Day 6: Sighnaghi-David Gareja Caves-Tbilisi

We will leave Signaghi  this morning and drive to David Gareja, acave city out in the semi-desert. Such a  stark, remote, steppe-like environment has always attracted hermits seeking solitude and spiritual peace here.

In the sixth century, a small group of Assyrian monks arrived in Georgia. They split up when they reached Georgia, one of them, David, drawn to the desolation and purity of Kakheti, decided to build a monastery there, high up on a bluff overlooking present-day Azerbaijan. For three centuries, it grew slowly – the few devotees who kept up the site lived very simply in small hollows dug into the rock.

The 9th century  wall paintings are especially important because of where they are and what they have endured – nearly one thousand years of graffiti has taken its toll on some of the images, not to mention the wind and sand. Most of the frescoes lie just a few meters within cave walls, unprotected by doors from the outside. The biggest threat, though, came not from exposure, but from Soviet artillery fire.

Out of 19 ruins and caves of the once glorious monastery first we visit Lavra and  its  seven-storey cave and church of Transfiguration where David was buried, then we take a 3 hr walk up to Udabno caves and visit those great frescoes etched on the top of the cliff side as well as dramatic views over Azerbaijan.

We arrive in Tbilisi in the early evening.  Time permitting,you may take a stroll up to the Narikala fortress for breathtaking  views over the city or take a relaxing sulphur baths in the Old Town.

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