Mtskheta is a town-museum in Georgia, which was the old capital center of the Kingdom of Kartli. Later, when the capital moved to Tbilisi, Mtskheta retained the function of the seat of Kartli Church and from XI century- the spiritual center of the whole Georgia. Until 1811 there was situated the seat of the Head of the Georgian Church- the residence of the Georgian Patriarch. Mtskheta is rich with both- archeological and Antique era historical memorials, as well as Christian era.
Among them is famous Armazi- the residence and burial site of the Royals of Kartli from Parnavaziani Dynasty, cathedrals of Jvari, Svetitskhoveli, Samtavro, monasteries of Shiomghvime and Zedazeni fortress of Bebri. In a nutshell, Mtskheta is the home of up to 270 cultural heritage monuments of various periods. In 2009 this ancient town was included in the UNESCO List of Cultural Heritage Sites, and here is worth mentioning Jvari Monastery, which stands in front of Mtskheta, on the mountain.
Jvari Cathedral is prominent, as it launched a new stage of the Georgian religious architecture- dome church. Later, the whole group of similar churches was founded, which were similar to Mtskheta Jvari in layout and general structure. They are OLd Shuamta, Martvili and Ateni Sioni. In XI century, in the heart of Kartli, in downtown Mtskheta, was built Svetitskhoveli (literally the Cathedral of the Living Pillar). Among nowadays existing middle-age Georgian Christian cultural monuments Svetitskhoveli is the greatest. A legend floated, that when construction of the cathedral was finished, the architect’s right hand was severed, since he prevailed and overtook his teacher in architectural mastership. Svetitskhoveli is considered to be the starting point of the whole direction in the Georgian Middle Age central-dome architecture. Svetitskhoveli is surrounded by two-tier fence, with combat path, gun emplacements and loopholes for pelting stones.
In the downtown of Mtskheta one can also see Samtavro (Principality)- a complex of XI century, which consists of a big Episcopacy cathedral, belfry, fence, tower and living and service quarters built later, and of course- St. Nino Church (as she lived here, after arriving to Georgia to preach Christianity). This is a small-scale dome construction standing to the east of the big cathedral. It was built by king Mirian on this blackberry bush area, where St. Nino settled first. The interior of the church is painted with compositions on the life of St. Nino and other themes, all of the paintings are primitive and late.
The Shiomghvime Monastery Complex was one of the outstanding religious and cultural centers in the feudal time Georgia, it is located about 40 km from Tbilisi, in Mtskheta region, on the left bank of the river Mtkvari. It was founded in the second half of VI century by one of the Assyrian preachers named Shio. Shio spent the last years of his life in a dark and deep cave. This is where the name comes from- Shio Mghvime means the Cave of Shio in Georgian.
His grave is here and is regarded as the sacred place. The Shiomghvime Monastery Complex includes: dome church of John the Baptist, the Upper church, refectory and a chapel near the monastery. Shiomghvime was the hotbed of culture and education in medieval Georgia, as there was one of the biggest Library of the rarest collection of manuscripts.
As for Pshav-Khevsureti, this is the historical region. Situated on the border of Kartli-Kakheti, Pshavi is settled on the elevation of 1,000-3,218 m above the sea level. Therefore, there are practically no peaks with perpetual snowy summits, while the high mountains for Khevsureti are first and foremost typical. Historically-minded, Khevsureti has always been a guard for Georgia, a borderline region. For centuries Khevsurs were reliable border guards of the nation from invading enemy. Non-stop military alertness was the cause of the special architectural appearance of villages in Khevsureti: each settlement is virtually a stand-alone fortification establishment. The largest village and settlement of the region is Shatili. So-called the Hamlet of the Shatili is located in the Upper Khevsureti, 15 km from the town of Dusheti, 1,000 m above the sea level. This is the striking specimen of unique architecture, which is typical for Khevsureti.
Fortress-houses with sunshades are lined up to the rocky slopes in terrace-style with walls constructed from shale stones. These stones are attached to each other so closely, that they prevent even a sunbeam to go through. So, this fortified house creates a unified defence wall.The houses are connected with each other by narrow stone stairs. If you are a strange traveler and enter a village, may cross it from one end to the other without touching a ground. Every year, in the beginning of August, popular festival “Shatiloba” is held here. Hamlet of Mutso is the oldest fortified village of the Upper Khevsureti. The village is located 12-15 km away from Shatili, on three terraces and is built of slate. In the middle of the terrace is an icon of St. George and lookout tower. Mutso itself is a unique fortification establishment, where up to 40 houses and ruins of domestic and defense purposes have survived up to the present.
Near here is also not yet known to everyone, but one of the most amazing natural wonders one can ever see- Abudelauri (Roshka) boulders, within the Abudelauri Lake. At its foot there are color lakes (2812 m) of Abudelauri Glacier (moraine) origin. This is one of the largest lakes, has the maximum depth 3,8 m, volume 45,000 m3. The lake gets its feed from snow, glacier and rainwater, also has outflows. For a long time (more than 6 months) the lake remains frozen. Of course, there is no fish in this condition in the lake. As for Abudelauri Gorge, it is 1850-1900 m above sea level. Boulders of 19x5x7 and 22x13x10 size created from magma rocks- belong to the largest erratic (crawling) boulders in the whole world.
There are even bigger boulders of 25 m length further from the village. In the highland parts of Abudelauri gorge there are comparatively smaller erratic boulders. These boulders were carried over from Chaukvi massif by largest glacier, which is Pleistocene aged.
The biggest part of the Georgian segment of the Georgian Military Road crosses the territory of Kazbegi municipality. Its administrative center, settlement of Stepantsminda is the ancient town and the most important centre of Georgia’s historical and geographic region-Khevi.
There are many, many, wonderful places worth seeing in Mtskheta- Mtianeti, one of them is Bazaleti Lake. There are many reasons, why you should visit Bazaleti Lake.
That’s all, I’m sure you have already picked your backpack and are ready for the journey!