Lower Kartli | What to see in Tbilisi

Lower Kartli

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Source Of Beauty Near Tbilisi

Published by Manoj Pradeep

Hello friends, Hope you are all doing well. Today I would like to share with you all another interesting place to visit in Georgia. It's none other than the Lower Kartli region in Georgia. This region is located in Eastern Georgia which shares its borders with Trialeti, Javakheti and Bambak Ereviani mountains. Its geographic location is the key to its name because it is called in Georgian as Kvemo Kartli which means Lower Kartli. Reaching this place is not a difficult thing to do. Minivans called as mashruthkas are available from Tbilisi frequently. These buses or minivans can be boarded from different bus stations in Tbilisi such as Orthachala bus station, Didube bus station and Vukzali Bus station. Most minivans will pass through an important place calle Rustavi. There are also railway services available for reaching the Lower Kartli Region. Trains can be boarded from the Tbilisi Central Railway Station in Vukzali. Minivans are often more advisable than trains as you can get them more frequently than the trains.

The landscape of lower kartli consists of steppes and forested steppes. The lowlands of this region are characteristic features of semi-deserts. There are some major rivers that flow this region. They include Mtkvari, Khrami and Algeti. There are also present a number of volcanic lakes in the region of Lower Kartli. To be more specific they can be found in the regions like Ozormani, Sarkinet-Gomareti and Kamarlo. A lake called Kumisi will grab your attention becuase the mud from the lake is used  for curative purposes in spas and resorts. 

There is also another interesting place in this region called as the Algeti National Park which preserves a wide variety of flora and fauna. This national park is located in the district of Tetritskaro in the lower kartli region. It is just at a distance of 60kilometers from the city. This park is situated at a level of 1100 to 1950 metres above the sea level in the souther slopes of Trilaleti range with its higghest point at a distance of 2000 metres above sea level. The place first started in the 19th century as a nature reserve to preserve some rare specied of plants and animals. In the late 2000's the natural reserve was given a status as a Natural Park. The national park is characterized by a mountainous relief with numerous small rivers. The Algeti river is an important water source that flows through the terittory of Algeti national park. The national park is composed of igneous rocks and sedimentary layers. The total area covered by the national park is about sixty eight thousand hectares most of which is covered by forests. The park has a humid climate with cold short winters and long warm summers. There are numerous varieties of tress found in this national park, The trees include fir trees, beech trees, oaks, pines, hornbeams, ash trees, and birch trees. There are 250 different species of mushrooms found in the area of this national park. Out of this 250, ten species are found for the first time in this national park. It is been mentioned in the national park that it has 1664 species of plants out of which 80 species are trees, 74 are bushes, more than 800 are grasses, 156 belong to the medicinal plants, 43 poisonus plants, 24 vegetables, 89 decorative plants. The national park has not only plants and tress but also a diverse varities of animals and birds. In the National Park are found plant species that belongs to Colchis, Persia, Iberia, Iran and Middle East. The carnivores found within the territory of this national park are brown bear, wolf, lynx, stone marten, red squirrel, edible dormouse, hare, red fox, wild boar, roe deer etc. There are also different species of amphibians and reptiles that could be seen in  the Algeti National Park. Snakes like smooth snake. dice snake, transcaucasian rat snake, Nore honed viper. There are more than 80 different species of plants found in the national park. In the national park can be seen Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, common buzzard, Montagu's harrier, eagle owl, europen roller, hoopoe, Black woodpecker, swallow, black bird, Eurasian jay, Blur tit, Winter Wren, Gold Finch, et al. If you are lucky enough you can see the Imperial Eagle which is found rarely in this area. Some of the endangered animal species in Georgia can be found in this region such as Brown bear, Caucasian Black Grouse, Imperial Eagle et al. There are also a number of archeological monuments found in the nearby areas of the Algeti National park. Some of the monuments belonging to Eneolithic and bronze age can be found in these areas. Church of Saint Mary, Tabernacle of Kvirastskhoveli, Church Of Sameba, Church of Chrelsakdari, Tabernacle of Kubadoni, Ruins of Kide kari, Fortress of 9th century, Kuntsukhi, underground tunnels, Church of Saint Georga, Manglisi Temple that was built during the 4th century, Birtvisi town fortress of the 11th century. In the north east side of the national park can be found the Didgori valley. The Algeti National park is an important site for scientific researches. It is also an important recreational site, soil and water protection site. There are several tour forms such as hiking, horse riding and archeological under development in this area. 

The Lower Kartli region was first settled by east Georgian tribes during the pre-Hellenic time. During the 15th century the region of Lower Kartli was settled by the Turkish Tribes. During the same period several areas of fiefdom which means areas that were controlled by feudal lords or nobleman were established in this region. This was one of the first part in Georgia which converted into Christianity and this accounts for the large number of churches and monastery complexes found in this region. Some of the Georgian rulers have built summer residences in this region during the past. Nowadays Lower Kartli is populated by many people such a Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, some Greeks, Russians, and Ossetians. The Georgian population with some historic roots in Lower Kartli tends to live in the lowland villages of the region. More recently settled groups live msotly in the mountainous area and come from various parts of Georgia. The population of Lower Kartli is well known for its tradition of handicrafts, especially metalwork.

The Lower Kartli region have a moist and subtropical climate. Precipitation is moderate in the hills of Javakheti  with an average annual temperature of 3 to 12 degree celcius. In the Tsalka area it has a dry Asian mountainous kind of climate. The average temperature will not exceed more than 6 degree celcius. 

Lower Kartli is especially important in terms of its archeology. Many archeological excavations were made in this area and the one that got the world's attention was done a few years back in Dmanisi. The Dmanisi settlement dates back to the medieval ages. It is believed that the human bone fragments found in this settlement belongs to people who lived 1.7million years ago. Till then scientists believed that the first human being lived somewhere in Africa during the prehistoric time. From there these African ancestors settled in Eurasia about six hundred thousand to one million years ago. This archeological excavation lead to the development of new theories and reconsidering the existing ones. Its thought that the bone fragments obtained from this area are the oldest known human being in Europe and Asia. Therefore the discovery at Dmanisi is of a global importance and is widely considered as a major archeological discovery in the 20th century. The skulls which were obtained from Dmanisi are currently kept in the Simon Janashia museum of Georgia. According to records the archeological possessions found from this are include thousands of extinct animal bones and bone fragments, over 1000 stone tools whic were burried near the rivers of Masaver and Pinezaouri.  There were also vertebrate remains and hominid inside some caves.

Dmanisi is the largest fortified fortess town in the Lower Kartli . Dmanisi was one of the most defended fortress town during the middle ages next to Tbilisi. According to historical sources the town of Dmanisi was the summer residence of Queen Tamar. A medeival tower and citadel, cellar, baths, halls, jails and ruins of household and other buildings still exist. A tunnel dating back to the 12th century is of particular note. There is also a three church basilica, which was built in the 6th century. The fortress contains a citadel that was built in the 11th century but was later destroyed during an invasion of Turks. King David The Builder reclaimed the fortress of Georgia and after 1123 it was refered to as the "Town Of Kings". The town was destroyed on multiple occasions as a result of several invasions by Tamerlane a powerful central Asian conqueror of the 14th century. During the 17th century this fortress was ruled by the Baratashivili family. The area was once again revived and used as a burial ground.

Britvisi Fortress is located in the Algeti gorge of Tetritskaro district. Its  one of the unique places in Georgia on the Lower Kartli Regiona at a distance of 80kilometers from the capital city, Tbilisi. There are some massive rocks which are upto 100 meters high, remains of an old fortress and it offers you a perfect place to hike near Tbilisi. The Birtvisi Fortress is considered unique because the fortress is built of very big natural stones that were lifted from the ground. The fortress is at a great height which made it difficult for the invaders to conquer it. The oldest source of mentioning this fortress if from the 11th century. The fortess is located between inacessible cliffs, surrounded by walls for a total area of 1kilometer. The tower which is named Sheupovari is located on the highest walls of the fortress. The woed Sheupovari means Unbeatable in English. According to legends Britvisi fortress was overtaken by Tamelane and then Georgian recaptured the fortress in the 15th century. During the late feudal times the fortress belonged to the Baratashivili family. There are different trails to trek through this amazing place.

Route 1 : This route on foot will take one full day. The entire trip length will be 170 kilometres ie, from Tbilisi to Britvisi followed by the hike on foot for 6 kilometres and at the end from Britvisi back to Tbilisi.To complete the trail in time you must start from Tbilisi in the morning. You will go south of Tbilisi to reach the Britvisi canyon. Once you reach Algeti valley there are two villages where the first one is Partskhisi and the next one is Tbisi. You will have to move through small forests and rocky slopes. After passing through the rocky slopes you may have to pass through a narrow path. It will take about an hour or two to reach the ruins of an ancient fortress which is called as Dedatsikhe. Its a good point to have a small break here and then again continue with your journey. After walking for a little distance to the top of the hill you will be in a place which is surrounded by the fortress. This will give you an amazing view of the Algeti valley from the above and also the Trialeti mountains and its forests. That's it the small trek is over, enjoy the nature have some fun and return back.

Route 2 : For this trail you may have to leave from Tbilisi in the morning. When you reach the Algeti valley get down and just like the above you will find two villages Partskhisi and Tbisi. You will move in the same path as above but when you reach Dedatsikhe you will enjoy the scenery for sometime. Get back down to the camping area, set up a camp here and stay for the night. The next morning have your breakfast in the camp and start to trek. This trekking will take you to another fort called as Sheupovari but this region of Birtvisi fortification remains in a good condition. After enjoying the natural beauty of the fortress descend down and find your way back to Tbilisi. The entire duration of the trip is about 2 days and you will cover a total distance of 180 kilometers out of which 12 kilometers you will cover on foot.

Route 3 : This route of the trail will cover about 160 kilometers out of which 12 kilometers will be covered on foot. In the first day of your trip depart from Tbilisi in the morning. You will follow the same way to reach the Algeti valley as mentioned above. You will get down at a place called Orbeti. This route is not suitable for everybody becuase it is very difficult to move along the down flowing canyon. During the whole journey you will be climbing and walking in the water. It will take about 2 hours to reach the place where you can camp for the day near the Birtvisi fortifications. You will spend the night in your camps having fun. The next morning have your breakfast in the camp. Now you will move through the narrow path to reach the fortress of Dedatsikhe. It's time to take a short break here and then move up to the top of the hill which is surrounded by the fortress. Now you can enjoy the view that you will gain in the first route but after some real adventure. 

Khuluti Fortress is an excellent example of Georgian architecture.The palace which is constructed with local cliff stones is located in a narrow pass of a deep river gorge. The fortress is considered to be built during the first half of the 18th century. The central fortress had two sections and is surrounded by a wall containing five towers. Each of the five towers was used for living purposes although it was used for defense whenever necessary.

Bolnisi Sioni church is one of the rare kind of church in Georgia as it is the only remained three aisled basilica in Georgia. The church was constructed using carved stones with its primary layer being different from the layer of bricks and river stones. The temple is decorated with clear green turquoise hued stones. Decorations of the bases and heads of the pillars are of particular interest; one of them is known as the Bolnisi cross. This is also the first known monument of Georgian architecture that utilizes relief sculptures related to the pre-christian period, but adopted by the christian era as well. In 1936 to 1939 wide scale architectural and restoration works were conducted in Bolnisi. The monument was fully cleaned, fixed and fortified. During this period architects discovered a stone with scripts at one entrances. All three scripts of Bolnisi Sioni are ancient examples of Georgian writing and language. One of the scripts belonging to the 5th century is located on the eastern wall above the window of the altar. This script is now preserved in the state museum while the church has replica of the original. King Peroz of Iran ruled over the region containing Bolnisi Sioni from 459 to 484 whereas the construction of the church began in 479 and got over in 493. Frescoes of the Mother Of God and Jesus Christ are present above the window. Both of these icons are damaged. A local legend says that during the Soviet period people were taken to the church and was tested their belief in the relegion. The Soviet officials had to shoot the icons as a proof for atheism. In the right side of the altar is present icon of Mother Of God which is said to perform miracles in peoples life. There are violet flowers that blossom behind the chamber of the monks throughout the year.  It was the place where 500 inhabitants of Bolnisi was tortured in the 17th century.

Gudarekhi is a village in Tetritskaro district contains an architectural monument, monastery complex, and the ruins of an ancient settlement. The monastery complex is surrounded by a high wall, it includes a church and a belfry constructed during the rule of Queen Rusudan. The church dates back to 1222. One of the most interesting structures in the complex is the belfry constructed in 1278 during the period of the heroic Dimetri. This is the earliest belfry in Georgia. Its lower floor is open and the top floor which contains eight pillars. Coins from the reigns of George III, Rusudan and Lasha-Giorgi, as well as Mongolian coins have been found here.

Pitareti Monastery is located in the village of Pitareti. One of the most significant structures in Georgian architecture is the church of the Mother Of God located within the monastery. There is a script inside the gates stating that the temple was constructed from 1212 to 1222. Pitareti church contains paintings dating back to 13th century. There are diverse pieces of high quality art work in the church as well including engravings and decorative depictions of humans and animals. 

Samshvilde is a historical fortress located at the conjunction of the rivers Khrami and Chivchavi on a natural fortified peninsula. During the 3rd and 4th century BC, the fortress was a center of Samshvilde. Only ruins now remain from numerous buildings. The fortress also include the Samshvilde Sioni temple which dates back to 759 however only the ruins of the church can be found now. A medeival church and three part basilica constructed from the old temple stones still remains strong.

Manglisi which was a significant settlement during the times of antiquity located in the territory of Manglisi. During the reign of Giorgi I from 1014 to 1027 the church of Virgin was expanded and remodeled. The engraved dome is noteworthy along with the 11th century gates depicting a starry sky. The church has fragments of wall paintings dating back to the beginning of 11th century. There is also a medieval belfry bu the date when it was constructed is still unknown.

The Gardabani Protected Area is a natural reserve area which was established in the year 1996 which extends for 3484 hectares. The managed natural reserve is located near Azerbaijan border in the territories of Gardabani and Marneuli district which is at a distance of 39 kilometers from the country's capital Tbilisi. Main treasure of flora of the Gardabani managed natural reserve is the floodplain forests. The adjacent territories of the floodplain forest are covered with steppe plants, mainly fragments of nipplewort which are characteristic features to this area. Many species of vertebrates inhabit the Gardabani Managed Natural Reserve namely 21 species of fishes, 4 species of amphibians, 4 species of reptiles, 135 species of birds, and 26 species of mammals which indicates high level of biodiversity. A red deer which is included in the Red List of Georgia [which includes a list of endangered species] still can be found in the territory of Gardabani Managed Nature Reserve. There are also other animals here inhabit wild boar, hare, jackal, red fox, jungle cat, badger and marten. Among the birds you can see hoopoe, Magpie, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Nightingale. There are also some of the endangered species found in this natural reserve are white tailed eagle, Imperial eagle, Egyptian vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle, Levant sparrowhawk and saker falcon. Among reptiles several species of lizards, greek tortoises and snakes inhabit the Gardbani Managed Natural Reserve. In the reserve it is possible to organize bird watching and animal watching tours as well as botanical and ecological tours. the Gardbani nature reserve is located in the Lower Kartli region which has a historical past. During the centuries many monasteries appeared in the uninhabited plateau of Lori. They played an important role in Georgian spiritualit, literacy and wall painting. Barubani is one of the most important monasteries which is now a part of Azerbaijan. 

On a whole the Lower Kartli region is a fascinating place to visit which is located very close to Tbilisi. The place offers a different terrain to enjoy and there are numerous historical and natural sites to visit. You can hike, see some historical monuments and have a lucky glance at some of the endangered animals in the world. If you get a chance to visit Georgia do take a look at this awesome place. Till I write my next article keep smiling and cheers :) Thank you for reading it patiently and do mention if you have any comments or suggestions below..!!

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