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Location - Caucasus, Europe; Capital - Tbilisi; Population - 4 million; Currency - Lari MORE GEORGIA

As Abkhazia was off-limits (the Zugdidi 'border' opened about three days after it was too late - aaah, timing!) I broke up the return journey to Tbilisi via Kutaisi, Gori and Mtskheta - October 2019.


georgianote1The 5 Lari note










georgia590Kutaisi is a couple of hours from Batumi and whose centre is the Colchis Fountain


georgia591Behind the fountain is the Drama Theatre - Kutaisi


georgia585Next to the fountain is Kutaisi Park - Kutaisi














georgia582Crossing the Rioni River on the way up to Bagrati Cathedral - Kutaisi















georgia570Renovation on the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral was completed in 2012 - Kutaisi


georgia576Take in the views from the cathedral grounds - Kutaisi


georgia592A nice place for a drink is behind the Tourist Info Centre, next to the Rioni River - Kutaisi














georgia593The restaurant grounds behind the Tourist Info Centre, just before Rustaveli Bridge - Kutaisi














georgia597In 2012 Georgia's parliament was moved from Tbilisi to here in Kutaisi, in an attempt to boost its economy and decentralise power. The move was controversial and didn't go too well - after the Saakashvilli goverment left power Parliament returned to Tbilisi in 2019. Kutaisi's Parliament building is now largely unused and the grounds overgrown


georgia605Walking from my hotel to the reason Gori receives coach-loads of tourists














georgia606And this is it, the Stalin Museum - Gori














georgia607Joseph Stalin was born as Iosif Vissarionovich Jughashvili in Gori in 1878, growing up to be the leader of the Soviet Union and one of the most powerful men in the world - Gori


georgia614I'd never seen a photo of a young Stalin - Gori


georgia621The table from the Kremlin conference room, with various photos of Stalin - Gori















georgia620Oh isn't he lovely! Stalin was thought to have been responsible for the deaths of millions via the Gulags (forced labour camps), forced resettlements, executions and the 1932/33 famine (particularly in Ukraine) - Gori
















georgia634So it's strange to see him treated with reverence in this museum, for example here in the death mask room - Gori

Some say it's with a degree of pride that someone from a small town in Georgia can scale the ranks to become the leader of the biggest country in the world. And that defeating the Nazis in WWII was largely down to the Soviet Union under his control (though things may have been different had Hitler not broken their neutrality pact)


georgia636Stalin's death mask (apparently it's a copy) - Gori


georgia639The next room is a collection of gifts from all over the world - Gori














georgia641A section easily missed is given over to repression under Stalin. However there's no English labels so I'm unsure what was on display - Gori















georgia646Buy Stalin badges, statues, posters, medals, wine, fridge magnets at the many souvenir shops - Gori


georgia647Also in Stalin Square is the house where Stalin lived until he was four - Gori


georgia649aDogs aren't too fussed with red barriers. For info, most dogs have tags in their ears, meaning they've had their various inoculations - Gori















I asked in the museum if I could look inside and surprisingly they came over and unlocked the door (though you can't walk around). This is one of the rooms - Gori













georgia656Stalin's early home with the museum behind, while down the left side, out of shot, is his train - Gori


georgia659Stalin travelled to the 1945 Yalta conference in this train carriage. The conference, attended by Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt, reorganised a post-World War II Europe - Gori


georgia662 CCCP are the Cyrillic letters for the USSR, aka the Soviet Union - Gori














georgia668Stalin's bedroom, with desk - Gori
















georgia666Of course his security had to share a smaller room - Gori


georgia667His toilet, plus he even had a bath (the wood covered section on the left) - Gori


georgia670The largest area is at the end of the carriage, for guests and business - Gori














georgia657A bit more of Stalin Square - Gori
















georgia674A colourful fountain in Stalin Square - Gori


georgia692A rather relgious looking piece of street art - Gori


georgia676At the far end of Stalin Square is the Great Patriotic War Museum, naturally with a Stalin statue - Gori














georgia689There's a section on the 2008 Russo-Georgia War. South Ossetia originally declared independence in 1991 soon after the break up of the Soviet Union. Amid deteriorating relations with Georgia, and backed by Russia, war ensued - Gori













georgia690The southern border of South Ossetia is only a few kms from Gori, which suffered bombing and missile strikes during the war - Gori


georgia679On the floor is a cluster bomb dropped on Gori in 2008, along with Russian shells and bombs - Gori


georgia684Remnants of a bomb dropped on Gori in 2008 - Gori














georgia698 A misty view of what looks like an ancient church from the bridge near the bus station - Gori















georgia700A memorial to Georgians lost in the 2008 war lies at the bottom of Gori Fortress - Gori


georgia715There's very little left of the fortress save for the surrounding walls - Gori


georgia708But it's a great place to get 360° panoramas - Gori















georgia710Looking southwards from Gori
















georgia720And looking north to the outskirts of Gori, and the mountains of South Ossetia (left and middle)


georgia726soBetween the two distant mountains slightly obscured by low cloud is the South Ossetian capital Tshinkval


georgia725soCurrently it's not possible for foreigners to cross the checkpoints from Georgia to South Ossetia. It's only accessible from Russia, and even that is with difficulty














georgia724soThe winding mountainside trail is in South Ossetia













georgia742soAt one poiint the main road from Gori to Tbilisi passes within just a few hundred metres of South Ossetia


georgia810 Next up was the small town of Mtskheta, just over 20km from Tbilisi















georgia751The main draw here is the hilltop Jvari Church - Mtskheta
















georgia808I stayed near the Mtkvari River but it's very easy to do this as a half-day/full-day trip from Tbilisi - Mtskheta


georgia755The cobbled streets of Mtskheta, framed by Jvari Church


georgia759A full monty zoom on Jvari Church from my balcony - Mtskheta















georgia757Another good view of the church on the circuitous drive up there - Mtskheta














georgia761The 6th century Jvari Church is very popular with Georgians and foreigners alike (as is Gori) - Mtskheta


georgia773The main reason I came to Mtskheta was for this superb view from Jvari


georgia771The Aragvi River on the right meets with the Mtkvari River - Mtskheta















georgia776The Mtkvari River continues its path through the valley - Mtskheta














georgia778The second draw for many is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, right in the heart of town - Mtskheta


georgia801Svetitskhoveli Cathedral dominates Gori


georgia786Outside of the walled cathedral is a line of restaurants and souvenir stalls selling wines, ice cream , materials and knick-knacks - Mtskheta















georgia787The 11th century cathedral , with Jvari Church in the distance - Mtskheta














georgia796Inside the cathedral, where several Georgian kings are buried - Mtskheta


georgia806The Georgian flag flies among the tourist shops - Mtskheta



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LINKS - Main resource for Central Asia but also has a bit on Georgia - Official Georgian tourism - More on Georgia - Buy Georgian train tickets


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