We often say that Georgia is a relatively new country but a very, very old place. The country broke away from the Soviet Union in the spring of 1991 and became a Western-leaning democracy in 2003 after the Rose Revolution. Still, Georgia – the place – was a kingdom as early as the 4th century BC (!!), which is pretty incredible when you think about it.
The Georgians we’ve met are incredibly proud of their history, and rightfully so. Some of the oldest places we’ve visited are churches and monasteries, often perched high on a mountain or hill with stunning views.
After 20 minutes uphill on the roughest road we’ve encountered in Georgia, we arrived at Dedata Monastery near the village of Erketi, outside of Chokhatauri.
A fast-talking nun gave us a tour of the grounds. Gurians are known for speaking quickly, and while our Georgian is decent enough, religious vocabulary + speed meant that we grasped about a quarter of what she said. Still, it was quite interesting and a truly beautiful, serene place.
Interestingly, the monastery has a room that’s always prepared for the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It was unclear how often he comes (if ever!) but the nuns were ready for him.
A friend recommended we visit Jikheti Monastery outside of Lanchkhuti, which was interesting for totally different reasons. Legend has it it was built on the site where Saint Andrew preached in the first century, although a church wasn’t built on the site until King Tamar – the famed Georgian ruler – visited in the 13th century.
We were impressed to learn that the nuns that live at Jikheti are almost totally self-sufficient. They raise cows, chickens and goats; grow their own produce and keep bees for honey. They also have every fruit tree imaginable: apple, pear, fig and plum…
It’s so interesting to visit these ancient (dzveli – ძველი) places. They are literally hundreds and hundreds of years old, yet remain active and relevant to Georgians today.