Along with beautiful snowy mountains, vineyards and friendly Georgians, Kakheti is home to a few interesting monasteries. I’ve mentioned one already in the workaway post.
On our last day at the Sanavardo Wine Hostel (workaway place), we went with our lovely host Ucha to Nekresi monastery a bit beyond Kvareli. It was positioned on a hill and the only access was by the monastery bus which went up the steep one lane road. A church has been here since the 4th century!
One part of the monastery we visited was where they made wine. We could see the trough that the monks stood in to crush the grapes with their feet and the ceramic vessels in holes in the floor where they stored the wine.
After Nekresi, we took a marshutka to Telavi where we stayed in a nice B & B. The next day our host organised a driver to take us to Alaverdi. Paulina joined us which was nice. There was a service on when we went inside, just the priest and one woman singing in the large, barely decorated cathedral. Some parts of the monastery are from the 6th century but the Alaverdi cathedral was built in the 11th century. It is the second tallest religious building after the new cathedral that was built in Tbilisi in 2004. The monastery is in a fertile valley with many grapevines and a beautiful mountain backdrop. Monks here make wine and perhaps watch satellite tv if the many satellite dishes were anything to go by!
We decided to continue to see Gremi with the driver who was very nice and quite knowledgeable about the area. Gremi is a royal citadel and a church from the 16th century. What was once a lively trading town on the silk route and the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti (1466 -1616), after the Persian armies of Shah Abbas razed it to the ground in 1615, Gremi never really recovered. These days its just a Church and Bell tower that look out over a river and nice valley with a small town not far away. The bell tower houses a museum with a few interesting things like the King’s toilet, modern portraits of the Kakhetian Kings and details of the death of Queen Ketevan who refused to convert to Islam and was tortured and put to death in Shiraz in 1624. The same year she was cannonized by the Georgian orthodox church as a martyr.
Then it was back to the B & B to collect our bags before then heading off to Tbilisi through the most stunning scenery. We climbed up a hill through some gorgeous trees all autumn coloured then from one moment to the next it went from autumn to winter as all was replaced by snow. We stopped to admire the views at the Gombori Mountain Pass with its altitude of 1620m then descended down an equally beautiful road before heading along to Tbilisi.
Kakheti was a truly stunning region. If I make it this way again I would love to visit the neighbouring region of Tusheti, a mountainous area in the northeast of Georgia that can only be accessed from Kakheti. The road to Tusheti was closed at this time of year though so next time I will aim for a May – September visit when it should be open. The road goes over a pass that is 2900m in altitude and is only suitable for 4WD, but if we are so lucky as to come back to Georgia, we’d love to explore this area.
This is the last of my exploring Georgia posts... We didn’t make it to the sea to experience Batumi, maybe that will be on the next visit too.