In the footsteps of the Crusaders – the mystery of the Holy Grail

Author’s tour of Irakli Torondjadze

Фото Irakli Torondjadze.

Irakli Torondjadze, PhD in history, a man in love with the history of his country will guide you along the routes of the Crusaders of King Baldwin in the ancient kingdom of the Colchis and Iberians.

The titan  Prometheus chained to the Caucasus, the Golden Fleece and the campaign of the Argonauts, the presbyter John and the Holy Grail … Chaldea, Colchis, Iberia … The campaigns of Alexander the Great, Great Pompey and Tamerlane … Jerusalem, the Templars and the holy cup … What is hidden behind these ancient masks? You will learn about this from the fascinating tour, during which you will visit places connected with the history, as well as with myths and legends of ancient peoples. Exactly, as well as you will come into contact with the traditions of Georgia, with its mystical soul.

Day 1 – Meeting of the group at the Tbilisi airport, transfer and accommodation at the hotel. Breakfast in the hotel.

A sightseeing trip and an excursion around the old part of the city of Tbilisi. Here in one quarter of the city there are temples of different religions and religions: Zoroastrian Ateshga, Moslem Mosque, Jewish Synagogue, Armenian Gregorian Church Surb Gevork, Catholic Cathedral of the Ascension of the Virgin, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi Georgian Orthodox Cathedral Sioni. Take a walk through the streets of a medieval city. Visit the oldest building of the city, which has survived to our days, the Anchiskhati church (VI century) and the ultramodern bridge of the world (XXI century). Climb the cableway to the citadel of Narikala (IV-XVII c.) And the monument to Kartlis Deda (XX century).

Dinner in a restaurant where, under incendiary Georgian dances and polyphony sounds, you will not only get gastronomic treats provided by Georgian cuisine, but also become participants in the mystery of the Georgian feast, where the toast mster will begin to introduce you into the fascinating world of Georgian traditions and culture.

Day 2 – Breakfast at the hotel. Departure to the monastery of Jvari (VI century.). It is interesting both from architectural and historical, so from a landscape point of view. From here you can see a magnificent view of the city of Mtskheta and the citadel that defended the city, the high mountains and the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. Further we will go to the ancient cave city, one of the first cities on the territory of the Caucasus – Uplistsikhe. The city emerged at the end of the II – early I millennium BC, experienced several ups and downs, was finally abandoned in the XIX century. In the 10th-11th centuries it was the throne city of Kartvelian kings. On the way back to Tbilisi we will visit another ancient capital of the Kartli Mtskheta. Let’s look at Svetitskhoveli (1029), the first and main temple in Georgia – a symphony of boulders ascended into the sky, as the poets called it. It is built on the burial site of the Lord’s tunic. We descend to the site of archaeological excavations of the ancient citadel of Armaztsikhe (4th century BC-VI century AD): with the ruins of an ancient temple, the royal palace, a bathhouse.

Day 3 – Breakfast at the hotel. Departure to the highland area of ​​Stepantsminda. The route passes along the military-Georgian road, one of the two main historical highways connecting the north and south. The path lies along the picturesque Aragvi gorge. We will visit the Ananuri fortress, located on the shore of the picturesque Zhinvali lake, the residence of the Aragvi Eristavi (dukes). Crossing the Cross pass (2379m) we will get to the Daryal canyon, in ancient times known as the Alan or Sarmatian gate. Visit Trinity Church (XIV century), which is located at an altitude of 2,170 m above sea level at the foot of the Kazbek mountain (5033m), in the village of Gergeti, directly above the village of Stepantsminda.

Day 4 – Breakfast at the hotel. A trip to Kakheti. The fortress of Ujarma (III century) protects the way to the picturesque Gombori mountain pass, having moved to start our acquaintance with the province. We will visit one of the higher educational institutions of the early Middle Ages  the Ikalto Academy (XI-XII centuries), where  studied theology, rhetoric, astrology, philosophy, geometry, geography, etc. Further, the cathedral of Alaverdi (11th century). It is located in the Alazani Valley, famous for its vineyards. Lunch and City tour in Telavi. Here we will get acquainted with the residence of the Kakhetian kings “Batonis tsikhe”. After lunch, acquaintance with Tsinandali – the estate of the famous Georgian poet, the prince Alexander Chavchavadze (1786-1846), the godson of Empress Catherine II and the father-in-law of the equally famous Russian diplomat, poet and playwright Alexander Griboyedov (1795-1829 gg.). Here is a wine tasting. Dinner and overnight in Telavi.

Day 5 – Breakfast at the hotel. We continue our acquaintance with the wine province. We will see the capital of medieval Kakheti – the settlement of Gremi (XVI century) and the ancient monastery of Nekresi (IV-XVIv.), Which is built on the site of the mitraist shrine, from which not only walls but some customs have been preserved. In the city of Gurjaani we will see the only two-dome Georgian temple of Kvelatsminda (VIII-IX cc.) And head to Sighnaghi, a medieval fortified city, which in principle has preserved its architecture. Enjoy the works of the Georgian primitivist Pirosmani. Overnight in Tbilisi. On the way back, wine tasting.

Day 6 – rest in Tbilisi: you can visit the streets of Sharden and King Irakli in the old city, featuring eclectic architectural styles and various cafes and restaurants, as well as visiting the  Dry Bridge with famous flea market and with a street vernissage.

Day 7 – Breakfast at the hotel. We go to southern Georgia, to the historical province of Samtskhe. On the way, we will see archaeological excavations in the town of Gracliani. Here, on the site of the church of the 7th century BC, an altar with signs very similar to writing was found. We will get acquainted with Samtavisi Cathedral (1030), one of the most famous monuments of medieval Georgian architecture. It is noteworthy because of the beauty of proportions and the refinement of the carvings along the facades. The next resort on the way is Borjomi, famous for its mineral waters and coniferous forests. The rocky mountains and the fortress of Atskuri will become a sign that we entered Meskheti. In the capital of the province  Akhaltsikhe, we are visited the citadel Rabati, where the residence of the rulers of this region princes Jakeli was located. Using the same rights as the European Grand Dukes, they ruled here nine centuries, three of them as the Pasha of the Ottoman Empire. The ambiguous history of the region was reflected in architecture: here we will look at the Orthodox Church, in which there are Catholic, and even Muslim ritual elements (altar and kibla in one space). From Akhaltskhe we will head to the upper reaches of the Kura, along one of the main southern routes to Georgia. We pass past the fortresses of Khertvisi (according to legend built before the campaign of Alexander the Great) and Tmogvi (X century), who controlled these paths. We reach the unique complex of Vardzia (XII-XIII cc.), Where we will dine and spend a night in the distance from the hustle and bustle of the modern city, in the society of ghosts of the Eastern crusaders and knights of the Resurrection Temple.

Day 8 – After breakfast, excursion to Vardzia. The ensemble was created mainly in 1156-1205, in the reign of George III and his daughter Tamar Mepe. Located on the south-western border of Georgia, the monastery-fortress covered the gorge of the Kura River and served as the logistics base of the Georgian army, which at that time carried out intensive offensive operations in the south. In 1193-1195, during the war with the Seljuk Turks, Tamar Mepe was here with her court.

Continuing the acquaintance with the region, we will visit Saro, a small village in the Aspindza municipality of Samtskhe-Javakheti. Traces of numerous cyclopean megalithic structures on its territory indicate that once, in the past, this place played a very significant role in the cultural and political life of the region. Like most large megalithic structures, the Saro complex belongs to the Bronze Age of mankind and dates from about IV-III millennia BC. For what period did the fortress flourish and when its decline began, it is now impossible to pinpoint it, although the results of archaeological excavations indicate that intensive life lasted here until the middle of the feudal era. After lunch in Akhaltsikhe we will visit the Green Monastery, the church of the 9th century is preserved here.

Dinner at the hotel in Kutaisi.

Day 9 – Breakfast at the hotel. City tour of the capital of  Colchis King Aet, from where the Argonauts stole the golden fleece. We will see the Georgian parliament, the recently rebuilt Bagrat temple (1003), the residence of the Imeretian Kings “Okros Chardakhi” (golden pavilion). We beat in Gelati, which was founded as a monastery and academy by King David IV Agmashenebeli (Prototype of the Presbyter John) in 1106, and became his burial vault. We will examine the Monastery of Motsameta, postenned to perpetuate the memory of the princes David and Constantine Mkheidze, who died for their faith at the hands of the Arab conqueror Murvan the Deaf, so nicknamed for his ruthlessness. (Subsequently, Murwan II, the last, the Arab caliph (744-750) from the Umayyad dynasty, in Damascus). After lunch in the program, visit the monument of architecture, the residence of Georgian kings – the Geguti palace (VIII-XIX centuries) and visit the nature monument of the karst – Prometheus caves. You can choose a 1600 meter walking route through the grottoes of the cave and / or a boat trip along a real underground river. The route passes by breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites, underground waterfalls, rivers and even a whole lake. A magical sensation is added to this by a system of multi-colored underground lighting based on liquid crystal lamps and constantly playing classical music in the cave, which makes the route even more attractive and memorable.

Day 10 – After breakfast we go to one of the colorful provinces of Georgia – Samegrelo, the center of the mythical Colchis, the ancient Lazika. We will visit the Nokalakevi Archaeological Museum-Reserve, which is a complex that has no analogues in the Caucasus: late antique / early medieval citadel with remains of the Egrisi palace (Lazika – ancient authors) of kings (IV-VI centuries), royal and civil baths, reservoir and other structures . We will visit the cathedral of the Chkondidi diocese in Martvili. Under David Agmashenebeli, the first minister and chancellor of the state was Archbishop George of Chkondidi, who also headed the brotherhood of monks-warriors. We taste the unique Megrelian wines prepared by modern monks. After lunch we will go to the Martvill Canyon, a place of rare beauty. After, visit the summer residence of the princes Dadiani. Dinner and hotel in Zugdidi, the capital of the province.

Day 11 – Breakfast. Palace of the Dadiani dynasty – the last sovereign princes in the Russian Empire. Departure to Poti, a boat trip along the Colchis National Park. The park is located in a marshy area at the mouth of the Rioni River. The place is protected by the state, since migratory birds are resting here during their migrations. You can observe a rare fauna and flora. Where then the Argonauts hid in their ship when Jason went to the capital, to the king. We are going to Batumi. On the way we glance into the fortress of Petra (the ancient period), the Christian center of Lazika: here was located the chair and residence of the archbishop (VI-IX cc.). Evening and night in Batumi.

Day 12 – Breakfast at the hotel. We go to the Adjara mountains, to the picturesque waterfall of Mahuntseti, where the monument of engineering art of the Middle Ages is located – the ancient bridge. You are also welcome to visit the rural forge and water mill (operating), take part in the distillation of Chacha, a peasant dinner and wine tasting. After lunch we visit the fortress of Gonio, in the ancient period known as Apsaros. It protects the entrance to the gorge of the Chorokhi River, where important centers of the ancient state formations on the territory of Georgia – Diaokhi and Kolha (XII-VIII cc.) were located. After lunch we return to Tbilisi. On the way, we will visit another important spiritual center of the Knights of Christ – the monastery of Shemokmedi (XII century). Here was the chair of the bishop. Bishop Jacob (Dumbadze) traveled to Rome and in 1687 met with Pius VI …

After Shemokmedi – the Guria region, on the way to Tbilisi, we have dinner at the Surami Pass.

In the night, seeing off the group to Tbilisi airport.

2018-02-18T14:55:03+00:00 Tours|