Our third day in Georgia meant about 300km of driving, coming down from the mountains and heading to the center of the country. It was a full day of driving, with a couple of stops on the way, but it still was enjoyable as the weather was nice and the view kept us busy the whole time.
After waking up with the mountains right in front of our windows, we had a rich breakfast and left the Kazbegi area heading to the Chiatura area where we would spend the night and have dinner in a small village with a local family. On our way we had a quick stop to the Uplistsikhe Cave Town.
Uplistsikhe Cave Town
Uplistsikhe (literally, “the lord’s fortress”), identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia, is an ancient rock-hewn town in the East of the country, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori, Shida Kartli.
Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture.
The Uplistsikhe complex can tentatively be divided into three parts: south (lower), middle (central) and north (upper) covering an area of approximately 8 hectares. The middle part is the largest, contains a bulk of the Uplistsikhe rock-cut structures, and is connected to the southern part via a narrow rock-cut pass and a tunnel. Narrow alleys and sometimes staircases radiate from the central “street” to the different structures.
The majority of the caves are devoid of any decorations, although some of the larger structures have coffered tunnel-vaulted ceilings, with the stone carved in imitation of logs. Some of the larger structures also have niches in the back or sides, which may have been used for ceremonial purposes.
At the summit of the complex is a Christian basilica built of stone and brick in the 9th-10th centuries. Archaeological excavations have discovered numerous artifacts of different periods, including gold, silver and bronze jewellery, and samples of ceramics and sculptures.
The site is open daily from 10.00 to 19.00 and entrance fee is 7 Lari for an adult and 1 Lari for children.
Dinner with locals in the Imereti Region
For dinner we asked again for help from the Culinary & Wine Expedition crew (the ones that also organized the Megruli Khachapuri and Kinghali cooking workshop in Kazbegi the previous day) and they chose a family somewhere in a village (not sure about the village’s name, might pe Mandaeti, or a neighboring village).
It was one of the most authentic and true experiences of the trip for us from all points of view. The family that hosted us for dinner, living in this small village, with no proper access road (our 4×4 car definitely made sense now), was so welcoming and willing to share their stories with us and to get to know our stories as well.
The men of the house make Qvevris as a living. Qvevris are some sort of big clay pots used for wine keeping (I wrote more about wine and wine making in Georgia in Day 1). It’s a manual long process to make one qvevri, they start from making the clay, by mixing water with soil and then building these big vases that can sometimes reach a volume of 2000 liters.
The men of the house also, of course, make wine and use their own homemade qvevris to also store their wine. So we also got the chance to taste some fresh wine taken out of one of the qvevris they have in their yard.
The women of the house normally take care of the vegetables garden, cook fresh meals and watch for the children. A classical countryside family. They cooked for us an amazing dinner, with so many fresh and tasty dishes. Everything combined with the house wine and with chacha. Everything tasted so good and all dishes went so well together with the wine.
I am pretty sure that everything tasted even more delicious because of the charm of this small village, of this nice family that did everything to make us feel so comfortable, of their stories, of their curious neighbors who joined dinner after dark, of us trying to find common words in Romanian and Georgian so to be able to understand each others.
Accommodation: Katski Guesthouse
Other stuff to do in the area: A cool article about Chiatura got to my attention while doing the research for my blog post. Definitely worth checking it out HERE.
Map of the trip: