumi to the
Goderdzi Pass is the confluence of the
Chorokhi and Adzhari Rivers. The former
originates in Turkey (Çoruh River – picture
#80), i.e. from the huge dam near Artvin
Batumi has about 200‘000 people and is the capital of the autonomous province of Adjaria. We like it straightaway. It is a pleasant city with futuristic new buildings, a four mile long seaside promenade with cafes, gardens, parks and monuments. But also with an attractive center like most of the East European cities we know. On the western side the Black Sea is sparkling, on the eastern side lush green hills are greeting. Today, however, they are hidden in dense mist. Batumi is Georgia’s main summer holiday resort with hotels springing up like mushrooms.
007  The Zvare Church northeast of the
village of Keda on the Batumi-Akhaltsikhe
“Highway” is active since 2003 and famous
for wedding ceremonies
008  "Yes, we are free from giddiness! (or
yet not that much)". The thin bridge arch of
the historic Dandalo Bridge on the Batumi-
Akhaltsikhe “Highway“ is 28 ft. above
water level. It is built of natural rock stones
009  The church of Khulo (Annunciation
Church?) is situated about 50 miles east
of Batumi along the bad main road to
Akhaltsikhe (Batumi-Khulo paved, after-
wards for 30 miles “nearly 4x4” condition)
At the first supermarket we browse around the well stocked shelves and compare prices. It is a positive surprise: Our shopping cart soon fills with cheese, dark bread, cooked ham and a 3 litre bottle of red wine, all for around US$6. With all these goodies we head to the nearby pebble beach and toast with one/two glasses of wine to our new country. The ham and cheese together with hashbrowns and salad becomes our first lunch in our new country Georgia, and the huge truck stop near the border our first night spot. There are even cheap hot showers.
010  Often there are special views across
the Adzhari River. The Batumi-Akhaltsikhe
“Highway” often follows the riverbed, here
on the northern side between Zvare and
011  There are not only stone bridges
but also suspension bridges that lead to
the south side of the Adzhari River. Here
between Khichauri and Shuakhevi
012  The Kaviani Fortress near Khichauri
is easily overlooked among the dense forest.
It is built of natural and cobble stones. The
walls are more than three feet thick
A pack of barking dogs at the big truck stop interrupt our night sleep. After 8am we are ready to hit the road again. We refuel, buy bread and Vienna sausages and turn eastwards towards the Batumi-Akhaltsikhe-„Highway“. Our destination is the Goderdzi Pass that runs along the Turkish border. The road first follows the narrow valley of the Adzhari River and continues along a romantic deeply forested area with old natural stone and suspension bridges. Especially eyecatching are also the cute Svare Church northeast of Keda and the ruins of the Kaviani Fortress near Khichauri built from natural and cobble stones towering from the dense forest.
013  On our climb to the 6’644 ft. high
Goderdzi Pass we enjoy the view of
this wild blooming hydrangea
014  Farmers on the bridge of their pick-
up have no choice than swallowing dust.
The asphalt road towards the Goderdzi Pass
ends in Khulo. Then 4x4 is an advantage
015  Such a shiny Marsh Marigold
(Caltha palustris) "bouquet"
is always a motif for a picture. Here
on the road to the Goderdzi Pass
According to Lonely Planet guidebook, the mountain road is paved. Yes it is, but only as far as Khulo from where 4x4 is essential for us for the next 31 miles [50km]. At one point, a critical passage gets our adrenalin pretty much flowing. It is so precarious that our LandCruiser is on the brink to tip over. It is not the first time that we curse Lonely Planet for nowadays often not being reliable anymore, but today especially it strains every nerve as during 8½ hours continuous driving we merely manage to accomplish 93ms [150km].
016  The partly dilapidated looking
clapboard houses in the hamlet of Goderdzi
are still inhabited – even in winter
017  We made it to the Goderdzi Pass on
an altitude of 6’644 ft. But the 4x4 part gave
us a hard time. Once we were on the brink to
tip over due to a precarious sloping condition
018  Does this house built entirely
of corrugated iron eventually mark a
new construction method in this
mountain region?
The landscape of the western ascent to the 6‘644 ft. [2'025m] high pass has a touch of Switzerland: Alpine pasture with grazing cows, wooden „chalets“ and forests dominate the scenery. Looking closer at some of the wooden houses we have the impression that they could collapse anytime like a house of cards. But people still live there. Wood is chopped, milk cans are rinsed, fence posts tapered and gardens tended. Close-by a granny bent down by age is knitting while herding some cows. Rural life seems still to be like in the old days.
019  A corner shop in the village of
Goderdzi, obviously also a men's
gathering place
020  Is this just a "summer residence"
on the Goderdzi Pass? Looking at it
closer we cannot imagine that this
wooden house is suitable for winter
time on an altitude of over 9’000 ft.
021  Milk cans are rinsed, fence posts
tapered – rural life on Goderdzi Pass
is still like in the old days
When we finally reach the summit at 6'644ft. [2'025m], we relax with two glasses of well deserved wine. Our lunch is simple and fast: Hot Vienna sausages and bread. Then we start our eastern descent. Striking is that the sprawled settlements that dot the western side now stop all at once. The pine forest gets impenetrable and is often interrupted by huge meadows of white daisies. Lila hydrangeas, same-colored primroses and golden marsh marigolds compete in glowing.
022  We are starting the descent to the
east of Goderdzi Pass towards Akhaltsikhe.
Interestingly the scattered villages of the
western side stop abruptly, pine forests
become denser .....
023  ..... and flowers enjoy us more
often like here the lovely primroses
(Primula) on the roadside .....
024  ..... or this beautiful meadow
with flowering white daisies
It is a beautiful lonely drive on a road that is somewhat in a better shape than the one on the western side of the Goderdzi Pass. Darkness is approaching. We cannot yet judge the safety situation for rough camping. An appropriate gasoline station is not in sight. Therefore we decide to press on to the town of Akhaltsikhe where the road splits: Either to Turkey, to Armenia or to the Georgian capital Tbilisi. We are lucky to find a room with a living corner, wifi and breakfast for 50 Lari (= GEL) (US$31). We are both completely exhausted from the long tiring journey. I wash a few things, Emil updates the change of country on his statistics and at 10:30pm we are already deep asleep.
025  We roll lonely through forests
and blooming meadows on the east side
of the Goderdzi Pass, which is in a
somewhat better shape
026  About 12 miles from the
Goderdzi Pass sits the imposing
Zarzma Monastery on a hill
027  The village of Skhvilisi, located
about 3 miles west of Akhaltsikhe on
the road to the Turkish border of Posof
Breakfast is served only at 10am, far too late for us early birds. We prepare our own and decide spontaneously to add a travel-free day. The eye-catch of Akhaltsikhe is the imposing fortress Rabati sitting on a hill on the outskirts of town. What might be hiding behind the high walls and round watch towers? While Emil is on the lookout for the telecom Magti to get a Sim card, I buy an entry ticket for 5 Lari to the fortress.
028  The eye-catch of the town
of Akhaltsikhe, what in Georgian means
"New Castle", is the huge fortress lying
on a hill and dating from the 12th century
029  Behind the high walls of the fortress
with its many watchtowers beautiful
jewels of buildings are hiding
030  The view from the Rabati castle
extends to all directions as far as
to the mountains
From the very moment I step through the castle gate, my enthusiasm never ceases. The fortress dating from the 12th century is not a „normal“ living castle but a collection of magnificent buildings set between beautiful flowering gardens: There is a mosque with a golden dome, a white colonnaded temple, a church, a graceful pavilion and a gushing fountain. To top it all, there is a glorious panoramic view up to the mountains.
031  Inside the castle is a colonnaded
temple, a church and a mosque, a graceful
pavilion with a gushing fountain – everything
is surrounded by beautiful gardens
032  The dark thunderstorm clouds leave
the graceful pavilion in a magic light
033  Apocalyptic mood over the
Akhaltsikhe Castle. The golden
dome belongs to the mosque
A thunderstorm is on the move. The skies darken at a tremendous speed. They spread a kind of apocalyptic mood putting the buildings still caught by sunrays into a magic light. And then the first heavy raindrops fall. I hasten to the exit where Emil is already waiting for me with the LandCruiser. As soon as I jumb inside it's raining like hell. We battle our way to the city center to the Paemani Restaurant specialized in „Khatchapuri“ (a cheese pie) – Georgia’s speciality No. 1. Emil beams when his favorite dish is served. He could easily live on cheese! Until we shall leave Georgia, he probably will put on again his recently kilos he lost in Arabia and Iran due to their alcohol restrictions! But who wants to kill his joy!
034  The cathedral in the city center
of Akhaltsikhe is surrounded with
green patches and benches
035  Home-made tagliatelle in Akhaltsikhe
– not entirely made by hand like Liliana`s
mother still used to do it
036  The bread fresh from the clay
oven tastes lovely and costs
only $ 0.37/piece
It is 10am when next day we drive out of the gate of the Mirage Hotel and head towards the south to the famos Cave City of Vardzia. The road snakes its way scenically along the idly flowing Mtkvari River, through narrow gorges and a green valley framed by deeply forested hills and towering bare rocks. At the Khertvisi Fortress, sitting high up a hill, we branch off to Vardzia; the main road leads towards Armenia. After 17km on a good tarmac road we are at our destination. Seeing all the cars and minibusses crammed together at the car park and the crowd climbing up the steep path to the caves, curbs our thrill of anticipation.
037  The road from Akhaltsikhe to the
cave monastery of Vardzia follows the
scenic course of the upper Mtkvari river.
The landscape is very green, very
beautiful and very diverse
038  25 miles from Akhaltsikhe and
at the junction towards the cave city
of Vardzia stands the Khertvisi Fortress
from the 2nd century BC. The
present walls were built 1354
039  Another beautiful flower carpet
along the Mtkvari Rive lifts our spirit
The current archaeological site of Vardzia was built as a fortress by King Giorgi III in the 12th century. The dwellings carved into the rock were allocated on 13 floors and included 407 rooms, 12 churches and 25 wine cellars! Under the reign of his daughter, Queen Tamar, the cave city developped more and more to a spiritual center. Testimony of that time is still the Church of the Assumption with its fine frescoes dating between 1184 and 1186. And the circular stairs and dark tunnels we take on our way back give us also a brief insight into the history of Vardzia.
040  The current archaeological site of
Vardzia was built as a fortress by King
Giorgi III in the 12th century. Under the
reign of his daughter, Queen Tamar, it
developed more and more to a
spiritual center .....
041  ..... cave dwellings were carved
from the rock, ranging over 13 floors.
There were 409 rooms, 13 churches
and 25 wine cellars .....
042  ..... today only one church is left,
the “Church of the Assumption“ with
lovely frescoes painted between 1184
and 1186. Here we shot a
remembrance picture
Who do we often encounter at remotest places: Swiss! At the working nunnery one mile [2km] west of Vardzia with its church from the 11th century a motorbike with Swiss license plates is parked. It belongs to Otto. He was already in Armenia and confirms what we already know: The roads there are in miserable shape, but he experienced people friendlier and more welcoming than here in Georgia. While the three of us are still in a busy conversatin, the nun who showed us around the church brings us a freshly baked round bread – a kind of flatbread. It is still warm and crusty and we eat it on the spot to the last crumb. To park and sleep in the car however, is not allowed here. But on the nearby cave carpark which in the meantime is empty, we are welcome. A man collects 5 Lari. It becomes one of our very bad nights.
Vardzia is again a working monastery. Some cubicles are again inhabited by monks.
Circular stairs and dark tunnels lead through the “cave city”
A dog is barking incessantly, once right in front of our car, once a bit further away to restart below the car. At 1:30am Emil blows a fuse. He wants to pack up and drive away. Whereto in the middle of the night? No way I will agree! Thus we endure the noise totally browned off hour after hour until daybreak. When the cleaning team arrives, an old man and an equally old woman, we are ready to leave. For breakfast we move to the viewing site of the cave city. When the morning sun is beautifully flooding it, we take it as a well-earned reward for the past sleepless night.
046  Beetles feast on a white daisy
047  A Great Spotted Woodpecker
(Dendrocopos major) makes a break
and scans the environment
048  "Is there some food?" A seagull
appears at our breakfast spot opposite
the Vardzia cave monastery
We are heading the same way back until Akhaltsikhe and then continue towards Gori and Tbilisi. Until the turnoff in Khashuri, where the main road from the Black Sea is met, the landscape is still hilly and pretty. However from there it becomes monotonous. Nothing but gasoline stations along the highway, only now and then a field of flowers. The only attraction we find on our way to Gori is the St. George’s church in Samtsevrisi from the 7th century, but which door unfortunately is closed. Special is its adjacent cemetery. Each tombstone is framed by a decorative metallic fence, and the tombstones bear the pictures of the deceased. Mid-afternoon we reach Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. We urgenly need some sleep and are looking for a guesthouse. The only accomodation we find is the Hotel Georgia, where all the rooms are facing the busy road. Accordingly the night is again little relaxing.
049  The church belonging to a
working nunnery 1½ miles west of
Vardzia has some nice carvings. There
are fruit orchards and a trout farm
050  Near the Vardzia cave monastery,
the Mtkvari river snakes its way through
a narrow canyon .....
051  ..... the good road snakes its way
also through the valley. Roads in Georgia
that lead to tourist attractions are
generally well constructed
Who do we spot in front of the Tourist Information opposite the Stalin Museum? An overlander bus on its way to Beijing. Its group of 18 guests is just visiting the museum and Pete, the nice driver and his local guide have time to chat with us. They are a true source of information about Azerbaijan and Georgia. Being already in front of the Stalin Museum and this being somehow special, we later also wander through the different rooms for 10 Lari (about US$6) per person. The exhibition consists mainly of photos, news paper clips, documents and historic moments. With a very few exceptions, everything is labelled in Russian so that we can take little advantage of it. The supervisor does not protest when we take a picture of Stalin’s first office in the Kremlin and the shot showing him together with Winston Churchil and Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Yalta Conference early February 1945 in the Crimea.
052  View to the monastery/castle complex
of Samtsevrisi and down to the Mtkvari
valley, in the background the village of
Agara – about 20 miles west of Gori
053  The St. George's church in
Samtsevrisi dates from the 7th century
and sits high on a hill west of Gori/south
of Agara with a commanding view .....
054  ..... the adjacent cemetery is special.
Each grave is surrounded by a decorative
metallic fence and the deceased are
honored with photos
Before we leave Gori on a side road to Mtskheta and further to Tbilisi, the capital, we buy two hot clayovenfresh flatbreads. We follow a road through little farming villages where geese cross the road, farmers return from their fields with the spade on their shoulder and old women sell tomatoes, cucombers and potatoes at the roadside. Deeply forested hills and golden forsythia bushes, which spread a beautiful scent, make for a lovely drive.
055  Lined by trees, the Mtkvari River
meanders peacefully through its valley
between Akhaltsikhe and Borjomi
056  A beautiful combination of colors:
A yellow butterfly feeding on a pink thistle
(Onopordum acanthium). There is a
ladybug (Coccinella magnifica) on
the bud at the left side
057  The villagers of Samtsevrisi have
the luxury of having enough green space
around their homes and to live
surrounded by nature
12 miles [20km] northwest of Tbilisi we come across a very special sight: On the other side of the Mtkvari River, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral of Mtskhet, dating from the 11th century, rises majestically above the red roofs of the city. (We do not know yet that later on we will spend three nights just opposite the cathedral). It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site It is said that Christ’s robe is buried underneath the holy complex. On a hilltop nearby sits the Jvari Monastery from the 6th century, built at the same spot where King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross soon after his conversion in the 4th century. With this lovely view in front of us we picnic on a green spot right beside the highway that will lead us later in the day to the capital Tbilisi. We watch with amazement how also a cattleman is just herding his animals along the busy highway.
058  Historic picture in the Stalin Museum
in Gori, built during the Soviet time, with
Winston Churchill (left), Franklin D. Roosevelt
(middle) und Joseph Stalin (right) during the
Yalta Conference in February 1945. Gori is
the birthplace of Stalin (12/18/1878)
059  Statue of Stalin in front of his
museum. The exhibition contains mostly
photos, news paper clips, documents
and historic moments, everything
explained in Russian
060  One exemption of all the historic
documents in the Stalin Museum in Gori
is his first office in the Kremlin. There’s
also a railway carriage outside that
Stalin always used when traveling
Mid-afternoon we are also on our way to Tbilisi. What do we spot on the outskirts of the city? The logo of the French Carrefour Supermarket, which we know and appreciate from many other major cities. What a great surprise. It attracts us magically! Our mouths are watering by the mere thought of cheese, sausage, salami, wine and beer. Well stocked, one hour later we drive past dilapidated ugly buildings from the Soviet era towards the city center which greets us however with broad avenues, beautiful buildings and huge squares where once military parades took place We like it at first sight and are looking forward to our sightseeing tour.
061  On a secondary road from Gori to
Tbilisi on the south side of the Mtkvari
River, the golden yellow forsythia flowers
are in full bloom. Their scent is wonderful
062  On a hilltop near the city of Mtskheta’s
greets the Jvari Monastery from the
6th century. It stands where King Mirian
erected a sacred wooden cross soon
after his conversion in the 4th century
063  Across the Mtkvari River greets
the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral from Mtskheta
dating from the 11th century. It is said that
Christ’s robe is buried underneath. It’s a
UNESCO World Heritage Site and is
located 12 miles northwest of Tbilisi
But first we want to check into the hotel „Why Not“, where this morning we booked by phone a room for two nights. It turns out to be a mistake. Already the wooden outdoor stairs leading to the hotel entry on the 1st floor give a guess what to expect inside. They are in such a dilapidated and dirty state that I turn around on the spot. „Not even wild horses could drag me here“ I tell Emil who as usual is waiting in the car, as accommodations belong to my tasks. Luckily in the same region we find the small Hotel Margaliti where we get a pleasant room with bath for 70 Lari, including Wifi. That the lavabo is leaking and therefore the floor is always wet we only discover later.
064  At Sagarejo, about 31 miles after
Tbilisi on the M5 direction Azerbaijan, is the
junction to the historic monastery site of
"Davit Gareja". We drive for another 28 miles
through a gorgeous untouched landscape .....
065  ..... with green undulated hills
and the salty Kopatidze lake
(left picture #064) .....
066  ..... and only interrupted by
the single village of Udabno
It is raining the next morning. We take breakfast in our room and then drive to our embassy to collect our new passports. Our lady consul, stationed in Tbilisi already since 3½ years, kindly invites us inside to a cup of coffee. What was mostly the case in earlier times became a rarity nowadays, the more we appreciate it. We learn about a tourist who was in Armenia and then traveled to Azerbaijan. Apparently the Aseri confiscated everything which came from Armenia, even postcards. If reciprocally Armenia would do the same arriving with a stamp in the passport from Azerbaijan, she does not know. Thus we have two options: Either we risk to cross into Azerbaijan with our old already full passport or we are willing to take the chances to run into problems at the Armenia border with an Azerbaijan stamp in our new passport. Emil is opting for the first version. Thus we leave our friendly embassy without our new passports.
067  The otherwise lunar semi-desert
landscape that leads to the remote
"Davit Gareja" monastery site turns
lush green early summer .....
068  ..... and conjures up delicate
bell flowers .....
069  ..... and wonderfully colored
natural flower carpets
The following two days it rains incessantly. We therefore postpone our city sightseeing until after our return from Azerbaijan. On the third day, the sun is shining, the skies are blue – it is a perfect day to travel. Fully motivated we roll on the M5 road towards the border of Azerbaijan. After 31 miles [50km], the sign „Davit Gareja“ unexpectedly pops up. It is the name of one of the most interesting historic sites of Georgia containing around 15 scattered monasteries in complete remoteness. We stop and puzzle over whether we should tackle the 28 miles [45km] still today and wether the road is passable at all. At that very instant, we hear „Grüssgott“ (Greetings). A man hops out of a green pickup. He is from Austria and winemaker and lives already 20 years in Georgia. We ask him about the road condition. „It should be OK“ he encourages us. Barely said, our decision is made. We bunker another 13 gallons [50lt.] of gasoline and off we go.
070  The Lavra Monastery of the
"Davit Gareja" site was founded by
Davit Gareja, a Syrian Father who returned
in the 6th century to spread Christianity. A
few caves are still inhabited by monks .....
071  ..... one of the monks is returning
from the monastery garden. Living in a
very remote area, they are self-contained
072  The color of the “Davit Gareja” site
coalesces with nature and spreads harmony
and peace. Once there were 15 monasteries
spread-out in this remoteness
We are not prepared for the beauty that nature is pampering us mile by mile. As far as our eyes can see we are surrounded by lush green hills and a completely untouched landscape. We cross two serene lakes and wonderful flowering fields, which make my heart jump. Not a single house far and wide, only endless vastness and pure nature. Looking at this dreamscape we even accept that the paved road is getting worse with badly potholes and soon deteriorates gradually into an almost 4x4 track. Reaching the „Davit Gareja“ parking however, we are not alone. A noisy group of students are just getting off their cars.
073  From the stony track that leads
to the 2’880 ft. high hill ‘Udabno’, the
Lavra monastery of "DavitGareja"
presents itself in a new picture .....
074  ..... Liliana makes a break
from the strenuous climb in a shady
corner of a rock cave .....
075  ..... while Emil is enjoying the
view from the boulders and poses
for a picture
What a beautiful place! We are carried away immediately by this rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox Monastery complex with its cells carved into the rock. It was founded by a Syrian father who returned from the Middle East to spread Christianity in Georgia in the 6th century. Surrounded by reddish rocks and delicate spring green the restored and again inhabited Lavra Monastery spreads an incredible harmony with nature – a pastel shade picture like in a storybook!
076  From the top of the hill above the
"Davit Gareja" complex we are looking
down to Azerbaijani territory .....
077  ..... the Blue Rock-thrush
(Monticola solitarius) choose also
the highest spot .....
078  ..... the ridge of hills dividing Georgia
and Azerbaijan is rugged. In the far distance
the Tsitskhituri tower is visible
A stony strenuous path leads up a hill – on the other side is Azerbaijan. Emil is already long enjoying the views when I finally reach the top. „The 71 year old even overtakes the students“ I am teasing him. Myself, I need to take a rest once in a while. On the other hand I allow myself plenty of time to marvel at the many partly unknown flowers and fluttering butterflies in its diversity. The youngsters are slowly starting their descent, then finally it gets quiet. Now also a bilious green lizard comes out of hiding and two meters from where we are standing a brown-red venemous viper disappears between two stones. It is just of what travel guides specifically are warning against.
079  Lunchtime in pure nature at the
"Davit Gareja" monastery site: Salami,
bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese
and wine from Georgia
080  More beautiful than any flower
bouquet made by hand – presumably
a Great Masterwort (Astrantia major)
081  In the remoteness of "Davit Gareja"
we even discover a Greek
Tortoise/Spur-thighed Tortoise
(Testudo graeca)
As it often happens, also today we only find time for our combined lunch/dinner meal at around 5pm: Salami, bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and wine from Georgia. We set up our camping table and chairs on a little earthen path at the edge of a yellow flower field, where cattle are grazing. „Is it not beautiful here?“ I rave enthusiastically until suddenly a jumbo of a bull seems to dislike something about us, comes nearer and nearer and moos in a menacing way. Also my dark blue windbraker which I hastily put over my red T-shirt cannot chase it away, neither do Emil’s big stones.
082  During the short summer months,
nature shows its best side – Small Heath
(butterfly) (Coenonympha pamphilus)
083  Where is there a more beautiful
night camp than here at the "end of the
world"? There is not one light, not one
noise – just the two of us and nature
(at Davit Gareja)
084  Little things like a beautiful
butterfly enlighten our days: Southern
White Admiral (Limenitis reducta)
I am really afraid that it attacks any moment. Emil laughs at me. But a monk and two cattle herders who are in the vicinity seem also to take it seriously; they also realise that something is wrong. They come running and with a big stick chase the whole herd away. Our peace is restored. Night approaches. There is not a single noise and not one ray of light that disrupts our perfect idyll. Is there a lovelier spot to spend the night than here at the end of the world between all the splendor of flowers?
085  Rural life in Georgia is partly still
like in the old days. It awakens nostalgia
086  Emil is not smiling for nothing.
On his plate is one of his favorite
dishes: "Khachapuri", a Georgian cheese
pie. The beer stein also raises his spirit
087  On June 13th, 2013, our first leg
in Georgia is finished after 570 miles. At
Lagodekhi we drive towards the northern
of the two Azerbaijan border crossings
It is hard to break away from this peaceful corner. But today we are crossing the border to Azerbaijan. Back on the main road, we drive for many miles on a brutally potholed road towards the border post where after 570 driven miles [917km] our first part of the journey to Georgia comes to an end. Our worries that due to our full passports we could run into troubles at the Georgian border exit is invain. The officer puts his exit stamp on the tiny empty corner next to the entry stamp. Hopefully it will also work out that smoothly on our second entry to Georgia in a couple of weeks with the same full passports!
The "Greater"-Middle East trip 2012/13:
Sharjah/Dubai/1st Traveler's Festival/Emirates National Auto Museum - UAE with car Nov. 2012 to Jan. 2013 - part 1
Western UAE - Liwa - United Arab Emirates  with car in January 2013 - part 2
Oman 2013 - Part 1 - February 2013: Musandam Peninsula
Oman 2013 - Part 2 - February 2013: Sohar - Muscat - Rustaq - Nizwa
Oman 2013 - Part 3 - March 2013: Sur - East Coast - Island of Masirah - Dhofar
Oman 2013 - Part 4 - March 2013: Salalah & Surroundings (Dhofar) - Nizwa
Oman 2013 - Part 5 - March 2013: Western Hajar Mountains
Al Ain, Eastcoast & Ras al Khaima - United Arab Emirates with our car in April 2013 - part 3
Iran - Part 1: Ferry Port Bandar Abbas-Shiraz-Persepolis-Pasargad (between Persepolis and Yazd) May 2013
Iran - Part 2: Pasargad (excl.)-Yazd-Esfahan May 2013
Iran - Part 3: Esfahan (excl.)-Chelgerd-Hamadan-Sanandaj-Orumiyeh-Turkey Border May 2013
Turkey - Iran Border-Esendere-Hakkari-Van-Doğubayazıt-Kars-Ardahan-Hopa-Georgia Border May/June 2013
Azerbaijan: Georgia Border-Balakən-Şəki-Lahıç-Baku-Xınalıq-Quba-Laza-Baku-Gəncə-Georgia Border June 2013
Georgia - Part 2a: Azerbaijan Border-Tbilisi-Armenia Border June/July 2013
Armenia - Part 1: Georgia Border-Haghpat-Dilijan-Sevan-Tatev-Goris-Nagorno Karabakh July 2013
Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia-Stepanakert-Gandzasar-Martakert-Tigranakert-Tnjri-Shoushi-Armenia July
Armenia - Part 2: Nagorno Karabakh-Goris-Tatev-Noravank-Khor Virap-Echmiadzin-Yerewan-Geghard-Gyumri-Georgia Border July 2013
Georgia - Part 2b: Armenia Border-Ninotsminda-Tbilisi-Mtskheta-Kazbegi-Kutaisi-Zugdidi July 2013
Georgia - Part 3a: Zugdidi-Swaneti-Zugdidi-Abkhazia Border – July/August 2013
Abkhazia: Georgia-Sukhumi-Tsebelda-Novyy Aton-Lake Ritsa-Gagra-Pitsunda-Georgia August 2013
Georgia - Part 3b: Abkhazia Border-Poti-Ferry to Ilyichevsk/Ukraine – August 2013