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.