Day 44 (1): More World Heritage stuff
Mtskheta Travel Blog› entry 64 of 260 › view all entries
May 19th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
Back in Tbilisi I went to Jack and Lika's house. I would be staying the night at their apartment. Lika was at work today, but Jack had a day off and he offered to drive to Mtskheta. I had hoped to be able to go here on my last day in Georgia, so this was a great surprise.
Mtskheta lies 25 kilometres from Tbilisi and is Georgia's spiritual heart. It was the country's capital between the 3rd century BC and the 5th century AD and remains the country's religious centre to this day. With many tourist dollars rolling in the town is flourishing these days and its old centre has been restored very nicely.
The towering Svetitskhoveli cathedral is the obvious attraction in this town. This 11th century was one of the largest religious buildings at its time and these days it is still very imposing.
Inside it is the usual collection of icons and chandeliers and I like how the Georgian Orthodox church has far less elaborate ornaments than for example the Russian Orthodox churches, which are usually filled to the brim with golden decorations.
I witness a baptism, which was very interesting. I looked at the ceremony from a distance, but as soon as the priest spotted me he beckoned me to come closer and take photos.He seemed to be in some sort of trance, muttering unintelligible prayers non-stop throughout the ceremony. In Dutch baptism ceremonies a baby usually just gets some holy water splashed on its forehead.
Near Mtskheta is another interesting church, the Jvari church is perched on a nearby hill which offers great views over Mtskheta and the valley beyond. For Georgians this church is considered the holiest of all. It is one of the oldest surviving churches in the country as well.
The inside was surprisingly barren. There are a few icons arranged along the walls, but the walls themselves have not been decorated at all.
When compared to Armenia (or Ukraine for that matter) it is surprising to see so many old churches have survived in Georgia. But perhaps it is not all that strange. Georgia's claim to fame is that they brought forth the greatest mass murderer in mankind, one Joseph Stalin. And while the cobbler's son from Gori never did all that much for his motherland during his 25 year rule of the largest nation on earth, he also never really bothered Georgia. The country was largely spared from the Stalinist purges in the 1930s and there were also far fewer deportations to gulags in Siberia from here. Perhaps that is the reason why Stalin is still revered by many Georgians, as it proves to them that anyone can become a president given the right circumstances. The millions of people who died during Stalin's reign are generally glanced over.
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