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Georgian Colchis: from Argonauts to Chiatura

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Western regions of todays Georgia (reaching Imeretia region) are the successors of ancient Colchis. An area of incredible welth according to Greek mythology. That mythological and historical land covered all western coasts of the Black Sea from todays Sochi (Russian Federation) until Trabzon (Turkey). Its history goes back to at least 6 centuries BC. It took a serius part in Greek mythology as the destination of Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. It’s the teritory of Georgia where this sybol of power and kingship was held.

It’s also Colchis teritories where supposedly Prometheus suffered his punishment for giving fire to the people. From this history derives Sataplia State Nature Reserve naming one of its caves Prometheus Cave. This is an open for visitors, one of the richest caves in Europe of total 20 000 meters. 1420 meters out of them is accessible for tourists.
Finding the cave is not easy. Starting point for this trip should be in the city Tskaltubo. And it’s enough to take the correct turn on the big roundabout there. The thing is that in some moment the signs just disapear. Looking for the caves we had to stop and ask for directions several times. After way more time than described 30 minutes from Kutaisi we reached our destination. We are not even able to give any advice now. Going there just make sure you take your GPS with you.

Prometheus Cave, Georgia

Fast preparation and we were ready to go to undergroud.

Georgia

What was our surprise when we found out that not only they are closing at 6 o’clock (within 40 minutes) but also kids under 6 are not allowed inside. After so much time of looking for the cave, driving up the mountains only one of us will get a chance to see it. Dad was chosen to be the one and go underground to see those miracles of nature. Disappointed mom and Ola stayed on the ground. But you can always count on Georgians! There was some another group coming after 6 o’clock and awesome staff made sure mom joins it!

The cave itself is very big, consists of 5 halls and passages between them. Inside there is between 14 and 17 degrees Celsius and humidity of 98%. Long sleeve could be useful but is not necessary.

Views in the cave are magnificient. The diversity of forms created by water and wind is very large. And they are so big that it must have taken hundred of centuries to build them. Imagine only that it takes a hundred years to build one centimeter of such stalactite. Some of the halls are even 15 meters high. One of them is called a Love Hall and it’s really possible to get married in there. The tour with a guide takes around an hour and costs 7 GEL including a boat ride as a last part of the excursion and way to the exit. It doesn’t look as fabulously as we imagined and in our opinion the visit to the cave is good enough without this cruise.

Prometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, GeorgiaPrometheus Cave, Georgia

That was an awesome experience which is undescribable by pictures. Anyone, who has never been to any serious size cave will be delighted.

The capital city of Colchis was Kutaisi. It probably originated in 6th century BC. The city was built in the most fertile and strategic location where the trade routes crossed. It used to be the capital of the country. Today it is the second largest city in Georgia and popular turistic destination thanks to an iternational airport serving mostly cheap airlines conecting Georgia with Russia, Belarus, Iraq, Turkey, Hungary and Poland. Small and very convinient airport recently even opened a duty free zone.

Kutaisi Airport, Georgia

The disadvantage of flying there is the distance from Tbilisi, as most of tourists starts sightseeing Georgia from the capital city and the additional fee when renting a car for bringing it from and returning to Tbilisi. Here we have to advise Rent Service Georgia LLC and Giorgi Sidamonidze from cars4rent.ge. Good service, good car and nice, very helpful people.

Georgia

Baby car seat we took from home cause car rentals offer it usually at quite high prices but first and foremost – you will never know what condition you will get it in. It’s the safety of Ola and since we are still using the smallest seat it’s quite easy to take it with us. Our trick for the transport in cheap airlines, so that not to pay for it as a separate piece of luggage, was to mount it as a part of the stroller and stroller seat put in the big bag. We needed the big bag anyway and it fit the seat easily.

But coming back to Kutaisi. The city itself is nothing special; those are the two religious buildings that attract tourists in this area. Both of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites. First of them, Bagrati Cathedral is located within city and easily reachable on foot. It’s an 11th-century church which was rebuilt in 2012. The rebuilt is being discussed as it resulted in condemnation by UNESCO and puting the object on the list of UNESCO heritage sites in danger.

The other one, Gelati Monastery, is located 20 minutes by car from the city centre. This temple is from the beginning of XII century. At this time the object was an intelectual and cultural centre as it held an Academy under it’s roof. Murals that can be observed on the monastery’s wals are the original ones from medieval times and after.

Gelati Monastery, GeorgiaGelati Monastery, GeorgiaGelati Monastery, GeorgiaGelati Monastery, Georgia

In the centre of Kutaisi there is a nice, well-groomed park and traffic circle with characteristic fountain. This is a place where local youth hangs around. It’s completely safe place, even inthe middle of the nght. The police being always around the corner but comes only to ask if everything is ok and to tell you that they are here in case you need anything!

Kutaisi, Georgia

Above attractions are easy reachable and mentioned in all guidebooks. Now let us take you to an unobvious place. This place is Chiatura. To reach this 20 000 people town we left Kutaisi-Tbilisi road in Zestaphoni and turned towards Chiatura. Google maps suggests that the road takes around 40 minutes while it really took us around 2 hours. Google should know that in the mountains there will be only turns on our way. Up and down. And up again… So 40km/h is the average speed you can expect. Road in general is very good, only couple times it’s misses asphalt.

On our way we also came accross some sacral object. It’s a temple located on the very top of the big rock.

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This area is rich in mangan and probably its reserves are the largest in the world. Local mine, still working, probably employs most of Chiaturians. Because the town is located in a very narrow valley with steep sides, Chiatura had to reach for hillsides to provide accomodation for its inhabitants. Apartment buildings are located at different heights.

Chiatura, GeorgiaThe way home after work in mining (in the valley) could be more tiring than the work itself. To save the workers power in the fifties of 20th century they built a system of cable cars transporting people from the centre to their homes on the hills. Since that time noting has changed. Old-fashioned cable cars still carry people up the hills. The thing is that it all makes the impression that it has never been renovated and it’s quite dangerous to use it. But Chiaturans keep on traveling like that day by day.

Chiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, GeorgiaChiatura, Georgia

Town itself makes rather deppresive impression. Probably they do not see to many tourists as we were carefully observed. Pushing a stroller with a little baby through rather empty city center couldn’t stay unnoticed by locals loitering here and there.

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