The day started with not-such-great revelation that all water was cut off. Despite the air conditioning we were waking up kind of sweaty, so morning shower was a must. We contacted the reception and they told us that they expect the water to be back on at 9 a.m. Unfortunately at 9 a.m. we were supposed to be elsewhere as we were scheduled to attend Enlightened Georgia Tour with Envoy Hostel. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and went down for breakfast. When we came back we tried the water and to our surprise it worked again, so we managed to take a shower before heading out of the door.
The tour meeting point is either at the hostel or at Freedom Square, so we took a taxi to the square where we and a couple of other people were picked up by Envoy. The guide wasn’t professional, but she spoke decent English and could actually tell a lot about the places we were visiting, so a great change from the Azerbaijani guys for fraction of the price, but then again this wasn’t a private tour and the van didn’t have much of an air conditioning. The full-day tour cost 240 GEL (approx. 75€) for two people and I thought that it was well worth it.
Our first stop was at Jvari Church, which is located on a top of a mountain. From the top you can see two Georgian rivers come together – Mtkvari from the left and Aragvi from the right.
Women need to wear a headscarf to enter Georgian churches and men need to wear long pants. In many churches you can get a scarf to cover your head or a wrap than you can wrap around your mid-section to cover the knees, but with all the sweaty people, I’d recommend you bring your own. 🙂
After this we continued to the nearby historic town of Mtskheta where the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is located. The cathedral was very impressive, but we arrived during mass, so the cathedral was full of people and it was almost impossible to have a good look inside.
After that we drove for about an hour to a town called Gori, which is a birthplace of Joseph Stalin (born and has a museum dedicated to him. We had a guide, who spoke Georgian and our tour guide translated into English. I understood that normally they have an English-speaking guide, but who wasn’t available at the moment. The museum guide explained Stalin’s life in great detail but completely ignoring that for people coming from outside the former Soviet Union countries, the man himself wasn’t that familiar. She also didn’t frame his life in any context, just rambling on that he did this and that, met that and that person and received this and this as a gift. The museum is very neutral and has barely any mention of world events during Stalin’s life time (like a little thing called World War II) nor mentions anything about gulags and the ways he terrorized his own people.
I would say that museum doesn’t strive to glorify him in any way, nor it presents a good overview about the man. It is more about a man from this small town coming to rule over Russia and showcases a collection of photos and artifacts without a larger context.
After that we had lunch at a Georgian family’s house, which was included in the price of the tour. The lunch was okay and it provided an opportunity to try a couple of dishes I’ve never had before.
After lunch we continued to Uplistsikhe, which is an ancient town-complex of caves. They date from Iron Age to Middle Age and many of the caves have distinctive features and different styles. This place is a bit of a climb, but it was quite windy that high, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The temperatures in Georgia continued to be around mid-thirties, so about the same as in Azerbaijan.
I really loved this place! Very cool caves and you could see small lizards climbing the stones here and there. 🙂 The ticket costs only 5 GEL (approx. 1,5€).
After this we were returned to the Freedom Square. We headed to the hostel to take a shower and relax for a while.
In the evening we headed out to a restaurant called Duqani. I’m pretty sure I spotted it on Tripadvisor. I would’ve never spotted it just walking down the street as it was located in a basement. I liked the food. While it wasn’t spectacular, but it seems that it’s impossible to get right out bad Georgian food. 🙂 Everything was good, but very traditional without any twists. They had a smoking section and a non-smoking section, but unfortunately some of the smell still carried over to the non-smoking section.