The national flag of Georgia (sometimes called the ‘5 Cross Flag’) depicts a prominent red St. George cross surrounded by four smaller red bolnur-katskhuri crosses. It was the original banner of the medieval Kingdom of Georgia from 1008–1490 and reinstated as the national flag in 2004. St. George is the patron saint of Georgia. The five cross design is thought to represent the 5 wounds of Christ endured during His crucifixion.
Awesome City Break in Tbilisi! —
Since Tbilisi, Georgia is only a 3-hour flight from Dubai and in the same time zone, Nina and I decided to make it a short city break destination in August. We loved our time in Tbilisi (pronounced ti-BEE-li-si) as it was buzzing with tourists and activities for a great atmosphere! There were scores of tourist everywhere we visited and we now know why; Tbilis is a gorgeous medieval city with much history and scenic attractions. We decided to stay in the heart of ‘Old Town’ at a boutique hotel–the very charming Old Tiflis Boutique Hotel–within walking distance to most everything we wanted to see and do. The hotel was located next to the famous sulfur bath houses of Tbilisi and many restaurants and shops were nearby.
We arrived in early afternoon and took our own little walking tour of Old Town, ate khachapuri and other Georgian cuisine at one of the many quaint restaurants, and roamed around the south side of the Kura River until dark. Tbilisi is also lovely at night with many of the Georgian-style balcony buildings lit up as well as the many of the landmarks, such as the Metekhi Church and Narikala Fortress that looms high above the city.
The next morning we decided to take a hop-on hop-off tour of the city and then take the cableway up to the Narikala Fortress in the afternoon. There are loads of things to see and do in Tbilisi! We found Tbilisi to be beautiful and full of charm. The high cliffs along the Kura River, old churches and gardens, panaromic views of the city from the Narikala Fortress, old churches and gardens, sulfur baths, and outdoor cafes buzzing with atmosphere. We highly recommend Tbilisi as a city break.
Day Trip to the Kazbegi Mountains–
Our young niece and new husband drove us from Tbilisi to the scenic Kazbegi Mountains in northern Georgia near the Russian border. The scenery along the way was absolutely breathtaking. Heading north from Tbilisi along the Georgia E117 (Georgia Military Highway) we first stopped at the beautiful Svetitskhoveli Cathedral just north of Tbilisi, a Georgian Orthodox church complex originating in the 4th century A.D. In Georgian, sveti means ‘pillar’ and tskhoveli means ‘life-giving’. The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the 2nd largest church structure in the entire country (pictures below).
Shortly after visiting the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, we stopped at the Jvari Monestary located high on a rocky hill at the confluence of the Kura and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the town of Mtskheta, which was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia. Built in the 6th century A.D., the Jvari Monestary was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 (pictures below).
Next we drove further north along the Georgia E117 toward the Kazbegi Mountains and stopped at the gorgeous Ananuri castle complex on the Aragvi River. Built in the 13th century Ananuri was the seat of the Dukes of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area. The complex is rich in history and a key fixture in many medieval battles. Next we made a short stop at the famous mineral springs in Gudauri, which was an interesting clay-coloured outcrop amongst the green mountains (pictures below).
Driving further north the mountains became more and more majestic with breathtaking vistas along the way. Finally we made it to the foot of the access road up to the iconic Gergeti Trinity Church, located in the shadow of Mount Kazbegi. Since we did not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, we hired a driver to take us up to the monastery. The road, or maintain trail really, was unpaved, very narrow and not for the faint hearted as we meandered our way up the many switchbacks with sheer cliffs. But once we reached the church, it was well worth it!! Gergeti Trinity Church was built in the 14th century and stands at 2170 meters (7119 feet) above sea level. It was absolutely gorgeous!! (pictures below)
Facts & Figures
— Tbilisi is the capital and largest city of Georgia and was formerly known as ‘Tiflis’
— Tbilisi was founded in the 5th century A.D. by King Vakhtang I Gorgasali, king of Caucasian Iberia located in present day eastern Georgia
— The name ‘T’bilisi‘ means ‘warm location’ in Georgian due to the numerous sulphuric hot springs in the area
— Georgia gained independence from Russia (USSR) in 1991
— Christianity was adopted as the Georgians primary religion in the 4th century AD; today their official Christian religion is the Georgian Orthodox Church
— English is not widely spoken in Georgia, however we found most people spoke enough English to communicate within Tbilisi and the tourist areas
— It is best to stay in a hotel in the ‘Old Town’ as most of the tourist attractions are within walking distance
— The unit of currency for Georgia is the lari (GEL)
Proverbs 3:31-32 – New Living Translation (NLT)
31 Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways.
32 Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly.
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