Sunday, October 7, 2012

Davit Gareja

Yesterday we drove out to the St. David Lavra, one of the 20 or so cave monasteries in the area known as Davit Gareja. The complex of monasteries is right on the Georgia/Azerbaijan border, and about a 90-minute drive from Tbilisi (though it took us closer to 2 hours, as we were caravaning and both cars had kids in them). The drive there is breathtakingly lovely. We drove through picturesque villages ...

... and desolate plains.

... Past soaring mountains ...

... and around various livestock ...

... and into a windswept desert.

Which contained this basketball hoop.

We picnicked, then toured the Lavra, which is the only one of the monasteries currently working.

The monks live in these cave-cells.

St. David Garejeli, who founded the monastery, is buried in the complex's Transfiguration Church. Jeremy proclaimed the church, with its vibrant Georgian-style icons, "the prettiest Orthodox church [he had] ever seen."

Then we embarked on a hike that would take us up to the ridge dividing Georgia and Azerbaijan, and past the deserted Udabno cave monastery, then back down to the lavra. I did not make it all the way to the top, but Jeremy decided to persevere with both kids and our traveling companions.

Natasha didn't like the wind and opted to wear my head scarf.

The ridge they crossed (partially into Azerbaijan, apparently, and past several soldiers of unknown nationality) is to the right. If you look hard in the middle of the photo, you will see our intrepid hikers making their way back down. Natasha apparently hiked almost the whole way by herself.

After they returned we set off home. Here you can see some of the other cave monasteries in the area.

And then a few random sights from the road that we deemed photo-worthy.

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