Sunday morning, a friend decided to make the most of a beautiful day and go visit a Monastery in a nearby village. That’s the wonderful thing about Georgia. You can travel anywhere, and in a short distance, be in a stunningly beautiful place or have an unforeseen adventure.
We walked up to one of the main highways leading out of Oz. I tied my shoes, we flagged down a car, and the adventure began…
A guy in his mid twenties pulled over and we asked if he was going to Jumati. He indicated that he was going close enough, so we hopped in. The guy didn’t know any English or Russian, and we didn’t know Georgian enough to speak easily with him. But he had the easy going Georgian disposition and still tried to communicate with us. He put on some American pop music to put us at ease.
He told us that he would take us to the village of Jumati, but the monastery is on the hill, and his car could not make it. …Okay.
He dropped us off at a huge cross. And we started walking up the ‘hill’. Immediately out of the town of Ozurgeti, the mountains take on an even more majestic view. They were now unobstructed by buildings and power lines. Breathtaking.
The walk to the monastery was steeper and longer that we imagined. The monastery wasn’t the only thing on top of the ‘hill’. There was a full blown village up there. And although we walked a good 4 minutes, we still didn’t se any signs of a monastery. We asked a couple of cars coming from the opposite direction and they all assured us we were indeed going the right direction.
We got to one intersection and we were pretty certain that up this path was the monastery. But once to the top, we only saw a lane with two private properties. We got the attention of a guy tending to his yard and asked him where the monastery was. He took us back into the lane and pointed to another ‘hill’ in the distance across a valley. We saw the steeple of the church. He said it was a good 4 kilometers away. Now I still cant decipher what the difference between a mile and a kilometer is in my head, but that church was a long-ass way away. Oh well, it’s an adventure, right?
Back down at the previous intersection, I sat on a log to retie my boot. As I was sitting there, an old Russian car comes tenderly over the near boulder sized rocks and gorges in the road in the same direction as us. We ask if they are going towards the Church and they give us a ride. It’s a really cute old couple. They aren’t headed exactly to the church, but they said they would get us closer. Fortunately they spoke Russian, so we could communicate somewhat.
They dropped us off at what seemed like the bottom of the valley. Next was to climb this other ‘hill’. We were walking about ten minutes, when we heard another vehicle approaching going our direction. Marta looked back to see it and noted that it was a newer car. Indeed, it was a Mitsubishi SUV.
I waved the driver down and said Hello’’ in Georgian (also thinking of how to say what I wanted next). He replied ‘Hey, How are you?’, in English. We asked if he was going to the monastery and if we could get a ride.
They both spoke descent English. They were dating/ fiancés. She lives in Tbilisi and works for a Georgian tourism company that caters to Italians. He lives in Oz, but works as a customs inspector of cargo ships in Poti. She was very chatty telling us all about the highlights of things to see in Georgia, although he spoke better English. They had driven up to the monastery today, because she had never seen it. And since they were going back to Oz, they offered to take us back. Score! (Perfect example of how things always seem to work out for the best in Georgia!) And thankfully we met them. Noticing how much further we still had to walk up the ‘hill’ and calculating how long it would take to get back…. Yikes.
At the top of the ‘hill’, we finaly reached the monastery. Looking up at the church from the road, it was nothing special. Same architecture as all the other churches. When we got to the top, to the left was the church and to the right in the distance sat a couple of men. I wanted to immediately go into the church, but Marta said there was a locked gate. Humpf. I’ll be damned if I walked all this way for a locked gate and have to be content with peering in. I inspected the gate and it wasn’t locked, but latched. No worries! But she said there might be a dog….. okay, lets think about this some more.
We then followed our new friends to a picnic looking area. Then the guy went to ask the guys in the distance if we could see the church; we followed. As we got closer, we realized that the guys were not your ordinary guys, but monks. One of giant size (and pretty good English) walked us back to the church. He unlatched the gate and then opened the church doors, too. Now that I think about it, I should have asked to see the monastery.
The first thing you realize upon entering the church grounds is ‘Wow, we are pretty high up.’ But only when gazing into the distance do you realize how special a place this truly is. From this ‘hilltop’, one can see all of the region of Guria and beyond. We could see the Black Sea, make out the skyscrapers of Batumi, and the docks of Poti. We could see both major rivers winding their way through Guria, and the plain that fronted Lauchkhuti. Our view was only contained by the two great mountain ranges; the Greater Caucuses to the North and the Lesser Caucuses to the South. The view was (for lack of a better word) stunning.
The church was erected in the 10th century. Therefore has a unique history unto itself. Inside of the church is a glass box that houses the bones of about 5 or 6 monks. Legend has it, that upon Soviet occupation, the monks at the monastery were killed and thrown in the well.
After our friends submitted some prayers, photos taken and the view absorbed as much as possible, we took our leave.
Back down the mountain listening to a radio station that played a variety of music from “What a Wonderful World” to “Sweet Caroline”. We were whisked back through the wardrobe to Oz, where it seemed as if nothing had changed.
“Oh! What hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone — we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarreling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travelers.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice