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Published: August 15th 2009
Getting to Mtskheta
was easy, even though it wasn't! We went to Didube metro station and fought our way past the crowds to the chaotic marshrutka
station. There, with the help of some squiggles on a piece of paper (მცხეთა) which prevented the ignominy of being unable to pronounce our destination, we got on the right minibus. Just over half an hour later we were jumping off in Mtskheta.
Considering it used to be the capital of Georgia, we were quite surprised at how small the place was. It did lose that status in the 6th Century though so I guess we shouldn't have been shocked. It's quite easy to walk around but a taxi is definitely required to climb up to Jvari church.
Our first port of call was Samtavro Monastery where Trish decided to preserve her dignity and cover her hair. The only suitable item for such a task was her Brazilian beach towel, so she didn't bother again after the monastery. It was quite dark inside and most of the people milling around were women (all with their hair covered!) with a few interesting icons to look at. Outside, the grounds were nice with some intriguing
tombstones and crosses.
From there we walked into the centre where the Sveti Tskhoveli Cathedral was hard to miss. It is surrounded by castle-like fortifications and it is pretty big when you get there. Again it was quite dark inside and the most notable thing is a colourful pillar under which the robe of Christ is believed to be buried. The icon of the Virgin Mary to the left of the altar was said to have shed tears a few years ago no doubt increasing its notoriety.
We then walked out of town to the seldom visited castle ruins. They are just ruins but afforded some great views over the town and the river valley. They really could do something with it and maybe they will in the future. Who knows?!
A taxi then took us the cumbersome route out to Jvari church. Set on top of a nearby hill, the location is wonderful but would be an horrendous walk! The wind at the top was fierce and it even made breathing difficult if you were facing the wrong way. Again it was dark inside but the key feature this time was the view over the city.
As we left we were approached by a man who said he was a plain-clothed policeman. We got to see his ID for all of a nanosecond so there was no verifying his status. He told us in a mixture of Russian and charades that a gunman had been robbing tourists of their money. Maybe so, or maybe it was him who was doing it! Our taxi driver ensured we had a safe getaway nonetheless!!
So that was Mtskheta whose name we will never in a month of Georgian Orthodox Sundays be able to pronounce. It's definitely worth a day of your time to visit, even if you'll need მცხეთა scrawled on a scraggy scrap of paper just to get there!
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