Now that the weather seems to have finally and irrevocably turned against us, I feel that my weekly tradition of having a beautiful afternoon walkabout may be over. And so, what better time to write about it?
In between applying for jobs, meeting friends for lunch, reading, and relaxing, I’ve made a habit of going for long urban walks. Tbilisi is a lovely city for exploring, and even after four years there are places I’ve never been or never discovered. And there’re places that I’ve been to that I so much that I make repeated visits! Take Davitsminda, the monastery halfway up Mtatsminda.
It’s a not-insignificant climb up some long and winding roads to a picturesque little monastery perched right on the side of the hill. It has some great views out over the city, and some very notable cemeterial residents!
I brought my book to Davitsminda with me so I could do some reading–a pasttime I know Chavchavadze and Griboedov would have approved of.
Other days I took my book to my favorite local fortress for an afternoon of reading in the wind and exploring the backstreets of Sololaki. After all, you’ll never know if you don’t go!
Finally, I arrived atop Nariqala Fortress. This is definitely one of my favorite places in Tbilisi. Every time I look at it I try to imagine being an enemy soldier a thousand years ago and told “Go capture it.” It would be a terribly difficult task, I’d think. A siege might be awkward, too, with the positioning on the ridge. Decisions, decisions!
At any rate, I perched myself atop one one of the crumbled towers and sat down to read. It was awfully windy that day, and after an hour I retired to a cafe, fearing that I’d be blown off a cliff and no one would ever find my body!
While reading on the fortress, I spied my next hiking adventure! I decided would finally visit the oft-visible, never-before-seen church atop the hill opposite Nariqala Fortress.
The journey began, fraught with peril and indecision. I knew vaguely how to get into the neighborhood below the church, and figured I could ask for directions once there. I loaded up my audiobook, and set out to finally find my way to that mystery church.
Passing the baths, I knew I was going in the right direction. The neighborhood began to climb the hill and there were signs to the Monastery of the Transfiguration. Sounded like a reasonable name! I figured there must be some road to drive up to this church, but that was so much less of an adventure! Onward I went, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hillside community.
Having followed the sign to its ultimate destination, there didn’t seem to be any way forward. I was in a cul-de-sac of sorts with several houses, a ruin, and a yard on either side of me. I peeked into the abandoned building, but every path seemed either regressive or intrusive. I decided to regress and find another way around.
I was too embarrassed to pass the group of men standing around outside a shop below me, so I ducked into an alleyway before I could be noticed. It cut across the hill, and brought me to another branch of the same neighborhood.
Finding myself in another dead end, I encountered a trio of men leaving their house. They didn’t know how to get to the church, but the youngest suggested that I should try the other side of the hill, and pointed back the way I came. Reluctantly, I agreed, but I decided to walk slowly so that I could double back after they left. Sneaky Raughley!
Instead, I just wandered back along the alley until I found a set of stone stairs that looked straight out of a fairy tale! Naturally, I failed to take a photo, but I climbed up anyway. At the top was a pregnant lady hanging up sheets on the clothesline. She was equally uncertain as to how I could reach the church, but pointed out a small damp path winding around the crumbling wall of her farmhouse. Why not at least see where it goes?
After winding around the hill for a few dozen meters I found myself at the burnt out ruin I’d already been to. ვაიმე! Some would have taken this as a sign to quit or to retrace their steps to the very bottom and start all over from a different attack angle. Not me, though! I decided that I might as well explore this charred husk and see if there was a back stairway up!
I did find a mattress and some blankets where someone was clearly squatting, though! I stood beneath the church, in an enclosed yard, looking up at it as it loomed a hundred meters above me. I was so close. I decided not to let some silly little wall stop me, and I hoisted myself up and over it onto the scrubby slopes of the ridge.
The wall abutted the neighbors’ garden, and I could hear them bustling about in their own yard. I decided to scramble away quickly, lest they seem me and think I had some ill intent towards their vegetables. After about 30 meters, I found a small path.
The path wound down and around the ridge, forking towards a modern complex in the crook of the valley and a rocky path upwards. This time I forked up.
I ventured into the churchyard/vestry area. It was empty with some halted construction going on in the basement. Though I was tempted to explore the basement, I decided against it and went upwards towards the church itself.
Inside, the Church was sparsely decorated, as you often see with Orthodox churches, and had a nice incense-y scent. (In-scents?) I wandered around to the “front” of the church (meaning here the cliffside face) and decided I’d found my new favorite reading spot.
I read there for about ninety minutes, enjoying the shade and scaring a couple up to take romantic pictures. When the time came to leave, I decided I would leave by way of the road for vehicles and see where that took me. I missed an opportunity for an awesome photo of a priest washing his old car, but managed to get a few random gems along the way anyway!
Eventually the excitement of the road settled down and I found myself on a scrubby little trail down towards the Ortachala district.
Finally returning to my home neighborhood, I walked along, pleased with my adventure. It had taken most of the afternoon and I was getting sick, but, damn! What a good day!