Georgia’s old capital and one of the main spiritual centers, Mtskheta is just outside Tbilisi and makes a nice day or even half-day trip. Buses from Didube station run regularly in every 15 minutes (cost less than a dollar) and you can enjoy visiting Unesco world heritage sites: elegant and mighty Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and 6th century Jvari Monastery with a panoramic views to Mtskheta. If you have some extra time in Tbilisi, even just 1 evening – it’s absolute must!

There are many things you can do in Mtskheta except for its numerous sighseeings. You can have a walk in the old city which is charming at any season. You can also visit any of its restaurants and toast for Georgia. You can buy national souvenirs there, take photos in traditional hat. There are many hotels and homestays where you can stay. There are wine cellars too and you can try to take wine tours nearby. For More information you can find Tourist Information Center in front of Svetitskhoveli where you can get free maps and travel advice. I will just tell you some legends now if you are interested in history and ethnography of Georgian nation, otherwise you can skip it and just put Mtskheta in your places to see list. It will not take much time.

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Svetitskhoveli

Now let’s start with the first legend. It’s connected with Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which was first built in the 4th century when Georgia received Christianity, but the current cathedral was built in the eleventh century by the architect Arsukisdze in 1010–1029 (during the reign of George I) A relief sculpture on the external northern wall shows  a right arm and hand holding a chisel – symbol of the stonemason. According to a legend and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia’s novel ,,The Hand of the Great Master” which is based on the legend, the King loved the same woman as the Master  and he had ordered to cut Arsukidze’s hand. The official reason was not building the Cathedral properly. But the Cathedral still stands after nearly 1,000 year proving that the King George was wrong.

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View to Svetitskhoveli from Bagineti side

Another legend relates to Armazi fortress/Palace – Bagineti, founded in 3rd century BC by semi-legendary King Parnavaz, located on the other bank of kur river opposite to Svetitskhoveli, short walk up from Tbilisi-Mtskheta highway. Armazi remained the holy city of Iberian paganism (place of famous Armazi idol). The fortress was captured by the Roman general Pompey during his 65 BC campaign. A ruined structure over the Mtkvari River dates from that time and is still called “Pompey’s bridge”.

Legends are associated with Serapita which became a legendary princess thanks to Archeological excavations of Armazi. According to the Armazi bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) epitaph Serapita who lived in the 2nd century, was beautiful, short lived princess: ,, she was  so good and beautiful that no one was like her in excellence; and she died at the age of twenty-one.” You should visit Bagineti not only to honor beautiful princess of Serapita, but also this is very interesting archaeological monument. There are numerous archaeological objects within the site including burial places, roman baths, pagan church, etc. The second reason why you can visit Bagineti if you are done with Jvari and Svetitskhoveli and still have some time left it’s that it has some nice views to Mtskheta. Views can not be compared to Jvari Monastery panorama, but it’s more silent and quiet area especially in the evening, obviously not very touristic. If this reason is not enough for you, I can tell you that near Bagineti Restaurant Salobie is located which is huge place, very popular among Georgians because of its low price. Together with other traditional Georgian food you can eat Beans in Clay pot which is famous for Mtskheta. Just to warn you, this is not very fancy place but you can eat well for a cheap price.

Mtskheta streets in autumn (by I.Kalatozishvili)

 

For the map of Mtskheta tourist places please see:

 

 

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