Samtskhe-Javakheti – Nature, Dormant Volcanoes and a Lot of Gooses
Truly a captivating site, once known as “Meskheti”. Unique in so many ways and unforgettable for millions of visitors. This region of our magnificent country was countless times called the “cradle of Georgia’s glory” and its, significance and cultural advancements simply can’t go unnoticed. “In educational matters, Meskheti for Georgians is what Greece is for the entire humanity” – says Georgian historian Mose Janashvili.
Historical records show that this area was vastly populated and advanced even in 785 BC and it was mentioned by Urartian King Argishti the first (Argishti I: The 6th king of ancient Urartu in eastern Anatolia). It is undeniably the oldest and most historically and strategically valuable part of Georgia. This rich land served as the playing ground for the most talented strategists and passed from one great Empire to another: Persia, Byzantium, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans, making it the most militarized area of medieval Georgia.
The perfect location, various cliffs, and vast forests filled with medieval castles, some of those built into the cliffs themselves! Volcanic valleys and abundance of rivers, made it so that life never stopped booming here for the centuries. Mainly in the cities and former fortified towns – Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe & Akhalkalakhi and up to 30 castles and 100 churches, between and beyond them. Borjomi deserves the whole article just to itself and with the mention of a full-sized, completely restored, and gigantic medieval castle and Borjomi National Park.
Built by the greatest ruler that ever sat upon the Georgian throne, Tamar created something truly mesmerizing and jaw-droppingly enormous: 13 floors, more than 3000 rooms, and the capacity of 50,000 people, City inside the cave – Vardzia. Tamar finished its construction at the end of the XII century and during its golden days had a functioning residential area, dining halls, barns for living stock, library, pharmacy, wine cellar and etc. Looking like the castle from some grand fantasy novel from your favorite author, but this actually is the reality that you can imagine yourself living in while walking along its tight corridors and passages.
The reality of the medieval resident of an actual cave city, dining in the big central gathering room, going to the library and talking to local scholars about life and poetry while looking at the river valley underneath the city and getting fresh water coming straight into your room from the nearby river, and yes this medieval cave city had a whole plumbing system! Where’s the fun of imagining all this from home? When you can travel to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site in just 4 hours from the capital Tbilisi, just saying…