Timotesubani Monastic Complex and Uplistsikhe Cave City, Georgia Week 120 July 20th 2013
The view from our campsite in the morning looking south whence we came.

The inaccessible nature reserve?

We headed north.
Through Borzomi.
With the presumably Russian influenced mixture of industry and housing.
And, our first church in Georgia.
And the slightly incongruous ferris wheel.
We found our way to the Timotesubani Monastic Complex.

Probably time to whinge about our Garmin map of Georgia. It only knows about the very major roads, and they are sometimes wildly out.

iGo is more honest and doesn't have Georgia.

Back to paper and computer maps.

The complex was built between 1185 and 1205 AD.

No photographs inside.

Basically unrestored, unrenovated, unconverted, unmodified, unadulterated, unreconstituted, unrepaired, and un-anything elsed.

Despite showing their obvious age the frescoes were quite captivating. 

Difficult to describe what it means, after all the other sites we've visited, to look at something of that age, knowing it to be original, without the need to see through subsequent interpretation, destruction or restoration.

A moving sense of age and a different life that hasn't always been present in other places.

There was also the mixture of saintly and knightly depictions which we didn't really have time to take in. 

We settled for a photo of the bells outside.

No bell tower.

And the stone ceiling of the entrance.

The walls are predominantly "Georgia brick".

Its a "working church" and was respected as such by the handful of Georgian tourists who mostly crossed themselves and kissed the entrance on the way in. 

We tried to follow "the white road" that would lead us to Gori.

This was just past the complex and it rapidly deteriorated.

There was little evidence of recent traffic - unlike our last Turkish adventure where we could see tracks of at least two vehicles in the previous couple of days and the all important directions.

We decided to retreat.

We guessed what the local industry is in Hasuri.

Deckchairs and hammocks.


The M8 and M1 haven't been completed.

Until a few km left to Gori I can honestly say is the worst bit of traffic we've been in.

The combination of road, speed, and traffic density meant that there was just enough room for some vehicles to overtake. Long lines of traffic in both directions moving at about 75 km/hr with a few impatient drivers.

Drivers quite happy to overtake knowing there wasn't enough room to avoid oncoming traffic. A giant game of chicken.

We stopped for a rest at the very modern Socar-Goodwill services which happened to have wifi.

On the outskirts of Gori is the barracks of an infantry brigade.

Its not too long ago that Russia and Georgia were at odds and there are still trouble spots. Georgia is a small, diverse and slightly disunited country.

We are avoiding South Ossettia and further west. We'll also avoid Chechnya and Dagestan over the border in Russia. 

"Risk reduction" is to avoid likely trouble spots and to move through Georgia relatively fast.

We'll also pass rapidly through part of Ingousettia we can't avoid.

Presumably the town hall in the center.

Our destination is somewhere to the east of Gori. We aren't sure which side of the river, or even which branch of the river, so asked every km or so.

We were generally getting closer when we asked someone who happened to be going part of the way.

We followed.

The truck on the right is a 6 wheel drive Russian one.

Uplistsikhe Cave City is on the north of "the" river.

However, its reached from the south of the river across its very own bridge.About 1 km to its east.

The current village of Uplistsikhe is strung out along a couple of km of the south bank.

We were thoroughly fed up of Garmin's endless loop of "recalculating" and "please drive to highlighted route".

Uplistsikhe, the Lord's Fortress, is an old Caucasian walled city.

The first caves were hewn out of the rock in the tenth century BC.

The city was the religious, political and commercial center of the Georgian kingdom of Kartli - during Hellenistic (3rd to 1st century BC) and Roman (1st to 3rd century AD) times. 

This is "Queen Tamas Hall".

There is no information available to us.

But we can admire the ceiling that looks like it was carved in situ.
The oldest church on site is a distinctive "three nave basilica". Typical of Georgia.

Built in the second half of the tenth century.

The site became a museum in the 1990's. The rock is lighter coloured (cleaner or just worn by people?) than the area surrounding and we are wondering what happened to all the collapsed roofs.

There is a more modern church near the top.

Built on top of an earlier pagan temple, to a sun god.

There's a system of channels to collect water in numerous small cisterns and wells. And steps.


Ali had spotted "St George and the Dragon" in the Timotesubani Monastery.

Here he is again.

More research (sigh).

The "single column hall" was largely intact.

Carved as if built.

Below the caves is more of the city.

Remains of stone houses.

We've read somewhere it was a staging post for the Silk Road (or at least a branch of it) but there's no mention of that at the site.

It was abandoned after Mongol raids in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Abandoned to tourists and lizards!

We camped in the car park.

As far as we can make out "the uniforms" sleep here. And the village is about 100m away. 

Kazbegi (Stepantsminda), Georgia to Kursavka, Russia Week 121 July 21st 2013

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