Day trip to Mtskheta, Georgia

There are some places, where you already have been, but want to return again, to refresh memories and enjoy the cozy atmosphere again. It’s easy to organize especially, if those places are not that far.. I mean you can reach there by car in a few hours. Yes, I’ve been here before few years ago, but we had a car and could drive wherever we want, whenever we want. This time was a bit different. We started our journey from Yerevan by public/private transport (there are some organizations that make short international trips from Yerevan to Georgia, Russia). We booked a car in advance and packed our small bags for a short weekend trip.
It was early morning at the end of November. 7am, still dark outside. The car was waiting for passengers in the center of Yerevan and once everyone came, the driver turned on the engine. It was cold and rainy in Yerevan, but with every kilometer weather was being changed. Little by little we’re getting close to the Georgian border and sun was coming out under the clouds. Around 12:30 we were already in the center of Tbilisi, near one of the metro stations. But as we had plan to spend a day and overnight in Mtskheta, we had to find another way to get there, as our car’s last stop was here in Tbilisi. So what we did? We took a metro to Didubestation (one way ticket price 0.50 GEL) where was the intercity bus station. Here we just needed to get out of the station, turn right and walk some 500m where all the minibuses were waiting their turn to take passengers to the destination. They were a lot here, so if you come here and want to go to Mtskheta, ask someone where those minibuses (or how they call them here – Marshrutkas) are staying. It’s close to the big market where you can buy local vegetables and fruits as well as fresh baked khachapuris (if you are in Georgia, all kind of Khachapuris are must to try!). Here we bought our tickets from the cashier (one way ticket price 1 GEL) and in a few minutes we were on the way. Some 20-30 minutes later we arrived to beautiful Mtskheta.
I already told about this magical place before, but can’t stop admiring it and will share some moments here again. I won’t go much into details, because don’t want to be repeated, but will share the spirit of the town and what to expect there. Once you get off from the bus, you’ll see the main walking street of the town, where on both sides people are selling all that may come into your mind. That could be some homemade sweets or spices, honey or sauces, wine or chacha, or some accessories like necklaces, bracelets, as well as scarfs and even carpets. Don’t be surprised seeing a dog in this picture. There are a lot of homeless dogs here. But also don’t be afraid of them, they’re very friendly and playful. They just need a smile and an attention. They will walk with you all the way like a guard, bark on some other who could seem not looking good at you, wait for you until you finish your shopping or dinner, etc.
Wherever you go in this town, you’ll never be lost, as the huge Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is seen from every corner in Mtskheta. It is like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Everyone comes to see it and it’s like a meeting point for others. The monastery complex that is surrounded with a fortress walls, was full of tourists from all over the world. Right next to the entrance you’ll meet some local guides who offer their services to you, to tell all the stories and secrets of the sacred place. But you’ll also see many old women who beg for money from tourists.
If you are tired from the noisy streets, I’d recommend to follow the signs and find the small pier on the right side of the town. You’ll need to walk through the simple narrow streets and you’ll appear on the very quiet and peaceful place, where on the warm and sunny days you can rent a boat to go far on the river or have a drink on a floating boat. Today it was a bit cold and windy and no one was near the water. It was so relaxing to spend some moments listening to the river sound coming from the wind. But we still had some plans to accomplish. When we were coming back, we passed a small Antioch basilica of Mtskheta, which was situated near the entrance wall of the town. It had a small garden, from where the view to Jvari was clearly open.
On the other side of the river there is a small mountain or a hill, on top of which Jvari Monastery is situated. And as it’s end of fall, days are short and it was going to get dark soon. So if we wanted to be on top while it’s light, we needed to hurry. How to go there if you don’t have a car? Forget about public transport, buses or minibuses. The only way is to get a taxi. We’ve heard that it’s possible to bargain with the driver and rent the taxi for 10 GEL, for which driver would take you on the top, wait for you as much as needed, and take you back. Somehow it wasn’t possible to find an available taxi. We looked for it in almost all the city. Finally found one, who agreed to drive us to Jvari, but asked for 20 GEL (total) and no bargain. We had no choice.. so we go up now! On the way the driver turned on Georgian music and started to tell some interesting stories. It was fun to have this short, but full of Georgian emotions trip.
On the top the wind was stronger. Much stronger! The first thing that everyone does is to check the view to the Mtskheta from here, which is completed with the meeting of 2 rivers Aragvi and Mtkvari, which on a better day would show the difference of the water colors. On the edges of the Monastery the wind was so strong that it wasn’t possible to stand straight. So we hurried to check all around quickly and go back until it’s not dark. Sun was going down little by little, sky was still covered by clouds and only partially was opened for the sun. The old ruins were getting mystical “faces”. One of them even “smiled” to us. We did few quick photoshoots and ran back to our taxi. The driver took us back safely and we came back to the hotel for a short break.
After a short rest we decided to go out and find a nice place to eat something. It was about 6:30-7pm, already dark outside. But how we were surprised when we didn’t see anyone on the streets. The town was empty! Before going to Jvari we noticed that people started to close all the small market desks, but we couldn’t imagine that it will become this quiet with only 1 hour difference. We had nothing to do, but to go to one of the restaurants to order food. One of the dogs started to follow us, playing all the way. We had our Georgian dinner with some homemade wine and left the restaurant. The dog was still there. He joined us on our way back home (hotel) and was “protecting” us from any suspicious sounds. There was nothing to do at this time in the city. Everything was closed, no one around. Feels like a ghost town.
The same feeling we had in the morning as well. The location of the hotel couldn’t be better. It was right next to the Cathedral, with a view to it from the balcony. When we woke up, looked at the street, still no one. 9am..10am.. no one. Just after that 1-2 persons appear on the street. But these were still locals. We also went out to have a breakfast as we needed to go back to Tbilisi this morning. It was still partially cloudy, but warm and no wind. The taxi driver told us that depending on the moon, here it’s either windy, or rainy. But at that moment it was perfect. We went out, found just one bakery, where they had just baked hot khachapury. We enjoyed it by walking on the streets again and came back to the hotel to take our small bags and check-out. As we needed to find a bus to Tbilisi, we went to the main bus station which was situated next to the ancient Samtavro monastery. We didn’t wait log, just maybe 5 minutes, and the minibus came.
Take a sit and enjoy the short drive again. See you soon in Tbilisi J

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