Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti
In the south of Georgia you will find the provinces of Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti – a land of forested mountains and steep river valleys, gushing rivers and clear lakes. Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti on the very furthest reaches of Georgia were the first to clash with the numerous enemies coming to Georgia. The region is dotted with castles and fortresses from different periods – a legacy of frequent invasions thanks to its geographic location – but the jewel in the crown of this fascinating region is surely the cave town of Vardzia. Shota Rustaveli, the great Georgian poet and philosopher of the feudal time, is said to be from this part of Georgia. His famous poem, ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin’, has established its place in the world literature treasury. There are historical monuments in abundance here: Khertvisi Fortress 10th c, Sapara 13th c Monastery, Borjomi mineral-spa town, Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Bakuriani Ski Resort, The Town of Akhaltsikhe, Zarzma Monastery, Vanis Kvabebi Cave Complex(8th century), and The Abastumani Observatory.
Meskheti, the southern part of Georgia in the 9th and 10th centuries was the most highly developed region culturally and economically. Because of sharing a border with Islamic world, self-defense was the main issue of local people.
Nowadays there are ruins of various defensive fortresses and castles – like Atskhuri fortress, Khertvisi and TmogviCastles, Vani cave city and other historical monuments along picturesque valley of the Kura River leading us to the region.
Borjomi spa-resort town is famous for its mineral waters with curative power, the Russian Emperor – Romanov’s summer palace in Likani and Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is the first National Park in the Caucasus region implemented according to international standards. Visitors experience the stunning variety of blossoming plants, breathtaking views and magical forests via parks wide network. In addition to this the National Park lies on the migration route of many birds and thus it is a good place for bird watching. Plus the Park is a home to brown bear, wolf, lynx, red deer and chamois. In spring the Park offers many pleasant surprises including encounters with alpine meadows full of flowers.
Khertvisi fortress is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and was functional throughout the Georgian feudal period. Situated on the high rocky hill in the narrow canyon at the confluence of the Kura and Paravani Rivers, the fortress was first built in the 2nd century BC and was renewed several times throughout the history.
In the 10-11th centuries it was the center of Meskheti region and during the 12th century it became a town. The fortress was attacked several times by different conquerors, like Mongols and Ottomans. At the end of the 19th century the Georgian and Russian army returned the lost territories and Khertvisi became the military base for Russian and Georgian troops.
Vardzia cave city, which is the fabulous example of combined architecture and landscape, was constructed in the 12thcentury by King George the III. It is one of the biggest defensive town-fortresses in this region. King George did not succeed in completing the building and the construction was brought to an end by his daughter King Tamar. During the reign of Tamar the importance of Vardzia considerably increased. Historians tell us about the Queen’s rich contributions to the monastery and the luxury of its caves. After 2 earthquakes now Vardzia cave complex consists of approximately 600 rooms, which are all cut in rock. Most of them were intended for residence and others included stables, barracks, bakeries, wine presses and stores.
Vardzia is best known for the paintings of the main church. The images of King George the III and Queen Tamar are found in the Assumption temple, created by the master George in 1180. This is one of the four images of the great queen of such an ancient origin.