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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Silk Road Splendor at Georgia’s Ancient Churches - Page 3

Written by Benjamin Mack
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Small stands offering bread and a restroom are common along Georgian highways, such as the E60 between Tbilisi and Kutaisi. 

      Coupled with a casual tour of a cozy museum or two (the Kutaisi State Historical Museum is particularly notable), a packed schedule is all but guaranteed in this city that just recently opened a new international airport. But no visit is complete without a stop at Bagrati Cathedral, the hulking complex that serves as a potent symbol of Georgian sovereignty. 

      First built in the early years of the 11th century under the direction of King Bagrat III (from whom its name derives), Bagrati was at one point considered a masterpiece. In 1692, it was devastated in an explosion by invading Ottoman troops, causing the ceiling to collapse and leaving the once imposing church in ruins. Or what used to be ruins.

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Youths wander along the outer wall of the grounds of Bagrati Cathedral. Devastated by the Ottomans in 1692, the church has recently undergone a massive – and controversial – restoration.

      A controversial restoration has returned the church to the way it looked a millennium ago. Today visitors can wander freely through the cavernous halls with carefree impunity. Though the restoration has endangered the church’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its impressiveness is impossible to understate. The only knock is that it does not offer the same sweeping countryside vistas as Gelati or Motsameta. But after a long day of following in the footsteps of kings and queens of old, it makes a fitting climax to any adventure.

      The shadows gradually lengthening as the late summer sun slowly fades from view, even the indignity of another stool bound marshrutka ride couldn’t dampen the spirit. After all, visiting this region—romanticized by the likes of Aleksandr Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy—just north of the Cradle of Civilization is literally akin to stepping back in time. Amongst the surest evidence: an apple is first and foremost a fruit.

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Much of Gerorgia lies within the Caucasus, a mountain range stretching from Sochi, Russia almost to Baku, Azerbaijan boasting numerous peaks above 4,000 meters (13,125 feet).    

  

Article and photos ©Benjamin Mack

 

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If you go

Kutaisi Tourism

http://tourism.kutaisi.gov.ge/

Visit Georgia

http://www.visitgeorgia.ge/en/hotels/kutaisi 

 

Kutaisi Tourist Office

8a Rustaveli Avenue, Kutaisi

+995 (8)431 24 11 03

 

 

Benjamin Mack is a U.S.-born, European-based travel writer. He has written for a variety of publications including Deutsche Welle, Air India Magazine, GALO, Tape, The Local Sweden and The Swedish Institute. He currently lives in Germany.

 

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Last modified on Monday, 30 December 2013

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