Tag Archives: Churches

People Along the Way

One of the joys of this trip has been the people I have met along the way.

Tour group dressed to enter the Holy Shrine in Mushad, Iran

Tour group dressed to enter the Holy Shrine in Mushad, Iran

First of course there were those on the tour from Beijing to Istanbul, 6 women and one man from Australia, all of a certain age but from variety of backgrounds and a very wide range of social and political views. Our guide was a young Russian woman who had grown up in Kyrgyzstan because her grandparents had been sent there as part of Stalin’s gulag. Continue reading

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A Day in Sarajevo

What did I know about Sarajevo? I knew about that event in 1914 which set in motion the First World War. I knew about the Winter Olympics in the 1980s and I knew a bit about the siege of Sarajevo 1992-1995. But only a bit.

Mosque

Mosque

I had no idea that Sarajevo was a cross roads between East and West for centuries. The Ghazi Husrev-Bey’s Mosque was built in 1531 at the same time the Orthodox Church was being built and the Catholic Cathedral renovated. Things seem to have gone badly wrong since. Continue reading

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Train Travel Romania

Memorial to 1989 Revolution

Memorial to 1989 Revolution

I like travelling by train, I like the fact that trains are on the ground, you can see what you are what you are passing, you can move around, the seats have leg room , you don’t need to go through the hoops of airport security where your toothpaste or water can be tossed in the bin and trains go very often from the centre of cities.
I have had enjoyable, generally comfortable and interesting trips by train in Europe.
Continue reading

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Georgia

Churches
The Orthodox Church seems very important in Georgia. Whereas in Armenia we looked at the architecture of churches in Georgia it was the frescos and murals. In many churches the frescos were whited out by the Soviets but some have been restored and the churches have many icons. St Nina took Christianity to Georgia in 5th century from Turkey. Her icon is in many Churches.

St Siddonia is buried in a Cathedral outside Tbilisi. We were told that the garment worn by Christ before the Crucifixion, which the soldiers cast lots for was taken to Georgia and a young woman touched it and was immediately taken up to heaven. This is St Siddonia who is buried clutching this garment.

Our guide had great reverence for St Siddonia.

Gelati Monastery

Gelati Monastery

Cave city of Vardzia
The cave city of Vardzia is a cultural symbol with a special place in the hearts of Georgians. In the 12th century Giorgi III built a fortification at the site. His daughter, Queen Tamar, established a monastery here, which grew into a virtual holy city housing perhaps 2000 monks, renowned as a spiritual bastion of Georgia and of Christendom’s eastern frontier.
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Cave city of Vardzia

Cave city of Vardzia

Stalin Museum
One of the most interesting museums I have ever seen is the Stalin Museum in the city of Gori. Stalin was born in Gori which now has the only statue of Stalin left. The museum was established before his death so it shows his life and “accomplishments”. It is like a museum of a museum because it has not been added to since 1957.
Apparently there are discussions of extra rooms telling of the other side of Stalin, of the millions sent to the gulags etc etc.
Our guide whose grandparents were sent to Krygzistan as part of the gulag reacted quite differently to me.

Inside  Stalin's train that he used to attend the conference at Yalta in 1945.

Inside Stalin’s train that he used to attend the conference at Yalta in 1945.

We spent out last night in Georgia in the Black Sea city of Batumi. The story of Jason and the Golden Fleece is said to have taken place in Batumi.

Statue of Jason and the Golden Fleece

Statue of Jason and the Golden Fleece

Black Sea at Batumi

Black Sea at Batumi

Traders on the Silk Road often started or ended their journey here and travelled further by sea.

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Georgia

Not on your mind but the country the size of Denmark, with a population of 5 million, and said to have been the originator of wine in 6000 BC. A tradition they still seem to be keeping.

The first thing one notices when entering Georgia is that the road is full of boy racers who take little notice of speed limit signs, pass on blind corners and totally ignore pedestrian crossings of which there are many. This is very different from Armenia.

The capital, Tbilisi has a population of 1.5 million. The old town is being revived with cafes in the narrow streets blocked off to traffic, the old timber houses are protected and new buildings designed by international architects are being added to the bank of the river.

Pedestrian bridge and new theatre  as part of a river bank redevelopment

Pedestrian bridge and new theatre as part of a river bank redevelopment

Neighbours

Georgia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. It has borders with Armenia, Turkey, the Black Sea, Russia and Azerbaijan. In 2008 there was a war with South Ossetia which seems to be a rectangle shaped region with 3 sides bordering Georgia and one side as a border with Russia. South Ossetia wanted independence, supported by Russia. This is still unresolved. Georgia has close ties with the United States, the border with Russia is closed for Georgians but trucks from Armenia go to Russia via Georgia.

Georgia has lots of churches and mountains. We stayed in a ski village Gudaei about 1 hour 30 minutes from the capital with our driver.
We went along a terrifying unsealed road which was being repaired and had drops at the side for ever. This road was also used by trucks from Armenia to Russia.
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We went to the village of Gergeti which is 25 km from the Russian border to see the Gergeti Trinity Church, one of the most important Churches/monasteries in Georgia.

Village of Gergeti

Village of Gergeti

Snow must cut off the village in the winter. It is 87 Km to the capital of North Ossetia in Russia and 187 km to Tbilisi however since the border with Russia has been closed they are unable to access their houses, and supplies from Russia.

View from Gergeti

View from Gergeti

This road trip was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Our intrepid guide turned pale when our van had to pass a bus.

There is still a monument from the past to recall the relationship with Russia.

Monument  on the relationship between Georgia and Russia - from a previous time.

Monument on the relationship between Georgia and Russia – from a previous time.

The mural shows Russia as the fond mother with Georgia in her arms as a small child.

There was an elderly woman selling the usual handscrafts and dried fruit sweets here packing up while a young man in a late model BMW waited for her.

A couple of enduring memories of Georgia was the number of elderly, mostly women begging and the number of elderly people, again mostly women bent double. The guide said there was a very high unemployment rate and men were seeking work in Greece and Italy. We saw lots of men waiting by the side of the road waiting for day hire.

Cows on the road

Cows on the road

Another common sight was cows on the road, often being driven and mostly just grazing even on the side of major highways.

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Yerevan Armenia

Yerevan is the capital of Armenia with a population of 1.2 million. We stayed in a soviet era hotel, somewhat down at heel, about 20 minutes from the centre of the city. It had a view of the Presidential Palace from some windows. These windows had signs stating ‘No Photographs’. Our window had a view of Mount Ararat, a symbol of Armenian nationalism that just happens to be in Turkey.

We mostly visited historic sites outside the city but we did have a great guided tour of the History Museum and a much too long tour of the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts.

Malkhas Jazz Club

Malkhas Jazz Club

I went to the Malkhas Jazz Club and heard the terrific Levon Malkhasyan play.

We also attended the Opera and saw a performance of the Armenian opera Anush.

Altar built near the Yerevan Cathedral for the Mass said by the Armenian Patriarch and Pope John Paul II

Altar built near the Yerevan Cathedral for the Mass said by the Armenian Patriarch and Pope John Paul II

We visited the Roman ruins which date back to the 3rd century AD.

Roman temple

Roman temple

After the Roman temple a demonstration of traditional bread making.

Then lunch in the garden.

Lunch in a garden

Lunch in a garden

A visit to a ruin of 7th century church with Mount Ararat in the background.

Zvartnots 7th century church with Mount Ararat

Zvartnots 7th century church with Mount Ararat

One of the less pleasant sites of Yerevan, and other cities of Armenia, Georgia, and Uzbekistan are the large number of Soviet blocks of flats.

Soviet built flats in Yerevan

Soviet built flats in Yerevan

These were built in Khrushchev time as a temporary measure to cope with a housing shortage. They are still very much a part of many cities, many are very run down and some look very unsafe.

I really liked being in Armenia perhaps because it was more familiar to me than the other countries we had visited. I could cope with the traffic which seemed to travel at reasonable speed and generally obey the road rules, there were no police checks, there was open access to the internet and I knew a little of its history.

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