A tour round Telavi

Our first stop was the Chavchavadze house, originally built early in the 19th century after Alexander Chavchavadze had fought for the Russians against Napoleon. But his son David was bankrupted when he had to pay a ransom to a Muslim leader in the Caucasus – and I recalled then that Chechnya which was part of Russia was in fact north of Georgia – who held him to exchange for that leader’s son whom the Russians had taken hostage. He was released as was David, but since he was left with little the house passed to the Russian royal family.

It has been beautifully restored, and the gardens which were laid out in the 19th century look luscious now, seen at perhaps the nicest time of the year for their burgeoning greenery. And I was delighted by the old pictures, and also the plethora of pianos the house contained.

From there we moved far back into history, first to the old Dzveli Shuamata churches, the earliest built in the 5th century and the other two, also of striking shapes, over the next two hundred years. The new Akhali Shuamata church was much later, part of a convent founded in the 16th century. It is now a convent again, and we were let in by a nun, who was most helpful and pointed out the tomb there of Alexander Chavchavadze.

Then through beautiful countryside, with avenues of verdant green meeting over the road, we went on to the Ikalto Monastery, a lesser version of the Gelati monastery, with here too a principal church and two smaller ones. But they were all on a lesser scale and the academy building was still roofless. It was a delightful place however to wander around, and to check out the details of the churches, including of the earliest 6th century Trinity church.

From there it was to the Alaverdi Cathedral in the centre of a still active monastery with flourishing fruit trees and vines. The 11th century structure is still grand and imposing the the building had had to be restored – and rescued from restoration, so that the original frescoes re-emerged, including a striking St. George overcoming a dragon.

Vasantha gave up when we went to the next site, the 15th century Gremi fortress. Though the city was sacked by the Persians early in the 17th century, the citadel remains, with a church and a fascinating tower palace, barely more than a single room on each of three stories, a public room with picture displays with a little washroom on the ground floor, with what may have been a drawing room above and then a little bedroom on top. Down below the steps to the citadel was another museum with lots of objects of no great interest found in the ongoing excavations.  

The pictures are four of the Chavchavadze house and its gardens and then four of the two Shuamati churches, then four of the monastery and two of the cathedral, with its verdant gardens, and then finally four of the interior of the Gremi fortress with views from its tower.