Travelling Through Georgia 2009
A report by Russell Travenen Jones, a member of the Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association, who fulfilled a long-
Having travelled to Kutaisi from my base in Tbilisi by marSrutka (mini-
In Gelati Monastery, founded in 1106 by King David the Builder, I was shown the tomb of its founder, arguably the greatest of all Georgian kings, as well as a wonderfully preserved mural of the king, who was a particulary tall man, as a mural clearly depicts. In a final gesture of great humility, it was David’s wish that he be buried in the main gatehouse of Gelati, so that visitors would step on his tomb as they entered.
Bagrat’i Cathedral, sometimes known as the Cathedral of the Dormition, is an early eleventh century masterpiece of mediaeval Georgian architecture. Together with Gelati monastery, they form a UNESCO World Heritage site set on a hillside overlooking the centre of Kutaisi.
Currently undergoing extensive restoration and reconstruction, it yielded up a precious hoard of gold and jewellery only days after I visited there. It belonged to a lady of royal blood and dated to an eighth or ninth century burial in a former church which occupied the site.
Kutaisi was uncharacteristically wet and overcast. It had rained solidly for a fortnight before and, reminiscent of Newport, I spent the day dodging heavy showers, but managed to see the university and much of the city centre.
The highlight for me was to stroll down niuportis quCa (Newport Street). Kutaisi has recently enjoyed considerable investment and has undergone quite a facelift. All the city’s streets have street signs in Georgian and English, colour-
During my unforgettable time in Georgia, I steeped myself in Georgian culture, and visited many of the country’s major attractions and sites of historical importance. These included the ancient town of Vani in the Imereti region, the seaside towns of Kobuleti and Batumi, Ananuri, Mtskheta, the beautifully restored mediaeval hillside town of Sighnaghi where I came face to face with the beautiful paintings of Nik’oloz Pirosmani, a dream come true, Telavi, Ts’inandali where I visited the estate of the nineteenth century poet Aleksandre Ch’avch’avadze, Bodbe whose St. George Monastery houses the remains of St. Nino, (It was she who introduced christianity to Georgia) Sno, and the magnificent Mt Qazbegi, third-
At the fortress of Gonio I enjoyed lunch in a marquee as the guest of the head of the Supreme Court of Adjara, I will never forget getting up at 5.45am to watch sunrise on Mt Qazbegi: its year-
After contemplating the beauty of the early-
Russell stayed with a wonderful Georgian host family near the heart of Tbilisi, who made his visit truly special.