We drove on the second day to Samstskhe Javakheti. Our destination was Borjomi city. On the way to Borjomi, we made some short stops in Kartli Region. The must-see list included
Born in Gori, Ioseb Besarionis Jughashvili is still considered a great son of the nation by many of his home towners - his statue was proudly standing at the central square until recently (2010) and in 2012 the municipal assembly of Gori voted to reinstate the monument.
The name Joseph Stalin was created by changing the family name of Jughashvili (son of Jugha), with "jugha" meaning "steel" in Georgian, into Russian-sounding Stalin ("stal" - "steel" in Russian). The museum is a very popular destination for foreign visitors. It consists of the museum building, the house, where Stalin was born and the private carriage that he used to visit Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam.
Uplistsikhe- if in Gori, it is really worth visiting the cave town of Uplistsikhe. This ancient city's history is dating back to 1st millennium BC. In 4th-3rd centuries BC the settlement grew into an important strategic town, with two parts: the inner town located in the caves which were used as shelters in case of invasions, and outer town, where the settlements were located outside the caves (source: georgia.travel). The complex was recently refurbished and it is now much easier to get into the town. It's a nice walk up the hill with lots of caves on the way. Most of them were inhabited, some served over purposes: pharmacy, storage, temple. There is a 9th-10th-century basilica at the top of the hill. The complex suffered serious damage during the 1920 earthquake and stability of the monument still stays under a serious threat.
The original fortress was an important military stronghold of Medieval Georgia. The fortress is first mentioned in the Georgian sources in the second half of 7th century, however, the settlement around the castle was founded only in the 11th century. The castle, due to its strategic location, was the target for many enemy armies during the centuries and it changed hands continuously. In the 17th century, Gori's significance at the state level grew as a result of constant fights in Tbilisi. There were constantly a hundred armed soldiers to protect the fortress. An interesting fact is that before the 2nd World War Gori Fortress was not considered a serious stronghold by historians - the only part seen as the ruins of the castle. In 1946, after a mudslide, ancient walls around the fortress were discovered. The best-preserved part of the wall is the western one - Tskhrakari (Nine Doors). The fortress suffered serious damage during the 1920 earthquake, however, the settlement around the castle was founded only in the 11th century.
The village of Khtsis is located about 9km from Khashuri, and the church of St John the Baptist can be found deep in the forest about 1.5km from the village. According to the inscription on the Eastern facade, the church was started in 1002 by Archbishop Anania. It is still a functioning monastery today.
We arrived in Borjomi in the evening and we were exhausted. The dinner we had in Old Borjomi Restaurant was refreshing and full of energy. Georgian food is quite heavy it uses lots of meat, cheese, and leavened dough. To burn some calories we decided to take a pleasant walk in Borjomi Park.
Borjomi Park is in the center of Borjomi. It is a very old park dating back to 1850. The park is exactly the place where the original water spring was found, although mineral springs have been known here for more than a thousand years. The spring was named Yekaterinevskiy after the governor's (Yavgeniy Golovin) daughter who was cured here. In front of the entrance, one can see many travelers. All of them came here with the one goal to drink famous Borjomi water. Another spring in the park was named after the governor himself - Yevgenevskiy. By 1854 healing power of the local water got so popular that the authorities decided to construct the first bottling plant.
The park was renovated a few years ago and now it is a nice place to walk - old trees, shadowed benches, flowerbeds, playgrounds for kids. One can also cross the cultivated part of the park and get into a more wild one. A pleasant forest path (suitable both for walking and biking, even with the kids) will lead you to a Soviet-type open pool with iron-rich water. The facility is old and not in the best shape, but still, quite a lot of people are swimming there.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
The next morning after breakfast we went to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park was reconstructed by German Development Organization GIZ and is made up of several paths with different difficulties. As we did not have much time for our discovery trip we rented horses in advance and make a tour for 4 hours. Whole information could be found here http://apa.gov.ge/en/protected-areas/cattestone/bordjom-xaragaulis-erovnuli-parkis-administracia
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park - is the largest (76,000 hectares) National Park in Georgia situated in Lesser Caucasus. The park is a nature reserve with marked trails and some mountain shelters for the hikers, however, if choosing to stay overnight one will need a sleeping bag and some food, because there are no guesthouses on the way. The park is covered with forests and it is a paradise for birdwatchers and botanists as well as for hikers.
The territory of the park is not as elevated as many other places in Georgia - the highest peak in the park is 2642 meters, so the trails can be reached all the year-round if the weather allows. More and more visitors are coming to the park for its unique landscapes, historical monuments, and rich fauna and flora. The history of the park is tightly related to the Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich Romanov, the brother of Russian Tsar Alexander II. After Georgia lost its independence and became a protectorate of Russia (Treaty of Gieorgievsk, 1783), Michael Romanov was appointed Governor-General of Transcaucasia. He found the beauty and healing potential of the Borjomi area and water so impressive, that he built his summer residence in Likani in 1895. Later a water-bottling plant was also constructed here and Borjomi water became famous in Russia. Due to Governor's order also lumbering or hunting without permission was restricted, thus making the area protected from uncontrolled deforestation. Good source of information about interesting touristic trails is a book by Peter Nasmyth "Walking in the Caucasus".
The next stop is Rabati!!