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7 September  Kutaisi – Tbilisi
More Frescoes

I woke up early and got a taxi to explore the monasteries to the northeast of Kutaisi.  US$15 to and back… a reasonable price.  Motsameta was our first destination.  This was where two brothers were killed by Arab invaders for refusing to convert to Islam and thrown into the gorge below.  They became saints and legend has it that if one crawls three times under their tombs without touching it, one’s wish would be granted.  However, I did not have the opportunity to test this theory, for the monastery was closed when I arrived.  The driver decided to take his initiative in handling this matter – he picked up a huge rock and knocked loudly on the doors, in a manner not significantly different from the behaviour of an average resident of a mental asylum.  I was getting embarrassed – I could imagine how disturbed the saints must have been in their graves – especially when the environs were so serene and this chap was shouting for the monks to open the doors.  Well, we were ignored – perhaps thankfully as I was quite embarrassed by then and didn’t want to face angry monks – and we set off for Gelati Monastery instead.

Gelati, built by King David the Builder in the 12th C., has the most amazing Orthodox frescoes I have seen anywhere.  Brightly and extravagantly painted frescoes adorned the interior – they were not affected by the whitewashing campaigns undertaken by Tsarist Russian authorities after they abolished the Georgian Orthodox Church upon Russian conquest.  Many ancient paintings in churches around Georgia were destroyed as a result but somehow Gelati’s remained intact.  Here, one not only sees paintings depicting biblical scenes but also episodes in Georgian history.  Amazing works of art… I can’t helped it but snapped away with my camera.  To the other corner of the monastery complex was the South Gate, where I walked on the tomb of King David himself... built in the centre of the Monastery gateway, so that visitors may remember the great king - an act that was as much of self-ego as well as humility...

I returned to Tbilisi on Thursday afternoon on another mashrut, sitting on the front seat, which meant that I was completely roasted even before I reached the capital.  I bought a khachapuri along the way for lunch, but somehow I decided that I no longer like what was until this day my favourite Georgian dish.  I knew it’s time to get home…

I walked around the city centre shopping for souvenirs, and bumped into two Aussie backpackers who didn't know what to do or see in Georgia, and I pulled them along to meet J., a British expat friend living in Tbilisi.  From 10pm to 5am the next morning, we had quite a few bottles of wines, brandy and beer..hospitality with a Georgian-British flavour...

 The famous Gelati
Frescoes, frescoes & more frescoes
Frescoes showing King David the Builder and Queen Tamara, his granddaughter & one of Georgia's greatest monarchs 
Holy ones
The South Gate over the tomb of King David the Builder
A gate looted by King David from Ganja

8 September  Gori & Tbilisi
Stalin Fever

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