Friday, April 27, 2012

An Easter to remember!

So a couple weeks ago we had a 3-day weekend! 6 friends and I went to Akhaltsikhe, a town a few hours away. The name means "new castle" which is actually kind of funny because while we were there they were renovating the castle from the 12th century. Anyway, we were staying there as our base for our trip to the cave city of Vardzia!

photo cred to my friend Tim
We arrived Saturday morning and spent the day just strolling around the town. There's not a whole lot to see there actually. We went into the historical district that was being completely demolished and re-done, which we found amusing since a historical district is suppose to be old, and well you know historical...
We tried to go into the castle area but all the construction workers would not allow it so we continued our walk  . A few moments later as we strolled up the dusty hill gold-toothed man called out to us "Buon giorno!"...umm...we yell it back and it all begins...

5 minutes later he is bringing us all bottles of beer...he asks us if we speak Russian, which none of us did, and we know a little Georgian. He continues to speak to us in Russian and some Georgian along with who knows what...this goes on for quite a while. After us numerous times telling him where we are from and that no we don't speak Russian it just becomes a hilarious situation.
We tell him about us being English teachers and so on and are talking to him for quite a while. A crowd of onlookers develops...
After this long memorable conversation we finally escape crazy drunk gold-toothed man and head on back into the center of town...
That night we enjoyed some Georgian food and some more interesting townfolk...there was just something about that town...anyway they ordered us more wine and some extra khinkali and they were just crazy!

The following morning we headed out to Vardzia! The six of us split into 2 taxis. This drive and the views were just incredible! We made a couple photo stops along the way lucky our drivers were pretty nice!

Then we arrived! Vardzia is an ancient cave monastery. It is said to have been founded by Queen Tamar in 1185. "According to legend, Queen Tamar got lost in the mountains as a child and her uncle went looking for her. He called out her name and she replied "I am here, uncle"-pronounced ac var dzia" the echo made "Vardzia" out of it.

We spent several hours there exploring, climbing in the caves, and got to witness a part of a service happening in the church which has 12th century wall paintings! Also, we got to adventure through tunnels in the caves which was wicked exciting, and made you feel like you were Indiana Jones!

We made 2 more stops on the way back. One at another monastery and then at Khertvisi Fortress.

That evening we all went for dinner at a restaurant with typical Georgian food. Later we were joined by 4 Georgians (someone that one of us or another had talked to sometime during the weekend) who turned this dinner into a grand 'ol supra! In addition to what we had ordered, the traditional food kept coming out. khachapuri (the cheese bread). bread, shashlik (skewers), etc etc and of course wine. I told you...something about this town....anyway it was yummy as usual! I was especially excited to order lobio (beans prepared with walnut, garlic, onion, various seasonings).

some serious toasting action!
All in all, a great 3 day weekend, and an Easter to remember for sure!

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