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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Location: Caucasus mountains, Georgia

MapTbilisi is surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the other by a river so it is an excellent strategic position. Today we have setboff to explore these mountains and there was quite an air of excitement as we set off.

First stop,was the Church of the holy cross high at Jvari, above the town of Mtskheta, which is the most holy city in Georgia. Between 500 BC and 500 AD this was the country's capital. The highlight of the town built on the confluence of two rivers is the dominant cathedral of Svetitskhoveli which was built on the spot where Christian's believe that a fragment of Christ's crucifixtion robe is buried. Although it has never been excavated to prove it....

So how did it come to be here and establish Christianity?
EnstorynThe story goes that 100,000 plus Jews came here in exile after being forced out of Israel. Two Jewish brothers heard that Jesus was being tried so they set off wanting to participate in the proceedings to see that justice was served, only they were too late, he was already dead when they arrived. The soldiers were given the clothes and possessions of the criminals crucified and the brothers found that the one who had thenrobe of Jesus. They paid him for it and then took it back to,their sister in,Georgia. She however died just after being given it andnso it was buried along with her. A lemon cedar tree was planted on her grave in the fourth century and from hereon several miracles were recorded.

The then king, George 1, ordered a church to be built on the site. The building needed seven wooden pillars, the seventh kept falling down and was impossible to erect, when an angel appeared and put it in place.
Once upright, it began to blossom and secrete oil which was found to have healing properties.
And so the present church was built on the site inside a large compound surrounded by a high defensive wall tomward off enemies.

Last stop in the valley was in Gori at the house museum of Joseph Stalin. We know no more about him now than we did before as the guide was terrible and we dubbed her Rosa Kleb .....

But what followed was spectacular. We turned off along the road known as the Military road which leads to the only border crossing with Russia high up,in the mountains, passing disconcerting signs like 1300 Kim's to Tehran!
We drove up through lush meadows and forest stopping briefly at Ananus reservoir until,we passed through a ski resort to reach the high snow capped alpine mountain tops.
This road has quite a history. It was built by locals forced by Russian troops as an important transit route. So many died in the harsh conditions that eventually there was a rebellion which was crushed by the Russian troops. There was evidence of a gas pipeline butbthis ismto,provide gas supply to,Armenia as Georgia gets its supplies from other neighbouring countries.
In a few months the snow will have melted and the shepherds will return their sheep,to graze on the grass for the five months until November. There used to be small villages up and were called the Canyon People having their own strong dialect and traditions. Now they have fallen derelict.,in the early 1990s the Russians cut off the gas supply making it impossible for anyone to live here.
Today tourism is the main industry.
Our destination was the town of Stepanaska, near the Russian border. It was named after a hermit named Stephen who had a vision about an avalanche which would envelope the settlement. Because his warning saved the lives of all who live here they named the town after him.

Today the government provides the town with gas supply for five months of the year enabling the current population of 2000 to survive the temperatures of below minus fifteen.

The hotel is very busy and full of tourists, dinner was a bit of a bun fight buffet
But we are looking forward to exploring the mountain hills by 4x4 tomorrow.