Mtskheta

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It was a cold windy day with a hint of rain.  Perfect for exploring old monastaries dating back to the 11th century.  That is 1000 years ago!  The stone wall surrounding Svetitskhoveli Cathedral added to the ancient fortress-like feel of the town.  Red tile roofs and cobblestone streets made Mtskheta feel very charming.  Not to mention that people smile in Georgia!

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Oma and Opa in front of the Cathedral gate:

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Inside, the courtyard opened up like a castle.  The soaring arches of the church entrance swept us inside, where we found the familiar mingling of incense and people, making donations and buying candles before stepping into the twilight of the sanctuary.  Our footfalls echoed as our voices sank to whispers, joining all the other mumbles and hushed conversations.  In front, there was an iconastasis glowing in that familiar golden way, although we learned that in Georgia they are made of stone.  This is different from Ukraine, where they were made of wood.

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We found a very nice guide, who told us the stories behind the icons:

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Guess what?  This monastery has bits of the cross and Christ’s last robes buried beneath it.  Just like cathedrals and monasteries all over the world.  That guy must have had a HUGE wardrobe!

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Jake and Eli were pretty impressed.

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They have gotten pretty good at paying their respects.  Watch out guys, don’t let your hair catch fire!

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The candles were everywhere, some of them quite elaborate.  We liked this one with the dragons.

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We also saw an ancient well (cistern?), and found a priest giving a service.  Mom and Mike are there in the back!

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All that religion made us pretty hungry.  Since it had started to rain, we had a perfect excuse to duck inside a little cafe for lunch.  They brought us lamb kebabs, cucumber salad, pots of bean soup, and a basket of tandoori bread.  And don’t forget the Natakhtari!  Mike even snagged a glass for home.

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No sight-seeing trip North of Tblisi would be complete without a side trip to Gori, the famous birthplace of Russia’s most evil person.

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The same guides were there, and they actually remembered us from our visit last December.  Well, they remembered Eli and Jake.  Who could forget these cute little tow-heads?

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It would take days of walking around Mtskheta to see everything; the monasteries, the nunneries, the cafes, and the endless hiking trails.  Here is another monastery visible from the downtown, perched high up on the hill.  The hillsides are loaded with them!

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They seem to appear out of nowhere.  They light up the dark corners of the country, the way candles light up dark corners of a room.  It is really peaceful.  What a peaceful place.

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