Vardzia Cave Monasteries

After the opening of a new branch office in Akhalkalaki (and a few glasses of celebratory wine), my coworkers and I paid a visit to the Vardzia cave monasteries.

I’d never heard of the caves before that day.  Nor had I received the memo that we’d be hiking up the side of a mountain on a work day.  Hence, I did not select my shoes accordingly.  See photo below of aching-but-smiley woman in four-inch Ann Taylor pumps.

The scale of the caves and networks behind them is humbling. What remains today is purportedly only a fraction of what existed before a massive earthquake in the year 1283.  A functioning church which dates back to the 1180s still exists inside the mountain.  Ascetic monks live in the caves year round.  Lucky for them, so do two very friendly puppies who served as our guides that day.

Wandering deeper into the mountainside brought us to a small pool of holy water.  I was offered a sip from a plastic cup which remains at the edge of the pool for passersby.  It was cold and crisp and as holy as I imagine water could taste… though that might just be the ambiance talking.

I learn something new about Georgia every day.  Some new passage of its history unfolds to me and I think I understand her and her people.  But really, I am mystified and un-anchored, unable to compare this place to anything else I know.  Perhaps that understanding will never materialize.  Maybe familiarity is the best I can hope for.  Familiarity, and a better tolerance for wine.

Vardzia Cave Monasteries

Cross on the hill

Puppy Spirit Guides

Our puppy spirit guides

Vardzia

Vardzia Caves

Vardzia

P1110057

Meghan hiking in heels

Inside the caves at Vardzia

Plumbing?

Vardzia cave monastery

Vardzia Cave Monastery

Vardzia cave monastery

Holy water in Vardzia cave monastery

Vardzia bells

View from Vardzia

Marika and the puppy guide

25 comments

  1. Pingback: Southern Georgia: Borjomi (ბორჯომი), Vardzia (ვარძია) and some roadside Shashlik | Around the World in 98 Days ... and beyond

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  3. Wow what an interesting and beautiful place to visit!! First time I have heard of something like this! I will definitely be on the lookout for your next post, they are very interesting to read!

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  5. Gorgeous photos Meghan! I can just sense the reverence and the spirit of the place from each shot… well done on making it up to those caves in your four-inch pumps. I especially enjoy the frescoes, it makes you wonder how long they’ve been there and who painted them. Thanks for sharing another little piece of Georgia with us – we’d have no clue if you hadn’t published it here. 🙂

    • I should but probably won’t, Joanne. I’m a high-heel warrior. Being a shade under 5 feet tall, I’ve grown accustomed. 😉

      And yes, the paintings were fantastic. If you’re interested, there are a lot of great websites describing the history and construction in greater detail. The paintings are very special because they were done in secco, not as frescoes (frankly I’m not entirely sure what the difference is, but apparently it’s a big deal).

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  7. The architecture looks amazing similar to some caves I have come across in India – amazing how the world’s thinking was very similar in the ancient times even though the communication was so distant. Pics look amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m often amazed by the same connections, Ajay. For example, I see some agricultural techniques here in the Georgian countryside that I also saw in Peru, dating back to the Incas. Both are agricultural cultures on mountainous land, so it makes sense, but it’s still mystifying to see the convergence first-hand.

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