From Mccheta, we’re going straight to Sighnaghi. We make the route in several rides, and one of them sets us off in the charming suburbs of Tbilisi, where you can see the views such as in the picture above. Animals are present everywhere in Georgia. We are driven to Sighnaghi by a young Georgian and his girlfriend who drives like a madman (like most Georgians). He overtakes overtaking cars, accelerates sharply, doesn’t go below two times the speed on the signs, but even so at some point we are overtaken by a marshrutka – an old rickety bus… Welcome to Georgia. When, after reaching our destination, we look around the town, we are accosted by a Polish woman who has been living there for three years. She offers us accommodation in a hostel run by her neighbour. Conditions are quite sensible, and we also have a large terrace on the 2nd floor, from where there is a good view of the town. After returning from a short evening walk, the hostel owner treats us with a chacha (Georgian moonshine), homemade wine and cheese. It’s very nice, the owner’s friend comes in and we talk about politics, religion and life in general. Of course, in Russian. Chacha does its work – not only it boozes, but also it improves language skills!
In Sighnaghi, we take a day of rest and lazy sightseeing. At the beginning we are going for a walk to the cemetery, located beautifully on the hill. Georgian cemeteries abound in tombstones with big monuments, obligatory with a photo or graphic depicting the deceased, often there is a whole figure or an illustration. Interestingly, there are sometimes placed tables with benches, just like in parks. Apparently Georgians feast in their cemeteries remembering their loved ones, as if spending time with them. And there is nothing wrong in it. Nothing! And in Chelm, there were fines for wine-like-drink-containing-sulphites consumed in the cemetery…
After an exhausting walk (day of rest and lazy sightseeing, yeah…) we return to the hostel for a moment to rest on the terrace, and then go to the Bodbe monastery located 3 km outside the city. Unfortunately, the road is uninteresting – we are walking an asphalt serpentine. Fortunately, the holes on the way are freshly flooded with asphalt and we play in ‘who will first fall into the molten asphalt or under the car loses’ pushing ourselves all the way. Fortunately, nobody lost. And the monastery? Like a monastery. Pretty. Very neat neighborhood. But the same as all of them 🙂 However, there are crazy crowds there, because Saint Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity is buried here. From the monastery you can go down a steep path down to the chapel and the spring of St. Nino. You can drink the holy water and also wash in it after you have borrowed rubber flaps from the guarding grandmother, making sure that the donations flow as quickly as the water from the spring.
On the way back we are lucky and a taxi driver driving back to the city takes us for free. In the evening, the hosts of the hostel again treat us with wine, which we drink on the terrace. The next day we finally head for Tbilisi. We are lucky again for the taxi – we meet Zaza, who takes us from Sighnaghi to Sagarejo, about 60 km away. He’s a talker, so time passes quickly. In addition, either he speaks very clearly, or our Russian has already rocketed, in any case we understand quite a lot without problems. Zaza tells us that he was a prosecutor for 18 years, but in Georgia there was a change at the steering wheel and they had better candidates for many public positions. Zaza sums up “the diploma lies in the cabinet, and I taxing”. Now he travels every day the Sighnaghi – David Gareja Monastery route, transporting tourists between these points with a red Mercedes in our age. He encourages also us on a trip to the monastery, assuring us that this is an absolutely obligatory point in this region of Georgia. The offer is very fair: for a ride from Sagarejo to the monastery and back (which takes Zaza half a day) we pay 40 GEL, and if we don’t like it, we get a refund. To Sagarejo, the ride is on hitchhiking rules. We agree to Zaza’s offer not to regret it later. This is a monastyr you need to see. Located on the Georgian-Azeri border, it used to be a complex of more than a dozen monasteries built into a rocky slope. Today there are two. The first, Lawra, is more impressive and the monks live there on a daily basis. The second one, Udabno, is actually a group of caves with preserved frescoes. It is located on the top of the hill, following the path along the caves on one side, we can see Azerbaijan plains, on the other – Georgian hills.
A walk around the monasteries and all the caves takes about 1.5 hours. At this time, Zaza is napping in the car, waiting for us. On the way back to Sagarejo we stop for a moment in the village of Udabno, where two Poles 4 years ago founded a hostel literally in the middle of nothing. It prospers very well, in the end they don’t have competition there 🙂 After splitting with Zaza, we quickly and easily reach Tbilisi. We are able to find a cheap hostel in the center (BHM Hostel) with two vacancies, but in separate rooms. His owner sits on the stairs all the time in front of the entrance and eats peanuts, or sits in the middle of the couch, watches TV series and eats peanuts. And at night he sleeps on the couch at the reception. This is called life! We buy a beer and in the dark climb the Mtatsminda hill to admire the illuminated city from above. On the way you can stop at the church and the cemetery, which at night acquire a dark charm. Sleepy with alcohol and impressions, we end this day in the cramped and stuffy dorm rooms of BHM hostel.