Amanda Shepherd

Amanda S

Amanda Shepherd

Asia » Georgia » Western Georgia » Vardzia July 1st 2018

After driving back from Mt Aragats area to Yerevan, we spent an afternoon wandering around, including visiting the Noy brandy and wine factory (good tour and we could just walk in and had the guide to ourselves). From there we took a minibus (7000 AMD) to Didube bus station in Tblisi (this time the border crossing took 10 mins - it had taken 90 when we came through to Armenia), spent the afternoon wandering around there, including walking up to the Mother of Georgia monument with good views over the city. It has been very hot in Yerevan and Tblisi - hitting 39 degrees - nearly as hot as Doha. Despite being told it was a 4 hour journey from Tblisi to Akhaltsikhe we happily arrived after 2.5 hours, we were cramped in the back of ... read more
Peace bride Tblisi
Vardzia cave monastery and city
Frescoes in Assumption Church, Vardzia

Asia » Armenia » West » Mount Aragats June 27th 2018

After visiting the Haghpat monastery again we set off for Ahtarak,which is back towards Yerevan. Another day and of course more monasteries and churches, Saghnosovank and then Hovhanovank monasteries were onteh drive. These were in sight of each other but a big gorge away, both in stunning settings. The first pretty inside the second built right on the edge of the gorge. Just outside the town of Ashtarak is Muhinj, or Saint George's church, a lovely stripy church with bands of red and black brickwork, this time in a garden setting. The last church of the day was my favourite, a tiny 9th century church of Saint Mary, known for its lovely frescoes inside. Two elderly ladies sitting there trying to chat with us but no common language! Opposite is a delightful cafecalled Pascal and Diodato, ... read more
Inside St Mary's church, Ashtarak
Walking through the snow Mt Aragats
View from the ridge to Lake Kari

Asia » Armenia » North » Alaverdi June 26th 2018

Drove along the apparently historic Debed Canyon (this is what the guide book says, but we didn't spot any of the churches that are supposed to line the valley). Very different scenery, green tree covered hills. Very steep and long canyon with a lot of old Soviet industrial factories along the way. Our destination of Alvaverdi town, a very ugly big town that is full of semi-derelict factories, a decrepit looking cable car and two UNESCO world heritage monasteries, Haghpat and Sanahin. Haghpat we felt was the more interesting of the two. Both are from Medieval times with libraries and great stone work. Sanahin was known for the illuminators of manuscripts. The town of Sanahin is the top of the cable car from Alaverdi and is where the factory workers lived, the cable car was for ... read more
Inside Sanahin monastery
Haghpat monastery
Debed valley from Haghpat

Asia » Armenia » East » Sevan June 25th 2018

Lovely day of driving through beautiful colourful landscape and stopping at interesting sights. First stop, at the top of a high winding pass was a Caravansary from the 13th century. Very well preserved and not renovated, had a feeling f old-world and long history. What a route though high up on this mountain pass in bad weather with camels laden with wares. Coming down from the pass there is the huge Lake Sevan, it's the largest lake in the Caucasus mountains and sits at an elevation of 1,900m. The first stop was Noratus cemetery which has hundreds of the local intricately carved memorial stones (khachkar), some of which date from ancient times. Bumped into a British/Polish couple here that we have now met in all 3 countries, including staying at the same guest house in Sighnaghi ... read more
Scenery en-route
Noratus cemetery
inside Hayravanak monastery

Asia » Armenia » South » Artashat June 23rd 2018

Picked up our Lada Niva for a 6day tour around Armenia. First stop was Geghard monastery, not so far out of Yerevan (UNESCO world heritage site, Medieval monastery). This is a big complex founded by Gregory the Illuminator (3rd Century founder of Christianity in Armenia and patron Saint of Armenia). There are some lovely carvings in the stone, both inside and outside. We were fortunate to catch a choir singing beautifully in a cave chapel. It was a very popular destination, probably due to it being Saturday. Close by is Garni temple, a left over from Roman occupation, interesting history but not so interesting to visit. From there a longer drive took us to Khor Virap monastery (17th century) which has great views to Mt Ararat, it's also where Gregory the Illuminator was incarcerated for 13 ... read more
Garni Temple
Khor Virap, Mt Ararat trying to peak out of clouds
Noravank Monastery

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan June 21st 2018

It's a long journey on an uncomfortable minibus with no air-con with a driver who is ken to get to his destination as quickly as possible,a a total of 6 hours including a border crossing that took one and a half hours, we arrived just behind a big tour bus. Immediate impressions of Yerevan are positive, a quiet city that’s easy to walk around. Staying quite close to Republic Square Walked in the centre of the city. From here it's easy to walk to the main sights, our first afternoon that included to the Cascades park which is a big staircase with art installations set up by the philanthropist Cafesjian. From the staircase we could just see Mt Ararat in the background on the Turkish border. The next day we did walking tour around the city ... read more
View from part way up the Cascades
GUM market
Republic Square fountain display

Asia » Georgia » Southern Georgia » Gori June 20th 2018

The minibus dropped us outside the Stalin Museum in Gori. After a surprisingly good coffee in a street stall opposite the museum, we joined on the back of a and English tour group to be shown around the museum. Our guide was quite factual, rather than promoting one side. The upper floor has many images of Stalin through his life, including his death mask. There are also cabinets full of gifts from around the world. Downstairs is a smaller display giving a glimpse of the harsher side of his role in history. For a small extra fee there is his bullet proof train to look around. Our guide was quite balanced telling us throughout that there’s the official and many other versions of the stories around Stalin. Many Georgian families were affected by family members being ... read more
View of Gori from the fortress

Asia » Georgia » Northern Georgia June 16th 2018

Traveled from Sighnaghi to Kazbegi in the Caucasus mountains, via Tblisi. Felt like the whole day was spent in a vehicle. The minibus to Tbilisi was a bit more comfortable than previous ones and pretty much went straight there, around 2 hours. Bus station was in a grubby bit of town, took the metro across town to a different bus station then took a driver (50GEL) to Kazbeghi. After the church at Ananuri the route was through lovely scenery, steep valleys and high peaks. The road was shockingly busy, mostly trucks – lots from Russia and Armenia. Also lots of cars out, as it was Saturday I guess. Ananuri and a paragliding stop were particularly crowded. Once in Stepantsminda - or Kazbegi, we found that our guest house was way up ... read more
Trinity Church with mountain behind
View from high up the mountain
Juta valley walk

Asia » Georgia » Eastern Georgia » Telavi June 12th 2018

Telavi and Signaghi Telavi is not the most inspiring town, there are good views from the palace down into the valley. We hired a driver for the day, organised by our host Svetlana – the most comfortable car we have been in so far! Hetook us around the area to four different historical sites, a 6th Century church at Ikalto, a big and still operating monastery at Alaverdi a UNESCO site with buildings from 6th Centruy. Then on to ancient palace on a hill at Gremi from the 16th Century and finally to the foot of a steep hill that took us up to another ancient church at Nekresi from 4th Century. A very pleasant day, quite a lot of tourists doing the same circuit. We didn't add in the vineyard trip. Great locations for their ... read more
Alaverdi monastery
Gremi Church
Nekresi Monastery

Asia » Azerbaijan » Seki June 11th 2018

Took the night train from Baku arriving a little ahead of time at Sheki station at 7am. A driver from Ilgar’s Guest House was waiting for us for the 17km journey from the station to the town. Guide book rated this as a pretty town, after a day of wandering we beg to differ! Lots of stone buildings up a steep hill and off up hills in other directions but not well kept and many empty. Cobbled streets (most of which seem to be undergoing water pipe renovation). Ilgar’is s a quaint home-stay, clean and we have a spacious room. Ilgar is very friendly with good English. Further up the hill is a beautiful summer palace of the Shaki Khans from the 1700s set inside some castle walls. It’s only small but beautifully kept with most ... read more
Kish Albanian Church
Pitti in Sheki

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