From the plateau at 2000 metres we were driving down a valley doted with the remains of castles, until we reached the cave town of Vardzia, one of the major sights in Georgia. We had visited the cave town of Uplistsikhe, which is much older, and the cave town of Khndzoresk in the South of Armenia, but this one was indeed just incredible.
Erected in the 12th century, the caves of Vardzia stretch along the cliff for about five hundred meters and in up to nineteen tiers. Projections and recesses were used to create deep caves, which are connected by tunnels, stairs, terraces and galleries. 3,000 cave dwellings were originally built, which offered space for 50,000 people. 25 wine cellars and 185 wine jars sunk into the floor document the importance of viticulture. But of course this sight was mainly a monastery with 15 churches in the area.
Five monks still live in this mountain. Every morning at seven they ring the bells in the arch. When we arrived they were playing cards in one of the caves.
After our visit to Vardzia, we stopped at the Khertvisi fortress at the entrance to the valley, which is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and the best preserved one. The present walls were built in 1354. According to a local legend, Khertvisi was once destroyed by Alexander the Great, though it has then been reconstructed and invaded on numerous occasions through the centuries.
We will now head into the Spa town of Borjomi, where we want to go hiking again, more on our next post!