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Pictures of our trip through Georgia – Part 2
- Part 2a: From June 24 to July 2, 2013 Azerbaijan Border - Tbilisi - Armenia Border
- Part 2b: From July 22 to 31, 2013 Armenia Border - Ninotsminda - Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Kazbegi - Kutaisi - Zugdidi
Armenia Part 2 July 17 to 22, 2013: Nagorno Karabakh - Goris - Tatev - Noravank - Khor Virap - Echmiadzin - Geghard - Gyumri - Georgia
Nagorno-Karabakh July 9 to 17, 2013: Armenia - Stepanakert - Gandzasar - Martakert - Tigranakert - Tnjri - Shoushi - Armenia
Armenia Part 1 July 2 to 9, 2013: Georgia Border - Akhtala - Haghpat - Dilijan - Lake Sevan - Selim - Arates - Nagorno Karabakh
Azerbaijan June 13 to 24, 2013: Georgia Border - Balakən - Şəki - Lahıç - Baku - Xınalıq - Quba - Laza - Baku - Gəncə - Georgia Border
Georgia Part 1 June 4 to 13, 2013: Turkey Border - Ajaria - Tbilisi - Kakheti - Azerbaijan Border
Turkey May 28 to June 4, 2013: Iran Border - Esendere - Hakkari - Van - Doğubayazıt - Kars - Ardahan - Hopa - Georgia Border
Georgia Part 3b – August 13 to 15, 2013 - Abkhazia Border - Poti - Ferry to Ilyichevsk/Ukraine
Abkhazia August 5 to 13, 2013: Georgia - Sukhumi - Tsebelda - Novyy Aton - Lake Ritsa - Gagra - Pitsunda - Georgia
Georgia Part 3a – July 31 to August 5, 2013 - Zugdidi - Swaneti - Zugdidi - Abkhazia Border
Georgia Map
       Mid-East Map           Caucasus Map
latest picture: July 30, 2013
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088  Panorama from the Nariqala Fortress
over the city of Tbilisi with its 1.2m people.
It has been the capital of Georgia for over
1’500 years. It extends along both sides
of the Mtkvari River and has a relaxed
089  With a sword in one and a cup of
wine in the other hand a 66ft. tall silvery
woman statue, called Kartlis Deda –
“Mother of Kartli“, reigns over the city.
The wine symbolizes the hospitality of
the Georgians and the sword the
readiness to fight the enemy
090  We make a souvenir photo above
Tbilisi where the first traders and camel
caravans stopped on their long journeys
along the Silk Road from Asia to Europe.
Since mid-2012 an aerial tramway makes
an easy access from Rike Park to the
Nariqala Fortress
6/23/2013: Returning from Azerbaijan before noon and after completing the fast and easy entry procedures of our second visit to Georgia at the Ikinci Sixli border post, both of us are longing just for one thing: A tasty „Khachaburi“ – a Georgian cheese speciality – and a huge beer. Are we eventually already addicted? However only mid-afternoon we are sitting in front of this favorite dish at a pizzeria close to our Hotel „Mkudro“ in Tbilisi where we got a room for 60 Lari (GEL) (US$37). Actually it is rather a homestay where we feel immediately at ease. Besides, at the entry there is an apricot tree, which provides us with sweet ripe fruits that constantly fall to the ground. They taste wonderfully.
Mid morning next day, Emil drives our LandCruiser through the busy city traffic of the capital to our embassy to finally collect our new passports. Again we are invited inside and offered a cup of coffee. This time, we have also the honor to meet our ambassador Mr. Bächler. Leaving the embassy, Mrs. Renggli, our consul, gives us the phone number of her driver Giorgi who has his day off today, but whose father has a garage. We might be able to let repair the front right main spring leaf of our Landcruiser which broke into two pieces in Azerbaijan. We pass by in the afternoon but cannot decide on leaving our LandCruiser there for two days. We postpone it to after our return from Armenia, hoping that the clamps will hold!
091  The Church of St. Nicholas stands
inside the Nariqala fortress walls. After
its destruction together with the fortress in
1827 by an explosion of a Russian munitions
storage (some say it was an earthquake),
it was rebuilt in 1990 .....
092  ..... a beautiful relief decorates
the inner court yard of the church –
looks like a cross stone (khachkar) .....
093  ..... the walls in the interior of the
St. Nicholas Church are covered from
floor to ceiling with brightly
colored frescoes
The sunny cloud-free day invites to explore the city with its 1.2m people. Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia for over 1‘500 years and extends along both sides of the Mtkvari River. The city where the first traders and camel caravans rested on their long journeys along the silkroad from Asia to Europe has a relaxed atmosphere. We take the aerial tramway to the Nariqala Fortress which since mid 2012 runs from the Rike-Park.
In the 4th century the fortress still was a Persian citadel. Eyecatching is a 66ft. [20m] tall silvery woman statue, called „Kartlis Deda“ (Mother of Kartli). On Sololaki Hill she reigns over the city with a sword in one hand and a cup of wine in the other hand. The wine symbolizes the hospitality of the Georgians and the sword the readiness to fight the enemy.
094  Most of the present walls of the
Nariqala Fortress were built in the
7th and 8th century by Arab emirs, the
Umayyad dynasty, whose palace
was inside the fortress
095  Right through the center of Tbilisi flows
the Mtkvari River that comes as Kura River
from eastern Turkey and continues again as
Kura River to Azerbaijan, where it enters
finally the Caspian Sea. It separates the
historic Old Town from modern Tbilisi
096  View to the Nariqala Fortress from
the 17th century which existence goes back
to the Shuris-tsikhe (= “invidious fort”) in
the 4th century. Behind the bridge is the
scaffolded Armenian Cathedral St. George
The city panorama that extends below us is beautiful. Right to its center flows the Mtkvari River. Across the river, on Elia Hill, the Tsminda Sameba Cathedral with its golden dome rises above the roofs of the city. The wide sprawling cityscape is characterized by historic and modern, partly futuristic glass constructions. Eventually we break away from this wonderful view and wander together with many Russian speaking tour groups through the ruins of the fortress and to the site of the Church of St. Nicholas with its beautiful frescoes. After it was heavily damaged together with the fortress in 1827 by an explosion of a Russian munition storage, it was rebuilt in 1990.
The descent we tackle by foot and then treat ourselves in a garden restaurant with our favorite food „Khatchaburi“ and beer – what else? before we head to the cathedral „Tsminda Sameba“ on Elia Hill with its 346 ft. [105.5m] high golden dome, built between 1995 and 2004. It is the biggest symbol of Georgia’s post-Soviet religious revival. Impressing is its imposing size and the ample space in the interior. The five ailes are open and rise vertically up to the 276 ft. [84m] high dome. Worthshippers illuminate candles and pray in front of their saint images and a Georgian orthodox priest takes the vows of a wedding couple. Can a sightseeing tour end lovlier? It is rushhour when we drive back to our hotel.
097  Behind the baths sits Tbilisi's only
mosque, a Sunny, built in 1895. The Shiite’s
one was destroyed in 1950 due to the
construction of the Metekhi bridge. Very
unusually, Shiite and Sunni Muslims
pray now together there
098  On Elia Hill high above Tbilisi rises
the “Tsminda Sameba Cathedral” (Holy
Trinity Cathedral), built between 1995
and 2004. Its golden dome is 346 ft. high.
It is the biggest symbol of Georgia's
post-Soviet religious revival .....
099  ..... in the central aisle a
Georgian Orthodox Priest takes
the vows of a wedding couple
After Emil has processed our visa application for Abkhazia via internet the following morning, we actually would be ready to continue our journey to Armenia, but then all of a sudden my laptop gets inoperative. The screen turns black and all efforts to revive it are in vain. After three years, it has irrevocably stopped working. Coincidentally, also Emil’s four years old Lenovo rattles badly already since quite some time. Therefore we now need time to put in action the new Lenovo laptop that our friends Ursula and Marco brought us to Oman in February. It is not an easy task and Emil is not happy at all changing from Windows XP to Windows 8. At least, in the evening he has managed to install most of the programs. But for whatever mishap his whole work of 12 hours is gone again. When he wants to restart, the laptop does not recognize the password anymore and deletes everything. Frustrated we go to sleep.
100  The free standing bell-tower of
the “Tsminda Sameba Cathedral” is
an attraction in itself
101  At the construction of the
“Tsminda Sameba Cathedral” traditional
Georgian architectural forms in concrete,
brick, granite and marble were used .....
102  ..... the five aisles are open
and rise vertically to the 276 ft. high
central dome what gives a feeling
of space and brightness
We start everything from scratch and this while outside a bright sunny day with blue skies lures. But finally we get there and our departure day comes closer. Emil still greases the long overdue nippels of the LandCruiser and realises that only one jack is still working. Thus, apart of new reading glasses for Emil, safety jackets, stretching straps, grease, distilled water, engine oil we now also need to look for a new jack. As last function before our onward journey we cut each others hair like we have done it for the past 29 years!
103  The Freedom Monument
(St. George Statue) – built 2006 –
on Freedom Square is dedicated
to Georgia’s independence
104  Church towers rise everywhere
from Tbilisi's rooftops. In front the “Tbilisi
Sioni Cathedral“ with its bright dome; just to
the right its three-story bell-tower; exactly
behind it the “Norashen Armenia Church“
with a dark dome; in the far back the
“Jvaris Mama Church“; and on the left
side the “St. George Cathedral“
105  One of the still existing and inhabited
ugly buildings from the Soviet era at the
northern outskirts of Tbilisi (Vashlijvari
Settlement). The rendering is fading
away everywhere
On the day when we were supposed to leave it happens as it often did during our epic journey: I have almost finished to pack everything into our LandCruiser; Emil is still sitting at his laptop when he says: „I think we should leave only tomorrow. I need to prepare myself better for Armenia via the internet.“ Not again! It is always the same. „Why can you not tell me that before I start packing“ I exclaim upset“. But it is final!
In the afternoon I lament again about my lost text during my computer crash while Emil tries to remove the harddisk before we dispose the crashed laptop. It is not as easy, also using force does not help. Enervated he reassembles everything again. Suddenly I hear him saying „I don't believe it, now it is working again“ He does it the same unemotional way he did way back in April 1990 in African Guinea Bissau, when in the backyard of a mission a snake slithered between our camping table and our stove while we were having lunch. Of course I am very excited: „Please copy firstly of all my text“ I beg him. No sooner said than done. One would not believe it: As soon as Emil finished with it, the thing is dead again. If this wasn't luck!
106  In a restaurant along the Mtkvari
River at the Akaki Beliashvili Street in
northern Tbilisi a brewery is integrated
107  7/2/2013: En route to Sadakhlo
and Bagratashen, the border villages of
Georgia and Armenia, it gets rural:
On a field, carrots are harvested
and packed into big bags .....
108  ..... and shortly before the border
sunflowers are blooming, almost as
far as the eye can see
Before noon the next day it is time: We set off towards Bagratashen, Georgias border post to Armenia. The young guy at the immigration booth does not understand that we give him a brand new passport and that Georgia’s entry stamp is still in the old one, now full to the brim. He calls his boss who gives him directions and then puts the exit stamp on the last page of our new passport. Are these new methods? The exit customs waves us through with a smile. With it, our second visit to Georgia ends, but Georgia #3 will arrive for sure (further below)!
On July 2nd, 2013, we end after 8 days our second visit of Georgia – mainly Tbilisi –
and explore our 175th country Armenia for the first time. We return after 12 days in Armenia and 8 days in
Nagorno Karabakh from Armenia’s the 2nd part on July 22nd, to our 3rd visit of Georgia
109  7/22/2013: Coming from Armenia,
shortly after the Georgian border post at
Ninotsminda, the rural, nostalgic charm is
greeting us again
110  In the little village of Zhdanovi along
“Mada” Lake we spot a stork’s nest high
on a pole and stop below .....
111  ..... who is more curious? The ones
looking up, or the ones looking down?
Coming from the costly Armenian exit border (!), our third entry to Georgia at Bavra was a nice surprice due to its free and easy handling. No roadtax and no other fees as in the previous country. Right after the border, in Zhodanovi, we are greeted by rural charm again. High up on pylons stork’s nests with their offspring surprise us. What a lovely reception! It is already 4pm when we branch off at Ninotsminda to the new road to the east towards the capital Tbilisi – a region where three lakes are marked on the map. At the first lake "Tha Saghamo" – the smallest and most natural one – we find an idyllic camping spot. A herdsman is guiding his cattle down to the water. Then there is complete silence.
112  Shortly after Ninotsminda we take a
right turn to a renewed road leading to Tbilisi
and find an idyllic night spot at the small
"Saghamo" lake, the first one of three
lakes in a row .....
113  ..... a herdsman guides his cattle
down to the water, then it gets quiet
114  Morning mist still hangs over the
village of Tambovka across lake "Paravani"
between Ninotsminda and Tbilisi
Morning mist engulfs us when we get up. It's wet and cold. We take breakfast in the car and continue our ride on the new road towards the capital, passing through typical Georgian rural villages. Mist, rain and drizzle are our constant companion during most of the time. We again check into the hotel „Mkudro“, the same hotel as before on June 23rd, about 12 miles [20km] outside the city center.
115  Bees are attracted by the strong
pink of a blooming “musk or nodding thistle”
(Carduus nutans)
116  Funny white "cups" grow on the
roadside out of thin branches .....
117  ..... detail of the funny "cups"
The handy is ringing. It is Tomas from Spain, who is on tour for a few months with his wife Beatrix and with his 3 years old LandCruiser. Today, coming from Armenia, he also reached Tiflis. He wants to take a room in the old city. Therefore we agree to meet next morning at 11am at the aerial tramway leading to the Nariqala Fortress.
118  A typical Georgian rural village:
Paravani along the same-named lake,
located between Ninotsminda and Tbilisi
119  Rain made mushrooms sprout. Egg
mushroom are sold in baskets along the road.
It is tempting, but we do not trust them
120  The new road from Tsalka via
Marneuli to Tbilisi runs through
a lovely forested area
On our almost 29 years of traveling we have not often met travelers we only know per email. We therefore are really excited to get to know now Beatriz and Tomas personally. Both are speaking good English. They earn a living with book translations from Spanish into English and French.
121  At the clock tower in Tbilisi's Old
Quarter each hour a golden door opens
on the upper balcony. An angel appears
and marks with 12 strokes of the gong
the full hour .....
122  ..... the clock tower itself looks like
something out of a fairy tale – leaning and
cobbled together, built 2011 by Rezo
Gabriadze. In the back a puppet theater is
“concealed”. Beatriz and Tomas from Spain
pose for a picture together with Liliana
123  Below the clock another screen
opens after the stroke of the gong. The
puppets that appear show five circles of
life: Boy meets girl; marriage; childbirth;
old age and funeral
Together we explore the little alleys of the old quarter in Tbilisi and are standing in front of the clock tower, built 2011 by Rezo Gabriadze. Exactly at 12am on the upper balcony a golden door opens and an angel appears and marks with 12 strokes of the gong the full hour. Below the clock another screen opens and a puppet shows appears, showing five cycles of life: Boy meets girl, marriage, childbirth, old age and funeral. It is a bit like in a fairy tale.
124  After a couple of emails it worked
out: In Tbilisi we meet Beatriz and Tomas
from Spain with their 3-years young
LandCruiser. Their 8-months journey through
Central Asia will soon come to an end .....
125  ..... together we enjoy at the Meidan
Square in Dzveli district the Georgian dish
"Khachapuri" – a cheese pie that comes in
different variations
126  Liliana enjoys the view from the
Hotel Tamarindi in Mtskheta, about
12 miles north of Tbilisi, of the Svetitskhoveli
Cathedral in the old city. It was the most
important church in Georgia until the
construction of the “Tsminda Sameba
Cathedral” in Tbilisi (pict. #98+101)
After that, the aerial tramway carries us up to the Nariqala Fortress. It is the second time that we enjoy the rambling view over the attractive capital with its meandering river, its bridges and church towers raising above the city roofs everywhere. With beer and „Khachaburi“ – Georgia’s cheese cake speciality and Emil’s favorite dish – our lovely and interesting traveler meeting comes to an end.
127  The “Svetitskhoveli Cathedral” of
Mtskheta dates from the 11th century. Some
say that the original church was built on the
site of a former Zoroastrian temple and thus
marks Georgia's conversion to Christianity,
others that St. Nino chose the place in the
4th century at the confluence of the rivers
Mtkvari (Kura) and Aragvi
In the interior of the “Svetitskhoveli Cathedral” the walls show some beautiful
and extraordinary frescoes. The cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site
128  Access to the main altar
129  These frescoes show the zodiac
sign (circle) as well as the “Beast of the
Apocalypse” (middle left) what is
rather unusual in a Christian church
Travelers often have the same needs what shopping is concerned. Yesterday we talked to Beatriz and Tomas about the French supermarket Carrefour at the northern peripherie of the capital. And who is arriving dead on time like us? Our new traveling buddies. Both are replenishing groceries and both want to drive on the "Georgian Military Highway" to Kazbegi into the mountains – a very scenic mountain pass leading to Russia, the only traffic axis between the two countries. With an appropriate Russian visa the border crossing is now open since some time to everybody.
130  On the Georgian Military Highway
to Kazbegi Liliana enjoys the turquoise
Zhinvali Reservoir. The border to Russia
– now open since June 2012 also to
international tourists – is only about
10 miles from Kazbegi
131  A small break along the touristy
Georgian Military Highway and the Aragvi
river. We encounter people from Germany,
France, Armenia, Ukraine with cars, motor-
bikes and bicycles, but mostly Russians
 from home or back home
132  The Zhinvali Reservoir is surrounded
by a beautiful forested landscape. The
biggest part of Tbilisi’s drinking water
is caught here and channeled in a
18 ft. Ø tunnel to the city
Traveling together however doesn't work out. Black skies are developing in the Caucasus mountains promising rain. We decide to wait until the weather improves, but the Spaniards have a tight time schedule. They want to be back home in Spain already in September 2013 (now we have July 25th). They hit the road and we take a room at the Tamarindi Hotel in Mtskheta, the next town, 12 miles [20 km] northwest of Tbilisi. It sits in the historic old city right opposite the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. From its terrace we have a superb view to the church complex and the never ending flow of tourists strolling past our parked LandCruiser. Many pause to admire our „freedom machine“.
133  The Ananuri Fortress dating from
the 17th century, 41 miles north of Tbilisi,
enchants by its classic Georgian architecture
and its beautiful location. It made it to the
front cover of the 4th edition of the
Lonely Planet Guidebook of June 2012
134  The Church of the Assumption
within the Ananuri Fortress has a
wonderfully carved grapevine
cross on its south side .....
135  ..... and in the churches interior
fine icons at the altar
Next morning the tourist flow hasn't yet begun when we marvel at the beautiful frescoes and carvings of the Mtskheta‘s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. For the Georgian-Orthodox this cathedral is one of the most revered places of worship. It is said that here the coat of Jesus Christ lies burried. Currently it is also the seat of the archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi who at the same time is also the catholic patriarch of the whole of Georgia.
136  A ruin of an old chapel stands a bit
lost on the shore of the Zhinvali Reservoir
below the Ananuri Fortress
137  A remembrance picture with Emil at
the small "pavilion" at the shore of the Zhin-
vali Reservoir below the Ananuri Fortress
138  Who does not yet have a warm beanie,
can buy one along the Georgian Military
Highway leading to Kazbegi and Russia
At 11am we are off to Kazbegi. It turns out to be a beautiful ride along the Zhinvali dam on which bank the Ananuri Fortress is situated. (Its picture decorates the cover of our current Lonely Planet guidebook). Once more we admire delicate carvings and icons before continuing along the green narrow valley of the „Georgian Military Highway" towards the pass. It is quite touristy. We encounter Germans, French, Armenians, Ukrainians with cars. motorbikes and motorcycles. But most of the people are Russians who either are returning home or coming from home.
The Georgian Military Highway leads us through diverse and beautiful mountain scenery
139  The ruin of a fortress that sticks out
of the forest green – about 5 miles before
the switchback ascent to Gudauri
140  A place for a future holiday house?
An open little plateau with a couple of
trees, caught by the sun
141  A lovely valley at Kvesheti with
the tiny church of Sepe and a few
houses along the river
After Gudauri, the ski resort, road construction work is scarring badly the landscape. When the road deteriorates massively and a German guy crossing us confirms that until Kazbegi it will remain like that, we suddenly run out of steam to struggle for further 15 miles [25km] the more that darkness is also creeping in. We return shortly after the 7'792 ft. [2'395m] high Jvari Pass and find soon a wonderfully quiet night spot on one of the big empty ski lift parkings. We are on an altitude of 7'218 ft. [2'200m].
142  The ski resort of Gudauri is located at
the heart of the Caucasus with 10 miles of
slopes of different difficulty grades and a
chairlift rising from 6'530 ft. to 10’730 ft.
Skiing season is from December to mid-April
143  A little church near Gudauri
impresses by its setting against the
backdrop of a towering mountain slope
144  Morning mist sails along the mountain
peaks above Gudauri when we crawl early
morning out of our LandCruiser at the
parking of the ski lift station. We are at
an altitude of 7’220 ft.
The night in our warm sleeping bags was relaxing. Mist is creeping over the mountains when we get up. It is cold. We take our breakfast in the LandCruiser and then start our way back. A sulfurous fountain in the middle of nowhere seduces us to wash our car. Was it a good idea? Not so sure: A white dull coat is now covering our otherwise shiny LandCruiser. We are eager to find a fresh water source, which in the mountainous area of the former Soviet Union do exist here and there. There we thoroughly treat the whole body with fresh mountain water and are stunned by the result: It now shines even more intensively than before.
145  Around Kazbegi the Caucasus offers
wild high mountain scenery: Below the
Aragvi river, and behind the mountains
in direction southwest lies the breakaway
province of South Ossetia
146  The Georgian Military Highway
offers a diversified mountain drive through
all kind of terrain – here the ascent by
switchbacks to Gudauri
147  The view of the upper northerly
Aragvi valley
Mid-afternoon the skies darken again and it starts to rain. We book once more into the Tamarindi Hotel in Mtskheta and are sorry for the brides who have their wedding photos taken in the cold and rain in front of the cathedral. We wash some clothes, watch TV, read newspapers in the internet, write the diary and update statistics.
148  Colorful motifs decorate the viewing
platform, called Soviet-Georgian Friendship-
Monument, nearly on the top of the Jvari-,
Cross- or Dzhvris Ughelt-Pass. Like the
names of this crossing differ, the indication
of its height vary too: 7'858 ft. [2'395m];
7'805 ft. or even 9'695 ft. [2'955m]
149  Across the Aragvi River small
settlements with neat houses and gardens
are greeting. Thanks to the Georgian
Military Highway people are not totally
cut off from the rest of the world
150  A lovely animal roundabout in
Kutaisi, Georgia's second largest city
(200’000 people) after Tbilisi. It is
situated halfway to the
Black Sea in the west
Next morning we take off on the monotonous M1 road from Mtskheta to the west towards the Black Sea. Along the road potteries, basketwork and especially mushroms are on sale. „Stop! Do they fill up gas containers here?“ I ask Emil. He backtracks and indeed a private person is selling gas out of a small tank. We pay 10 Lari for our 1 gallon [2¼kg] gas cooker which just showed to be empty two days ago. That was luck!
151  Four miles from Kutaisi within lush
green hills sits the little Motsameta
Monastery on an impressive
promontory .....
152  ..... it offers a spectacular view to
a bend of the Tskhaltsitela River, which is
surrounded by a jungle-like vegetation
153  The Motsameta Monastery is a jewel
of an old dignified monastery where bearded
monks in black robes glide along the garden
path and where monastery life can be
Last time in Oman, we only succeeded because Lara, our nice Swiss host in Muscat, knew the gas man well, who helped us out and even sold us a new gas container made in China! Filling up cooking gas can be quite nerve-wracking. The longer the more the empty bottles are only exchanged for full ones. Together with our Brasilian gas bottle, which up to now could not be refilled anywhere, we carry along three of them. In the evening we reach Kutaisi and book into the Argo Palace for 50 Lari.
Every inch of the Motsameta Monastery is covered with beautiful frescoes.
Because in 1923 a fire destroyed everything, they had to be completely restored
A beautiful sight with view to the bend of the Tskhaltsitela River (red water) surprises us 3¾ miles [6km] outside of Kutaisi. We are standing on a shoulder of rock in front of the small Motsameta Monastery embedded into a jungle scenery. It is a gem of an old, venerable monastery with beautiful frescoes, where bearded monks silently scurry around. A short walk leads from the parking through a forested area with mosses, mushroms, blackberries and pomegranates.
157  The region around Kutaisi is blessed
with many churches. Here the Bagrati
Cathedral in Kutaisi itself – a UNESCO
World Heritage Site – called also
“Cathedral of the Dormition”
158  6 miles northeast of Kutaisi the
towers of the rather commercialized
Gelati Monastery complex rise from a
wooded hillside. It’s another UNESCO
World Heritage Site .....
159  ..... it contains the "Cathedral of
the Virgin", the smaller "Church of
St. Nicholas" and the Academy, where
philosophy, theology, sciences and
painting were studied
What is especially nice is that it's less commercialized and that the real monastery life can still be felt. The contrary is the case at the „Cathedral of the Virgin“, 5½ miles [9km] northeast of Kutaisi. There we are greeted by the omnipresent souvenir shops. Despite of it, the splendor of frescoes, built between the 12th and 18th century is well worth the visit.
The churches contain a whole range of wonderful frescoes, painted between the 12th and 18th century
After these two special sights we continue our drive direction west. Short of Zugdidi at the Abkhazian border we stop at a little meadow next to the road for a lunch break and I start to cook. It does not take long until we get visitors: The police in a civil car. „Tourist Schwitzaria“ (Швейцария) we explain like we always do. But the two policemen remain persistently in our vicinity and start to phone. They get on our nerves because now we do not dare to drink a second beer. May be they just wait for it in order to snatch us!
163  Residence of His Holiness and
Beatitude, Catholicos Patriarch of All
Georgia, Ilia II, also Archbishop of
Mtskheta-Tbilisi near Zugdidi at Munchia,
2½ miles northwest of Khobi (between
Senaki and Zugdidi in the west of Georgia)
164  The pomegranate (Punica
granatum) grows also in the Caucasus.
At first the fruit is green and then
changes into orange-red
165  In Zugdidi (80’000 people),
the border town to Abkhazia and starting
point to the "Svaneti high mountain" region,
the setting sun puts the sky in flame
We are already washing our dishes when a car marked „Police“ arrives to replace the two guys. What’s going on? Are they supervising us? It parks beneath a shady tree along the road. But nothing happens. We just can imagine that they clarified in between if we are in the country legally. Soon after we reach Zugdidi, the starting point to the mountainous „Svaneti“ region, and check into the Hotel Zugdidi for 50 Lari. The sky darkens and it starts raining like hell once more. We are happy to be comfortable and dry.
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 - Ppart 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
Georgia - Part 1: Turkey Border-Ajaria-Gori-Tbilisi-Kakheti-Azerbaijan Border June 2013
Azerbaijan: Georgia Border-Balakən-Şəki-Lahıç-Baku-Xınalıq-Quba-Laza-Baku-Gəncə-Georgia Border June 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 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