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Published: August 17th 2009
The journey to Kutaisi was uneventful. It's probably a beautiful road running through the mountains but the rain was too heavy and the cloud too low for us to really appreciate it! The big problem then was that we had no idea where we were when the driver dropped us off! That meant getting a taxi, and he didn't know exactly where we wanted to go!! It all sorted itself out though and he took us to the Hotel Beka which is featured in the Lonely Planet. Getting there involved many twists and turns up steep cobbled streets and we were quite disoriented when we got there. And then they were full!!!
Luckily the house next door is also a hotel, albeit unlisted, but the Hotel Eleganti turned out to be wonderful. The landlady was such a sweetheart and chatted away to Trish in Russian being very patient about any misunderstandings. She even made us tea in the evening and served it with bread and cheese for supper. Quite unexpected.
Anyway, we were in Kutaisi to look at, you've guessed, monasteries! Bagarat Monastery stands on top of the hill close to where we were staying and it was just
a short walk down a cobbled lane to get there. At the moment it is covered in scaffolding and undergoing extensive refurbishment which takes something away from it really. A small chapel at the side now holds its collections of icons which were numerous and worth having a look at. Nearby is an old ruined palace which is essentially a few piles of rocks and walls with a wonderful view over the mountains and valleys.
A taxi from the centre is required to get to the two mountainous monasteries we had planned to visit. Either that or you can spend your days hiking which would have been nice but we didn't really have the time. Motsameta Monastery is about 6km out of town and is also undergoing substantial repairs. It's much better seen from a distance at the moment. We didn't even have the chance to crawl under the altar, which apparently brings your wishes to fruition, as the gap has been chained off!
A further 4 or 5 km of twists, turns and climbs brings you to Gelati Monastery. This is quite a substantial place with several different churches and bell towers to explore. The views over
the local area are magnificent too. It's also the place where King David the Builder is buried. He was the founder of the state of Georgia but we were unable to see his grave. A christening was going on in that location so we listened to the prayers, blessings and incantations before moving on. The music was quite haunting really.
Back in Kutaisi we found the "old city" to be rather new! It's quite a nice area and we sat in a bar and had a beer before wandering off in search of something to eat. Deciding to follow a recommendation in the Lonely Planet we walked for a long long way before deciding they have either got the address wrong or the place no longer exists! The place we found instead, just in front of the statue of King David the Builder on his horse, was fantastic. You wouldn't recognise it as a restaurant from the front but we tried the door and were very pleased to have done so. Garlic breath again for us!!
From the "old city" a cable car runs to an amusement park up on the hill. We had spotted the Big Wheel
from our hotel so we took a ride to the top and then walked back to our hotel. At dusk the views of the city were splendid and the big wheel glowing in the dark wasn't bad either.
The next morning our landlady prepared a magnificent breakfast. That hearty morning feast set us up for the day and our bus journey to Batumi on the Black Sea coast.
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