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  • Day20

    Two faces of Georgia

    July 25, 2017 in Georgia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    My expectations of Georgia were largely centred around it being a former Soviet state, I hadn't considered the longer history. I still don't know very much of Georgian history but I think today helped put some of it in perspective. Our drive back to Tbilisi took us through Gori which is the town where Stalin was born and then Upstiltske where there was an abandoned cave village.
    The Stalin museum in Gori had actually been under construction when he died. The first thing you see is a large almost Mausoleum structure which is a shelter for the house Stalin was born in. They brought it here and reconstructed it. It's small, it was shared with the landlord, Stalin's parents rented the front room and his father had space in the basement for his cobbling business.
    The museum also houses Stalin's train carriage as well as a host of paintings, photographs, documentation and State gifts sent to Stalin from other countries. An English guide was needed as none of the signs include English. It's an odd atmosphere - the showcasing of State gifts seems like an attempt for validation or legitimacy. And yet there's also an attempt to balance the old propaganda (or maybe that was an attempt by an English speaking guide).
    Walking around the small bit of Gori that we did revealed the usual Soviet apartment blocks but these quickly gave way to a beautifully restored Old Town.
    We had planned on stopping in Mtskhete but decided to make a slight detour to Upstiltske which turned out to be an unexpected surprise. Unfortunately there was no English information, and so I can't pretend to be intelligent and offer much explanation. It was a village carved into the rock with evidence of wine cellars, temple and kitchens. There is a chapel that has been built on the site but the real pleasure was in the freedom we had just to roam. With no fences or cordoned off areas, we could just clamber over the rocks as we wanted. I'm aware this comes with a cost to the site, but it was amazing having that freedom.
    In the end, we drove back to Tbilisi rather than stopping in Mtskhete for more monasteries... Heathens that we are
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