Gori and the Cave City
October 3, 2012
My Dear Loyal Comrades,
Just outside the small city of Gori , perched up on a mountain overlooking the Mtkvari River valley, lies the ancient Cave City of Uplistsikhe.
History in the cave city goes back to the 6th Century BCE. Pagans, Christians, Arabs, Mongols and Georgians have occupied the area. At its peak, more than 20,000 people lived here.
Besides the large priestly courts and theaters, some of the caves are clearly living quarters (stone beds) and kitchens (sooted walls). The stone pits were used for corn, water and wine storage. There’s even a jail or two.
Near the top of the hill is the 10th Century Uplistsulis Eklesia (Prince’s Church) that was probably built over an important pagan temple devoted to the Sun Goddess.
Along with Anna, my guide for the day, I managed the rocky climb to the top. I stopped to catch my breath to enjoy the expansive views of the green and gold valley.
Just 45km west of Tbilisi, the city of Gori (pop 45,000) is pleasant and quiet. The streets are broad and tree-lined and everyone is friendly and welcoming.
On the main square is the original humble home of the city’s “favorite son” and a museum devoted to his “accomplishments.” On one side of the museum is a green railroad carriage that carried Iosif Jughashvili to the Yalta Conference in 1945.
The cobbler’s son from Georgia rose to power to lead the world’s largest country for a quarter century. Churchill observed of his fellow Yalta conferee, “…taking it with the plough and leaving it with nuclear weapons.”
My Georgian friends are quite amused when I tell them that years ago, in the USA, we referred to Stalin as “Uncle Joe.”
Before we left town, Anna took me to a typical Georgian restaurant. She ordered her favorites: khachapuri and chebureki.
Khachapuri is a fluffy, round cheese pie.
Chebureki is a small triangular pie, shaped a bit larger than ravioli, and stuffed with minced meat.
Both items are eaten with the hands.
Handling the cheese pie is obvious.
The chebureki requires a special technique: hold the pie up and take a small bite from the side. Be careful to tilt your head backwards to drain some of the sauce inside. Hold the pie at an angle to avoid spilling the sauce! With a pinch of black pepper, this stuff is good!
And the pastries? Don’t ask!
Comrade Uncle Jan