When we were on the way from Gardabani in an old Lada that seemed on the verge of breaking down, I realized I was very excited, because it was for some time I had been looking forward to visiting Davit Gareja. The landscape around us emptied itself as we drove on, and we had to get out the car and push every time we stopped. The poor thing nearly broke down on the awful road, but the strong Russian quality took us to the top. We were delighted to see the Lavra monastery, with the St. Nicholas church, the caves used for a living by monks and the very first cave that was used as a monastery by Davit in the 6th century. A short climb up the watchtower gave us an even better view on all these.
Walking further up took us past Davits Tears, a cave with a spring inside, and through some bush and over an open hill to the top of the ridge. Here, we stopped and stood in awe. On both sides of the ridge, we could see far into the distance, some fog still lingering between the lower hills, harsh landscape on all sides, and complete solitude. An absolute silence enveloped us, and with no one else around, the place seemed almost heavenly. We had arrived exactly on the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Soaking up the views and with a deep sense of satisfaction for having reached this place, we did not know yet that the best was still to come.
We walked to the other side of the ridge, and descended to a lower level where we expected to find the famous cave monasteries of Udabno. We met with two Azeri soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs, who proudly killed a cobra for us. We soon found the first caves with frescoes with amazingly bright colours. After seeing more great examples of almost 1,000 year old fresco mastery, we realized we had not seen everything yet. Looking back at the cliffs, we saw that there were more levels of caves and decided to check the higher level. Climbing over rocks took us to the most amazing caves of them all, the refectory and the church of annunciation. When we finally walked down the hill back to our Lada, we felt we just had a great, almost mystical experience in the mountains of Davit Gareja. The old Russian car managed the road down well, even though we almost capsized in the dirt tracks. The joyful driver hailed a marshrutka and before we knew it, we were on our way back to Tbilisi in a world that seemed so far from the one we had just come from.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Davit Gareja (Georgia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Davit Gareja.
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