UPLISTSIKHE CAVE CITY
Meaning 'Lord's Fortress', Uplistsikhe is a cave city that witnessed many key parts in Georgia's long history. Long before Christianity, a sun goddess was worshipped here. During the many excavations, temples and ofher items were found. As Christianity gained ground in Georgia, life still continued in Uplistsikhe. The cave city was even home to both religions for a while. Most artifacts have been stored in Georgia's National Museum in Tbilisi. Uplistsikhe is spread over several parts connected by stairways and tunnels. An old Christian stone church is on top of the town and there are traces of a bakery and pharmacy as well. This cave city used to be bustling and with some interest in Georgia's immense history, this is a very interesting place to be.
Uplistsikhe can easlily be reached from Gori, Georgia's sixth city. As Gori is a main city along the highway to Tbilisi, there are many buses between both cities. From Gori it is a short bus ride further to the cave city. From there, you cross a river and walk a couple of kilometres and the cave city is yours to explore. Outside the main season, the place is virtually empty. I was the only visitor in October. It was a magical experience to walk alone in a settlement that had been inhabitaded from the Bronze Age. On the way back, I had missed the last bus back to Gori. Hitchhiking was my only option, as it is in many remote parts of Eastern Europe. However, this often leads to meeting interesting and friendly people willing to show me around. This time a Mercedes stopped and the driver and the other three men who accompanied him, agreed to take me to Gori. Seated next to two guys with a large TV between my legs, I was questioned by four of them at the same time in the smokey car. They were most interested in where I came from and why I was visiting this region. The driver happened to be the owner of a small, local restaurant in Gori. He invited me for dinner at the place and he directly made a phone call to arrange it. As we arrived, the table was set with traditional Georgian dishes and above all - lots of Georgian wine.
After a good dinner, meeting everyone in the restaurant and two power outages, the host showed his honour in receiving me as a guest. He gave me two Georgian wine carafs as a gift and wrote 'From Gori, Cheers' on the side, in the beautiful Georgian script. It is these sorts of unpredicted and heartwarming events that add to my love for traveling - and especially make me want to come back for breathtaking Georgia and the lovely Georgian people.