Friday, October 19, 2007

Bodbe, take 3

Last weekend I made the trip to Kakheti once again. This time, I was invited by my Georgian teacher, Nana, to join her band of friends and visit Bodbe Monastery and the town of Sighnaghi. This past summer, I participated in two of Nana’s trips: one to the mountains and Gergeti Trinity Church, the other to Bodbe Monastery, where we were going again. As I had been to Bodbe twice before and had seen all there is to see, I was a bit reluctant to go, but Nana convinced me by telling me that there would be Georgians my age coming, too. Not one to turn down opportunities to meet new people, I signed up.

Of the five young people that Nana had promised, I got to know Nick and Lika, two 19-year old university students, the best. They also happened to speak the most English, a fact that constantly bothers me and compels me to study Georgian more. Nick and Lika are successful ski instructors in Gudauri and recently, they have created their own travel agency targeted primarily at Georgian students who wish to see more of their own country. One travel package they gave as an example seemed too good to be true: 10 days in Gudauri with food, lodging, skis, and instruction—all for 350 GEL, or approximately $215.

If you’re interested in Bodbe Monastery, please read my previous posts. We didn’t see as much there this time because there were huge crowds of people as part of the Svetitskhovloba (day honoring the “life-giving pillar” in Mtskheta) celebrations. Next, we visited Sighnaghi. The last time I had been in Sighnaghi, the city was a mess as hundreds of workers were working around the clock to complete a government-funded renovation of the city in time for the ribbon-cutting this month. The aim was to make the town look as it did in the 18th or 19th centuries in order to attract tourists, and seeing Sighnaghi today, they’ve done a pretty good job. Already, western tourists can be seen walking the streets with their cameras hanging from their necks. Go to my flickr site to see the new Sighnaghi and if you dig deep enough, you’ll find pictures of dusty Sighnaghi from this summer.

We did manage to visit a part of Kakheti I had never seen before. One of our party knew that there were two monasteries somewhere up in the mountains, so we set off to find it. Just outside the monastery, we met one of the monks and he was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the grounds. First we visited the convent, on the grounds of which stood a church dating back to the 9th century. A few hundred meters up the mountain from the convent was the men’s monastery. The 12th century church there still had frescoes dating from its construction. Both the convent and the monastery were set against the beautiful backdrop of the changing foliage. [Pictures soon to be on flickr site]

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