THE TRAIL OF COLCHIS
THE COLCHIS TRAIL
Myths and dinosaur prints both can be found in modern-day Colchis. While traveling through Samegrelo you may trace the steps of the Argonauts, follow the river Phasis on which the legendary ship Argo sailed and find the valleys which Jason plowed in one
day by order of King Aëetes. It is also the land of the golden fleece, where Medea and Jason fell in love. The Colchis trail will take you to Vani, known as the ‘golden city’, one of the richest of the ancient world where nowadays archeological excavations bring treasures of unique gold objects to the surface.
Places to visit
Until 1936 Tbilisi was known as Tiflis and comprised the suburbs of Abanotubani, Kharpukhi, Kala, Isan-Avlabari, Sololaki, Mtatsminda, Vere, Ortachala, Chugureti, Didube and Nadzaladevi. Most historical sights are concentrated in Old Tbilisi which has been a candidate for a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing since 2007.
The old historical neighbourhood is perched on a cliff overlooking the Mtkvari (Kura) River. The district is one of the earliest inhabited areas of Tbilisi and features Narikala fortress--originally also royal residence--built on foundations laid by king Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century AD. Abo of Tbilisi, the patron saint of the city, was incarcerated here in the 8th century.
The fortress affords a wide view over the city and the Mtkvari river as it has done since the 5th century. Narikala district is among the most beautiful of Tbilisi. The fortress functioned as a prison from the 7th century on and archaeologists keep unearthing remains of the city's ancient walls here.
According to legend king Vakhtang Gorgasali’s falcon fell into one of the hot springs, which is where he decided to establish his capital. This old district of Tbilisi is famous for its multi-ethnicity and for its sulphur baths among which the Asian-inspired, mosaic covered, elegant Orbeliani baths. The colourful architecture of this neighbourhood makes it a paradise for painters.
Of the three churches in the Gelati monastery complex the Church of the Virgin is the most ancient, dating to 1106 and the reign of King David, known as ‘the Builder’. The churches of St George and St Nicholas are from the 13th century. Gelati monastery and its academy were the cultural and intellectual center of medieval Georgia, staffed with local and foreign scientists, theologians and philosophers. It was sometimes referred to by contemporaries as the new Hellas or the second Athos. Many
manuscripts and frescoes--12th to 17th century--are preserved at Gelati and it was once the home of the Kakhuli triptych (what remains is now in the Georgian National Museum of Art). Several of Georgia’s kings are buried here, including David the Builder. An embossed iron gate made in 495 AD is kept here. It was brought back from the Ganja fortress (Azerbaijan) in 1139 by the army of Demetrius 1 of Georgia.
Constructed in the early 11th century (the floor was laid in 1003) during the reign of Bagrat III, the cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The cupola and ceiling were destroyed by Ottoman troops in 1692. Conservation and restoration has been ongoing since 1952. The Gelati monastery complex of which it is a part, was built between the
12th and 17th centuries and is well-preserved.
Ongoing studies and archaeological excavations at Vani are bringing to light an ancient city whose name is still unknown but which thrived from the 9th to the 1st century BC. It must have been one of the richest cities of the ancient kingdom of Colchis. Burial sites especially have yielded objects of local gold-making craftsmanship unique in the world. The technique of decorative granulation is difficult to duplicate, even today.
Archaeological findings at at the imposing ruins of Nokalakevi identify it as the site of Archaeopolis, a city known to Byzantine historians but referred to by Georgians as Tsikhegoji (Kuji Fortress, named for a Colchian ruler). Layers of settlement go back to the 8th century BC. According to legend, it is the birth place of Aëetes, son of the sun god Heliosis, and father of Medea. As a defensive complex it guarded an important crossing point on the river Tekhuri where it meets a strategic route. Greeks, Byzantines and Persians fought for the possession of the nearly impregnable fortress.
Dadiani palace in Zugdidi
The Dadiani dynasty ruled in western Georgia from the early Middle Ages to the 19th century. The palace in Zugdidi--a very elegant 19th century complex and an architectural treasure in its own right--is now a museum that houses archeological collections, medieval manuscripts, objects of religious importance (a vestment of Christ’s mother among them), and a death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Zugdidi Botanical Garden
Under David Dadiani--last of the family who ruled--began the construction of a decorative garden around the palace in the mid-1800s. It fenced in a large area of natural forest and was stocked with native and exotic plants. It has since seen many transformations and is now managed by the city of Zugdidi.
* UNESCO World Heritage Site
Day 1: Arrival at Tbilisi International Airport, transfer to the hotel, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 2: Kutaisi, Vani, overnight in Kutaisi
Day 3: Sataplia, Prometheus’ cave, overnight in Kutaisi Day 4: Nokalakevi, Zugdidi tour, overnight in Zugdidi Day 5: Tbilisi night tour, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 6: Tbilisi tour, free time, overnight in Tbilisi
Day 7: Transfer to the airport
Note: Price depends on accommodation type and persons quantity.
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