Cave cities of Vardzia
Hotel: Hotel Lile (Tbilisi, Georgia) $40
After a decent breakfast, a taxi driver arrived and we set off for Vardzia, the cave city. The landscape soon changed from rolling meadows to more mountainous terrain. The driver had agreed to take us to Vardzia and Akhaltsikhe (~50 miles) for $50. The road was in pretty bad shape for most of the trip, and our driver was flying along. Vardzia is a cave city located about 15 miles off the Akhalkalaki to Akhaltsikhe road, the royal city in the late 1100’s consisted of over 700 caves carved into the cliffsides, supporting a population of tens of thousands. The caves are still inhabited by monks to this day. They are a good climb up from the valley below. There is a secret passageway carved through the rock that was used as an escape route, from below it is impossible to detect the entrance until you are right on top of it. Our trip with our friends was coming to a close; we would be splitting up once we arrived in Akhalitsikhe, they would be continuing along to Batumi on the Black Sea coast, then across the north shore of Turkey. My wife and I were heading back to Tbilisi where our flight to London left on Saturday. When we arrived at the bus station in Akhalitsikhe, our driver wanted an extra $10 for the trip! D had to yell at him before he accepted the agreed upon $50. We then said our goodbyes, and caught the $3.50 minibus to Tbilisi. On the way, we passed Borjomi, a Soviet health spa town, and Gori, the hometown of Josef Stalin. I’d hoped to visit Gori tomorrow as we now had an extra day to kill. My wife and I headed back to the Lile Hotel for the night once we arrived back in Tbilisi. They were surprised to see us again and asked where our friends were. We had dinner at the Marriott, it was very expensive compared to what we were used to in the Caucasus, definitely Western prices. The Marriott is in a great location in downtown Tbilisi within walking distance of Rustaveli Square.