May 102014

After an interesting night at Lali’s Guesthouse our first stop was just down the road at Bagrati Cathedral.

Bagrati Cathedral is an interesting study in the rights, wrongs, ups, downs and political meddling’s of historic restoration.
Bagrati was/is one of the finest examples of the domed-church architectural style of the medieval period.  The church was constructed at the end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th century. It was devastated in an explosion during war with the Turks in the 17th century. The explosion caused the cupola and ceiling to collapse, the church continued to fall into complete ruin through the ages.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 along with the other site we visited today the Gelati Monastery.
However, due to the extreme reconstruction Bagrati was removed from the World Heritage List in June of 2013. 
The restoration was headed by Italian architect Andrea Bruno.  This was a project, personally pushed by President Mikheil Saakashvill, despite criticism from many different parties and absolutely no input from UNESCO.
Most everyone complains about the use of glass and steel, my attitude is this restoration should never have taken place.  The church should have simply been left in ruin.  However, if you are going to restore the building then do it in a way that you are absolutely sure where the old leaves off and the new begins. 

The Gelati Monastery was founded by King David the Builder in 1106.  This architectural complex housed Georgia’s first academy as well as the monastery.

The grave of David the Builder
The Monastery is known for its tile mosaics and frescoes.  They were suffering from neglect and thanks to a donation by the American Ambassador to Georgia a restoration program has begun.  I do not believe that the US has donated enough money to do the whole job, but at least the damage has slowed and repair has begun.

Our last stop was the Vani archaeological site that began in 1947, but sadly sits idle today for lack of funds.  The digging that has taken place has revealed thousands upon thousands of artifacts, many of which were of gold. 
 Gocha showing us the striations of the dig
Some of the larger items in the curator’s office
We were given a tour of the storehouse of items that were dug up prior to the closing of the dig.

We had a rather rainy day, and are spending the next two nights in the alpine village of Bakuriani.  This was a favored ski resort during the Soviet times and training area for the Soviet team.  It is also the site one of the Russian Children’s Pioneer Camps and sits amidst a 100-year-old fir forest.  Truth is, it is an odd place.  It is somewhat of a ghost town.  Many of the homes have been abandoned.  Starting in 2000 people have started to come back, and hotels are creeping in, but it has an odd feel to it.  A little like going to a ski resort in the summer that has no summer season.

A roadside pottery shop typical of the area, reminded us all of Tijuana.