The heart of Georgia

Mtskheta Travel Blog

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People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

Mtskheta holds a deep rooted significance to all Georgians and in fairness, it probably should be more renowned by those of us who live in Christian countries. The town served as the capital of eastern Georgia for 8 centuries, until this honour was bestowed upon Tbilisi in the 5th Century. But it was in 327 that Mtskheta really helped to shape the Western World, when King Mirian and Queen Nana were converted to Christianity by St Nino, making them the second Christian nation on Earth.

The marshrutka from Didube station in Tbilisi only took 20 minutes to reach the town and we were conveniently dropped off by the magnificent Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

The building dates back to the early part of the 11th Century and is protected by a defensive wall that was added in 1787, some 400 years too late to protect the Cathedral from been damaged by Timur. Inside there is a pillar adorned with frescoes and beneath this it is believed that Christs robe is buried. Whether this is true or not is anyones guess, but listening to a large group of people singing in front of it certainly was moving.

From Svetitskhoveli we walked down to the Mtkvari River and then on to the Antioki Church, which was set in a small garden near to the river. Having taken a brief glance we walked North through the town, and to our right we could see Jvari Church perched on a hill high above and Bebris Tsikhe castle in front of us. The first place we came to however was Samtavro Church, which was built in the 1130's.
The Church was nice to have a quick look around and in the grounds was the Tsminda Nino, a small church said to be on the spot where St Nino prayed.

It took 15 minutes to walk from here up to the castle, where we were treated to some nice views and after this we crossed the Aragvi River by a small bridge and saw a dead snake on the way. Once on the other embankment we had to dash across a motorway and into the hills, with our objective been to climb up to Jvari Church. It took about 30 minutes to make it up to the summit, where a cold wind waited to to greet us.

Jvari Church is located idyllically on the top of a hill that overlooks the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers, with Mtskheta's wonderful Churches and handsome castle located down below. The Church itself isn't too shoddy either, built between 585 and 604 over a sacred wooden cross from the 4th Century, which was arguably planted by either St Nino before the town converted to Christianity or King Mirian soon after it had.
Outside there were some charming bells and pieces of cloth tied to branches of a tree, which i would associate more with pagan or animist religions.

Walking back down the hill we observed a minutes silence at 15.11, which was 11.11 back at home, as it was remembrance day. We then thought we would try and be clever and flag a ride back to Tbilisi from the motorway, but the marshrutka driver that stopped for us didn't seem too happy, as it turned out Tbilisi was in the opposite direction to that of which he was going! Whooooops. Back in the centre of Mtskheta we made sure we stood in the right place and caught a jam packed marshrutka back to Tbilisi, arriving just in time for tea.

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photo by: HelenP