My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Monday, 21 July 2014

Holy Georgia - The Cave City of Uplistsikhe

Sculptures(?)  in a field near Gori

The River Mtkvari on the way to Uplistsikhe
The Cave City of Uplistsikhe dates back to the 1st millennium BC and is built horizontally into the sandstone over an area of approximately 10 hectares, making full use of the original natural cave system. It sits on a hill overlooking the Mtkvari river and was an important trade center from at least the fifth century BC, later part of the historic Silk Road until the 12th century AD, linking with other Silk Road settlements such as those of Gori, Kaspi and Mtskheta. This was a pagan city originally, the pagan temples destroyed when Christianity came to the area and so Pagan and Christian architecture coexists here. It was at one stage in its history inhabited by monks, until it was destroyed in the 13th century by the Mongol raids. There was some earthquake damage in medieval times and the ravages of weather and tourism have both taken their toll - but there is still much to see, rewarding us for the slightly challenging climb in the late afternoon heat … remnants of a theatre, wine cellars, a water reservoir, the main street, and a basilica all created out of the rock. On top of the hill is a 9th - 10th century stone and brick Christian Basilica. Many fine archaeological artifacts found here, including silver, bronze and gold jewelry, are safely held in the Tbilisi National Museum, which I visit on our last day here in beautiful Caucasian Georgia.

Our intrepid Dean leading the way at Uplistsikhe!

We are Christian pilgrims from the Anglican Diocese of Southwark in London, following in the steps of St Nino and the Syrian fathers.

Looking up towards the Basilica on the hill top
Tamar's Hall
We now have a long drive to our hotel for the next two nights to be spent high up in the Caucasus Mountains. Fortunately the weather is kind, the evening sunshine beautiful, the scenery endlessly fascinating. Here between Gori and Tblisi we see quite large herds of cows being led back from milking. There are still no obvious field boundaries except where clearly demarcated by the different arable crops being grown, mostly "greens" of some sort including plenty of spinach for the delicious dishes they make out of that humble but nutritious leaf. Some of these plots are quite large and yet are still being worked by hand; men are to be seen hoeing and weeding between rows. Cows wonder seemingly unconcerned along the edge of the fast main road, perilously close to the traffic. As we approach Tbilisi some fencing off of fields can be seen and the farming seems to be on a larger and more mechanical scale. Large flocks of sheep are seen, the first I have observed here. There are several huge irrigation bars in one of the fields - for covering large areas of arable crops. I hope these are for water, not for pesticides and weed killers - as this would not be good for the wonderfully rich biodiversity for which Georgia is renowned. Curiously, although pork is a popular meat in the restaurants, I have seen no pigs at all. Some of the long low farm buildings we have seen along the way may be housing pigs. I do hope not, but fear it is so. There are many welfare issues surrounding the farming of pigs for meat - much more about this can be found at the website of Compassion for World Farming. If you enjoy pork and bacon please visit this site!

wine store at the caves
The river view at Uplistsikhe - but oh dear look at that litter in the tree!
another river view from Uplistsikhe
We soon approach Tbilisi and turn North onto the beginning of the Georgian Military Highway, with 94 kilometers or c. 60 miles to our destination in Gudauri. It is getting late and we are travelling at some speed. I have to say that I am not comfortable doing these high speeds in a coach without seat-belts. In Georgia the law only requires the front seats to have belts. Few others seem perturbed by this, some almost hostile to my voiced concern. Our coach that met us at the airport in Tbilisi on arrival had seat belts throughout so I know they are available. Tour operators and guides please note! But our driver is certainly skillful and knows his coach, his country and his roads pretty well…

As we drive away from the caves - note the cows!
We relax and enjoy the scenic drive northwards …

1 comment:

  1. Finally getting back to (and enjoying) your photo travel journals! Somehow, the summer got away from me. My email boxes have become backlogged and I've been ignoring blogs - friends' blogs as well as my own.
    Happy traveling. Always insightful.