It is lovely to be back at The Old School Studio to share in Yoga with you again after my break. I love the experience of travel and the shifts in perspective it can bring. This year my partner and I hired a car and took a road trip around the country of Georgia.
If you too like adventuring, Georgia really should be on your bucket list. It has so much to offer with its rich history and diverse, breathtaking scenery. The vibrant capital city of Tiblisi is surprisingly hip and funky. The cities architecture reflects the countries long and troubled past with neo-gothic and neo-Romantic buildings harshly contrasted with brutalist Soviet constructions. So many buildings are abandoned or in a state of disrepair and although this breaks your heart to see, it adds to the charm especially in the old town.
Picking up a car we quickly learnt that we were taking our lives in our hands! Let’s just say that the Georgians have a unique driving style which means overtaking and cutting in despite blind bends, mountain drops, trucks, pigs, horses, dogs goats and people sharing the road. But we made it up the Georgian Military Highway into the Caucasus mountain range. A challenging day saw us climbing to the glacial base camp of Mount Kazbegi, Georgias third highest mountain standing at 5047 meters above sea level. Legend has it that Prometheus was chained to this mountain in punishment for stealing fire from the Gods to give to the mortals.
Several cities and towns later, we explored the now abandoned spa town of Tskaltubo. Tskaltubo’s sanitoriums and hotels were places of healing, relaxation, and entertainment, attracting tens of thousands of visitors across the Soviet Union between the 1960s and 80s. The town was the favoured destination of Georgian-born Stalin and the communist elite. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, this decadent Georgian spa town fell off the map and is now the crumbled, haunted home to internally displaced people, packs of dogs and ghosts.
Georgia was the second country in the world, after Armnia, to take Christianity as its state religion back in 4th century. We visited many of their distinctly styled churches, some as old as 6th century and often built in impossibly remote or high places. Nestled on the vast, desert boarders of Azerbaijan, is the David Gareja monastery complex. With the surrounding rainbow coloured mountains, this sacred site felt all the more biblical for the plagues of locusts traveling through the parched land. David was one of thirteen Assyrian monks to arrive in Georgia in the 6th century, inhabiting caves which are still there to explore with evidence of early fresco art work. The larger monastery complex was built in 9th century and which remains a place of pilgrim and worship.
The Georgians are extremely hospitable and proud of their history and independence. Their food is delicious with such fertile land and includes veg, fruits, nuts and the most complexed varieties of mushrooms I have ever come across. Yet it is their 8000 year old wine making tradition that is rightly celebrated across the land. Fermented in clay Qvevris buried in the ground, these wines have a taste and bouquet like no other. The popular orange wine gets it colour from the skin and seeds of the grapes being fermented rather than just the juice. This is real ‘living’ wine and what a privilege it was to visit a family home where they small vineyard produces 250 bottles each year of golden alchemy.
In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia and still to this day Russia occupies 20% of Georgias land. With a threatened political history, economic crisis has hindered development and freedoms. Yet the people are proud, hospitable and forward thinking. I wish them the continued chance of economic freedom, ease of business and further reductions in corruption.