Posted by: Gideon | December 12, 2010

Republic of Georgia with Kids: A visit to Mtshkheta – and don’t forget the Barf Washing Powder!

We found Georgian to be unpronounceable.

Outside Jvari

The following day we planned a visit to the former capital of Mtskheta – we could never quite figure out how to say it but since it’s the most popular day trip from Tbilisi people understood exactly where we wanted to go.

We took the metro to the central bus station at Didube and were quickly directed to a Marshrutka minibus. We scrambled in, were happy  to see another couple of tourists as well, and waited for departure. After about 10 minutes the van was full and we left. Our destination was only about 30 minutes away, and soon we were out and walking towards the great Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli, built on the site where Christ’s robe was believed to have been buried after it was apparently brought to Georgia from Jerusalem.

Mtshkheta - in Georgia's holy of holies

Mtshkheta

Georgians are religious and the churches and cathedrals everywhere have a special feeling of piety. Inside, we saw people fixed in prayer, and groups of Georgians were singing and chanting, while dark robed monks walked all around. We found it very interesting though we didn’t stay long. The kids preferred wandering around the courtyard outside, where they picked up a few spent bullet cartridges. We have no idea why they were there, but had this holy site been one of the battlegrounds in Georgia’s civil wars? We had no idea.

Inside the cathedral

We then took a cab to the Jvari church, on a hill overlooking Mtskheta – a UNESCO world heritage site, the church was another huge testament to the deep sense of religion that permeates much of Georgian society. We were not alone – there was a large group of students there , who it turned out were visitors from the Ukraine. We learned that it was here, in Mtskheta, that the kings of ancient Georgia were converted to Christianity by a Nino, who arrived in the early 300’s – she was either the daughter of a Roman general, or she was a slave girl from Jerusalem, nobody really knows, but it was due to her that Georgia became the second Christian country in the world after Armenia.

We laughed when we saw this!

From there it was another ride back to Didube, where we wandered about the market. While the market was very interesting, we found a number of the people there to be very unfriendly – why, we had no idea. We thought it might be a holover from Soviet days – foreigners, not to be trusted!  We laughed at Barf washing powder, and we bought some of Georgia’s traditional candies, which are nuts set in a hardened grape juice mix – it kind of looks like a sausage except it’s sweet. We thought it was ok, not great. We also found some very cheap soccer shirts – we bought two Spanish shirts – Puyol and Farbegas – only that the real name is Fabregas – but then , this was a knock off in a Tbilisi market!

Later it was back on the metro to our apartment.

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Responses

  1. I am surprised you are trying to blame the Russians or Soviets for everything you didn’t like during your visit to Georgia. I am a Russian who used to live in Tbilisi in 1976-1977. Never, ever had I experienced any unfriendliness at a market place while living in Georgia, My husband, an American scientist, who was visiting Georgia on the Fulbright Scholarship, also felt that the Georgians were extremely hospitable and friendly people. The strangers would invite us to their home and wine and dine us. But… the country people, the mountaineers, were different even then. They were reserved, to put it mildly. They didn’t like to be bothered, and they espeially disliked scantily clad Western women. I am sure the same holds today.
    The Soviet influence was practically absent in Georgian life, except… Their KGB was the nastiest, stickiest, and rudest organization I ever experienced. Since I was a first woman to marry an American, the KGB agents took to following me around and sticking their noses in every aspect of our lives. And don’t tell me they’d learned it from Russians. After all, Stalin and bloody Beria were Georgians.

    • Hi Andor

      Firstly, I have nothing against Russians. The reason I wanted to go to Georgia in the first place was because of a Russian friend of mine who grew up in Moscow and told me many nostalgic stories of his childhood summer holidays in Georgia. He would have been going there in the mid 1970’s, roughly when you were there, and he only has wonderful memories. However, it is possible that things have changed since then. Certainly, our Georgian driver was clearly bitter about the damage done to the country in 2008, and he voiced suspicion about Russians and was clearly nervous about what may be in the future.
      As for the Soviets, I really do feel that Georgians have conflicting feelings about those days. Certainly some people told us that their quality of life today is in many ways much worse than it was in those days, yet of course they now live in a free country, and so there is a conflict.
      As for our own experiences while touring the country – they are what they are – mostly excellent, some not so good, as is often the case in every country one visits. We did experience some unfriendliness in the market place on one hand, but on the other hand, someone offered the kids free candies in that same marketplace.
      all the best


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