20.06.2017 - 20.06.2017 28 °C
Day 27 Tuesday June 20 2017
Telavi to Sighnagi /59 km
- This morning the Ukrainian truck driver has been joined in the queue by a Polish colleague driving an equally long HGV. The Schuchmann Winery is a busy place.
- Having sampled a few more glasses of wine over dinner last night, there is the temptation to get carried away with some purchases. £3 a bottle. We have ample space in the truck. But tomorrow we are headed back into Ramadan zone again - Azerbaijan - and we do not know if the importation of wine is permitted. Secondly between now and end of July when we plan to return to the UK we will be driving through hot climates, not at all conducive for wine storage.
- By the way we are aware of what is happening in the UK. We dread checking the news. We despair but prefer to make no comment.
- A short drive today to Sighnaghi, reputedly the prettiest town in Kekheti, full of buildings of 18 & 19 C with an Italianate feel. It was originally developed in 18C by King Erekle 2 as a fortified refuge for the region's population in the face of Persian attack. Four km of the town's defensive walls still remain & 6 gates .
- Peaches seem to be the roadside product of the day. And in wholesale quantity. The bucket of peaches you see in the photo costs £3 ( first price without bargaining ) It is a good idea to have coins so that you can negotiate a smaller quantity. We eat them with our bread roll for lunch and they taste delicious.
- Before we check in at the Kabadoni Hotel we first go directly to Bodbe Convent, a couple of Km South. A visit here is like finding a crucial piece to a jigsaw puzzle - it helps a greater understanding of the early development of Christianity in Georgia.
- First thing to mention is Nino - she was an authentic historical figure, believed to be the daughter of a Roman General and raised in Jerusalem. She was responsible for the conversion to Christianity of King Mirian of Georgia in the 4C. The whole country then followed and Georgia became the second nation state to adopt the Christian faith. Armenia was the first.
- There has been a church at the Bodbe convent site since 4C when King Mirian built one over Saint Nino's grave. Of course it has been rebuilt and renovated several times since but the site is considered extremely holy by the Georgian people.
- They come on a pilgrimage to touch St Nino's tombstone and to wash / drink from the water source that reputedly burst forth from the earth after she prayed on this very spot. The water supposedly has magical healing properties. The source is found some 800 m down a slope that leads from the church. Just follow the crowds. A long flight of stone steps has now been constructed to make the descent easier. Most people do not seem to walk back up but rather are collected by car. We are amongst the few who do the return walk up the steps. It's an ascent that takes 15 minutes of constant effort. It's our exercise for the day!
- Once down at the source of the 'holy' water, we rest and watch the show - trying to work out what it's all about. Young children are queuing up and paying for a simple white garment. They wear this over minimal clothing ( some take everything off ) and then disappear down into a small dark building. When they re-emerge it is clear that they have had a ritual and probably cold bath. It seems to be an activity only for children and we therefore do not try and participate.
- Sighnaghi town is very picturesque. No wonder it receives so many visitors - day trippers as well as overnight guests. Unfortunately the skies are still very hazy so views are muted. But on a clear day you would be able to see for miles around. The town itself is like many places we have visited in Georgia - work in progress. It is obvious that many buildings have been renovated but lots more await attention. Sighnaghi is a Georgian equivalent to Turkey's Safronbolu. But more imagination is required.
- SG checks out the museum which fortunately has information translated into English. On show are the usual archeological exhibits that demonstrate how much human activity has been going on in this part of the world for millennia. There is also a permanent display of some of the artwork of a famous Georgian artist called Niko Pirosmani who was born in Sighnaghi in 1862. He came from a peasant family and received no professional training - indeed his paintings only became collectible, desirable and valuable after his death in 1918. But his posthumous fame is an explanation why restaurants & streets in Sighnaghi & Tbilisi use his name. And why there is a life size bronze statue in Sighnaghi reflecting his famous 'Country Doctor ' painting.
- We are having supper this evening at a restaurant called Pheasant & Tears. It is also a winery producing only Queri wines. Tuesday must be a difficult night for the chef since much of the menu is 'off' - fish, pork, spinach, dessert are all unavailable. Still there is enough choice snd we eat a reasonable meal. Our departure is pre-empted by the rumble of thunder. Not again surely. We walk back to our hotel in the pouring rain - the cobblestones are slippery and SG is wearing heels. She is not amused!