Samegrelo | What to see in Tbilisi


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Visiting The Megrelian Kingdom.!

Published by Manoj Pradeep

Hello everyone,  today I just decided that I would share some interesting fats about the Georgian district of Samegrelo. The place was quite cool and reaching the place from Tbilisi the capital of Georgia is not too hard as there are a variety of transportation means available. It is possible to take a minibus also known here as masruthka's. There are a buses and mini buses available every five to six hours not only fromTbilisi but also from many other important cities like Poti, Kutaisi etc, trains also leave from Tbilisi and also other important cities. From Tbilisi the train leaves from the Tbilisi Central Station located at Vukzal. If you reach Batumi International Airport you also can take a sea travel to this region as this place is located near one of the Georgia's important port Poti. Passenger ships leaving to Ukraine goes via poti but these are more infrequent.

To be more specific buses from Tbilisi leaves from Ortachala Bus Station, Didube Bus Station and Vagzal Bus Station. Buses to Samegrelo are buses that travels between 

1] Tbilisi - Zugdidi



Trains are available from Tbilisi Central Railway station. Trains available to this place are Tbilisi-Zugdidi and Tbilisi-Poti

Samegrelo is a sea side district near the black sea on its western coast, it is also bordered by other important districts like Abkhazia, Svaneti,Racha and Guria. Zugdidi is the capital of Samegrelo. This city was also said to be the resident towns of local dukes in the past. Samegrelo is situated in a lowland area which spreads down to the black sea coast. An another beautiful city called Batumi is an inportant place to visit which I would write about in another article. This region is rich in river and also water sources. The place has actually a lot of marshy lands and the government took a lot of initiatives to dry them up but unfortunately nothing worked. This region is inhabited by a group of people called Megrelians who are another kind of Georgian who have another  Georgian dialect. Their traditional food called Megrelian Khachapuri is famous which is kind of a cheese filled bread. Samegrelo has a wide variety of rare animals birds and also reptiles. An important place to visit is also the Kolkheti National Park.

The Kolkheti National Park was established in the very past in time of soviet occupation in Georgia. This natural reserve spans a total area of about fifteen thousand hectares of land and preserves a wide variety of endangered plants, animals, birds and reptiles. The reserve within itself has a  number of stagnant rivers like Pichoni river, kukhani river, Tsiva river etc. It also has some of the important lakes like Lake Paliastomi and number of other small lakes. This makes this place rich in its water resource. The climate is humid however during winter the temperature may reach about four to five degree clecius and during summer maximum temperature like thirty four degree celcius may be reached. The avergae temperature will be around twent degree celcius. There are some sand ridges formed around a small area of the reserve towards the black sea.

The Natural Park due to its climate has a number of trees that grow well in coastal marshes, swamped forests and deciduous wet land forests. The important trees that can be found include bearded alder, several varities of willows, oaks and common ash. Apart from this there are also a large variety of mosses and also aquatic plants that are found in this region. The park also protects some of the rare endangered species of animals like Roe deer, Boar,Otter and a kind of river rat called Coypu. Different rare reptiles like caucassian common tree frog, lake frog and variety of snakes like dice snake,ring snake, European marsh turtle and Artin wood lizard are found inside  this natural reserve. In the marine section of this natural park a variety of endangered Dolphins and also 200 different types of bird species are found. The birds found in this area include Georgian Red Book, black stork, Crane, Great White Egret etc. The park also serves as the home for a number of migrating birds like fronted goose, marsh sandpiper, Eurasian spoonbill etc. Visiting the park not only gives the pleasyre of seeing a list of rare species of plants and animals but also there are a wide variety of other activites like boating, bird watching, hiking, horse riding, diving etc.

Samegrelo has a strong historical background. It is being said that the oldest settlement in this region occured during the time of stone age, people settled in this lowland areas and also the surrounding hills.In the past this region belonged to The Kingdom Of Colchis which had within itself a number of western georgian states. The kingdom has played an important role in the development of georgian culture. Colchians is the name given to the people of this kingdom and they populated the eastern coast of the black sea. It was during this period the first Georgian money was printed called as the Colchian-tetri. The kingdom had its relation with the Greeks in the early 4th and 5th centuries BC and that is considered to be one of the reason for the description of the Colchins in the greek mythology. In the later years when the king ruling this kingdom changed the Colchian kingdom was changed into The Kingdom Of Egrisi from which the current name of the place Samegrelo is thought to be derived. As mentioned above the people of this region are called Mingrelian which also forms one of the Caucassian language.

The Colchian Kingdom according to the ancient Greek mythology was ruled by the son of the sun called Aeetes. The most important treasure of his kingdom was a skinf of ram with golden woll called the Golden Fleece. This priceless treasure was gaurded by a dragon that never slept called as the Argus. The king of thessaly was ready to giver over his throne to his nephew Jason if he was brave enough to get the Golden Fleece from the colchi's. To complete this task Jason built a ship called as the Argo. Jason searched all over the kingdom to select the best heros of the kingdom and mounted them on Argo, they were called Argonauts. They travelled a long way down to the Colchian kingdom where they met Aeetes who possesed the golden fleece. Inorder to hand Jason the fleece Aeetes said that he may have to perform some informiddable task. The route by which Jason reach the kingdom of colchis is now called as the river Rioni. Meanwhile Aeetes daughter Medes fell in love with Jason who helped him to perform all the tasks given by Aeetes. Jason succeeded in acuiring the Golden Fleece and when he returned back home he took with him Medea.

Poti is one of the important towns and a port in this region not only now but also in the past. The fame of the city prevaled from the beginning of 6th century. The city was in lying in the silk from Europe to Asia and even today the city and port is one of the important economic regions of the country. It was here when Saint Andrew I a prophet of Jesus spread christianity into this region known on the ancient time as the Phasis. In the modern times Poti has suffered a numerous Turkish invasions where a rectangular fort with watch towers on the four corners was built, however this tower was destroyed by the Soviets later and the materials of the tower were used for building the harbour. Today Poti is an important port in Georgia and a Economic free zone.

The region of Samegrelo is rich in cultural heritage and it has many archealogical sites that dated back to 2nd century BC. Fortresses and towers are found at different places  of Samegrelo.

Nokalakevi fortress is one of the very famous site in Samegrelo. It literally means "the place where the land was". It is the persumed place where the Golden Fleece was kept by the king Aeetes gaurded bu Argus the dragon. According to Georgian chronicles the fortress is built by the king Kuji who was the Duke of Egrisi in the 3 century BC. Many archealogical findings have been found from this region and preserved. Several different layers have been unearthed in Nokalakevi some of them dating back even to 7th to 8th century BC. Different valuable findings were found from this region.

The Martvili Monastery located in the village of Martvili was built as the Monastery of Saint Martyrs. The fascinating fact about this monastery is that its base is a huge oak tree. This oak tree was worshipped by the locals in the area as a God of fertility and prosperity in the very past, later when Saint Andrews I reached here and started spreading christianity the oak tree was cut down and a cathedral was built over the base of the oak tree. The paintings that are found on the walls of this cathedral are dated back to 7th century. In the middle period the monastery was also a culture and education centre.

The Rukhi Castle is locate in the Rukhi village which is situated in the left bank of the Enguri river. It was built in the 17th century bu the duke of Samegrelo of that time.This castle has a citadel and an inner yard, it also has two towers. Entrance to the castle is located on the first floor of a tower that has been fortified into the castle wall.

The Dadiani Palace is located in Zugdidi belonged in the past to the Duke of this region. At present it is situated in the capital of Samegrelo, Zugdidi. Currently it functions as a museum that has a lot of archealogically valuable items. It has the palace complex of the queen Ekaterine and Nino Dadiani, the balcony of the palace is made of stones and it also has a large ballroom  [the largest in Georgia]. In front of the palace there is a beautiful botanical garden  decorated with a wide variety of flowers brought from different parts of the world. Archealogical monuments found in different places of this region including those of Nokalakevi are found here in this museum. There are very old paintings and some invaluable collections such as a death mask of Napolean Bonoparte, Shroud of Saint Mary brought to Georgia in 1453, Protected arm of St. Kvirikie, St George and John the baptist. Up to date the museum holds around 50,000 archealogical possessions.

The Tsaishi Palace is a cathedral church that was built for saint mary in the 13 and 14th century however the domed roof was destroyed by an earthquake at that time and was rebuilt in the 17th century, It served as a centre of education for many years. The oldest part of the cathedral is located outside and from its interior it is estimated that some of the paintings belonged to the 11th century

The Tsalenjika Cathedral is located on the mountain of Tsalenjika. This cathedral has a bilingual Greek and Georgian inscription in of the pillars and it is said that the inscription is because of the designer who arrived from constantinople. Moreover there are tombs of the Megrelian prince and his wife who are burried outside the cathedral.

The Zugdidi Church, from its name its clearly understandable that the church is is Zugdidi the capital and it is one of the city's symbol. Some researchers think that the church was built in the 10th century however there are some controversies dealing with the period at which the church was built. The church is dome shaped and symmetrical but the church is so small which makes it look like it was built only for monks.

An interesting fact about this Zugdidi church is that this church that is built entirely for Virgin Mary by the Dadiani family. The waist band of virgin Mary is regarded as the most sacred item of this church. This is now preserved in the Dadiani Museum in Zugdidi. During the time of rule by the Dadiani family this sacred icon was presented to the ruler of soviet Alexander I hoping that he would return back the icon. This icon was returned back after the death of Dadiani with fundings to built a church for him. Even today on 15th of july this sacred waist band of Mary is brought to the church and special worships are done where most of the orthodox christians gather together and pray.

The Khobi Church which was known as the Khobi Monastery Complex is situated on the bank of the river Khobistskali three kilometres from the city of Khobi in the village of Nojikhevi. This place consists of a palace, a wall, a bell tower and a church. The wall was renovated in the 1970's. The bell tower built of stone is one of the largest in Georgia which has seven windows on the top. The church is decorated with Frescoes and ornaments which are now severly damaged. The exact time period when the constructions were over is still a puzzle unsolved.

The Kortskheli Church It was built under the rule of Daediani in the 17th century on a hill that is eight kilometres north east of Zugdidi. From this hill one can see the the mountains of Svaneti and Abkhazia, The lowlands of Kolkheti and also the black sea

The Poti Cathedral originally named the Guria-Samegrelo eparch church was built in the 19th century. initially the plan for the church was proposed to the soviet government after getting permission from the Russian commander of the region. The church was designed according to the Georgian architectural style but the soviet government denied the proposal. Therefore the entire plan was redesigned by two other designers, they proposed a design which was like a smaller version of Hagia Sophia which has three icons. One icon was built according to the Greek-Byzantiyum style, the second one was according to the Georgan Byzantiyum style which were on the north and the south side respectively. The third one on the centre was according to the Russian Byzantiyum style. Among these icons were Saint Nino and Saint David the builder. However in the middle of the ninteenth century the soviet governors decided to change the church into a theatre. The church was handed back over to the spiritual commity back in the recent 2005.

Samegrelo is a district that is rich in karst caves ie, these caves are formed due to dissolving action of water on carbonated rocks, although most of the caves does not have any kind of tourist architecture it still attracts speologists and sportsmen. Most of the caves are located in the Migaria mountains out of which Velvet caves, Zasnake and Potoltsvena are well known.Most of the caves are not fully explored till now. Lake Tobovarchkhili is one good site to visit and it is only possible to reach this glacier lake by foot that is at a distance of twenty kilometres from the nearest place called Chkorotsku.

There are also many resorts in this region to enjoy this place in a luxurious way a few of them are below mentioned.

Menji this resort is known for its art of curing diseases by bathing called Balneolgy. The resort is located on the bank of a river called Tsivi river. The season for this resort is throughout the year as the temperature is more favorable with snowless winters. The resort's main feature is its Sulphur hydrogen chloride sodium mineral water that is known to cure a number of gynaecological, cardiovascular and nervous disorders.

Lebarde unlike menji has only a favorable season from june to october. This resort is also known for its Balneological value  This resort is located on the bank of the river Martvili. Winters are mild and the summers are cool. The mineral rich water is said to be good for health.

Mukhuri-Lugela is located at a distance of three kilometres from the river Lugela. This river has a mineral rich crystal clear water and it is said that a litre of water contain approximately 54 grams of chlorine calcium and that is one of the reason that the water from this river does not freeze even at a temperature of -25 degree celcius. The river is located at a height of 560 metres above sea level.

On the whole the district of Samegrelo is a place with a lots of historical background, archealogical treasure and medicinal values with much of its wealth still unexplored. It is one of the place to enjoy the taste of nature and to get acquainted with. Wishing you a good journey.!  


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