Fellow travellers we have left Armenia behind and have crossed the border into Georgia.
Have to say I loved Georgia more than Armenia, for various reasons, from a more relaxed leader to a variation of interesting things to see. Hope you stay with me.
That is where we are heading, got your hiking boots on?
We are travelling in style, well in a Georgian bus which is pretty ok really.
The monastery was built between 590 and 610 of the common era. standing on a sheer cliff face at the confluence of the Kura and and Aragvi rivers.
There are some spectacular views to be has looking down on the town and plain of Mtskheta.
Off to the horizon where the snow capped peak of Mt. Kazbegi, can be seen, standing majestically at over 15,000 ft it straddles the border of Georgia and Russia.
Thankfully since we dumped the Armenian guide at the border and are now led by a really cool young girl, (well young to me anyways), who, when we met her, told us that she would not fill our heads with loads of
useless interesting information; stuff we don't need to know, just stuff that we need to know, and to ask questions if you want to know more about stuff.
A) I am in love with this attitude
B) I didn't ask any questions about stuff
4th century of the common era, to signify the "end" of paganism, a wooden cross was erected at the sanctuary. This church was built directly over the site of the cross, and get this, that big old chunk is the original base of the cross, some 1600 years old.
The Grapevine Cross, known also as the Georgian Cross, the symbol of the Georgian orthodox church.
Since the middle ages the church became increasingly important as a site of pilgrimage and was thus fortified, what is left of the fortifications are seen in picture six earlier.
During the Soviet period, the church was preserved as a national monument, but due to the proximity of a nearby military base, the church was virtually unused.
In 1994 it was awarded UNESCO status and is understood to be one of the most sacred places in Georgia, still used today for major religious occasions.
The story goes that if a visitor strikes the three bells with a stick.....
yup got that right.