Sighnagi | What to see in Tbilisi
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Sighnagi


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A New Look At The Old Fortress

Published by Manoj Pradeep

Hello everyone,

It gives me an immense pleasure to keep writing over here and hope that my writing is not too bad to read. Today I just thought that I would share my lovely experience that I had with my friends when I visited the lovely historical town of Sighnaghi. Sighnaghi is not a very big place to see around but trust me its a small place with some amazing natural views.

It all started as a plan for our Easter holidays. It was not such a big vacation to go on a trip that could take days to come back and hence we were searching for some good places that are nearby so that we could go and come back in the same day. We were studying in Tbilisi and since it's the capital of Georgia we don't have any kind of difficulties in finding transportation or any kind of help that we need for travel. We were searching for the place in the web and also asking every senior whom we met in our university as we were not well acquainted with the country that much to find a place for ourselves. Interestingly when we were wandering around the cities of Tbilisi we got to know about the tourism department's office that was placed on the street of Rustaveli. We went there and got for ourselves a bunch of maps that gave us directions to various tourist places that are found around Georgia. After going through a number of them we finally got to know about the place called Sighnaghi and after that we began searching the web checking for some travel details and unfortunately we were unable to get any useful facts about the place. I guess this article of mine about Sighnaghi would be of a use for those who plan to visit the place as I'm sharing only the experiences that I have lived and experienced myself and nothing more or nothing less. So after all these dilemmas we were quite sure of the place and we planned to go a couple of days later.

On the day of the journey we all gathered in our home and we made our walk towards the metro. The metro from our home is just at a walkable distance. After five minutes we were at the Metro station but before departing we just thought that we would carry some snacks and beverages to drink as we were not sure how long is the place and if we would get something to eat etc. We went into a supermarket near the metro got some biscuits, chips, cool drinks and chocolates. When the purchase got over we got down into the metro station and boarded the metro that was leaving to Didube station however we had to get an interconnecting train from the Vukzali metro station.

After a travel of 20 minutes we reached the Didube station. We got information from the near by locals that mini buses to Sighnagi leave from the Didube bus station. However buses are also available from the bus stations in Tbilisi such as the Orthacala Bus Station and Vukzali bus station. We had to walk some distance from the metro in order to reach the bus station and when we reached we were shocked because it was a big ground flooded with mini vans and small cabs that had name boards in them stating different cities. We had a really hard time in finding the correct mini bus as each bay in the ground was for a specific direction. Finally we found a mini van with a board stating Sighnaghi. However when we went near and asked the mini van driver he said that the vehicle will start only in the evening. We all were really disappointed thinking that all our plans were spoiled. We didn't lose hope and towards the left of the bus stand there was a train station where a train stopped by. We went in there to have a look if we had any trains to reach Sighnaghi unfortunately there wasn't any. We were walking all around the bus station again and finally when we all were exhausted we found a mini van to Sighnaghi.

We were all happy and we got into the mini van, however we were the first people to board and the driver was waiting for the rest of the mini van to get filled so that the driver could start. Till then we were standing outside the mini van getting some fresh air during which time we met a small cab driver. His cab was small, very comfortable with only 8 seats, the exact number of seats that we required. He agreed to take us to Sighnaghi and bring us back at a fare 100 GEL, that was quite a good deal as it would cost us 5GEL per head in the common mini van. We agreed to the deal and we all got down the mini van that we were sitting and boarded the cab, there started a conflict between the two drivers. It seems there is a kind of agreement between the drivers of the bus station that once a person becomes a driver's fare he can't board another mini van unless the particular driver agrees. Our driver was not ready to give up his fare and we were compelled to sit in the same mini van again. We didn't have any other go and we boarded the same mini van again and waiting for him to go. After half an hour the driver started the mini van and we were in route to our destination.

The journey was quite long but the road was vacant and filled with scenic beauty on both sides. We all were experiencing the beauty of nature in our route. After a hour our mini van reached the town of Sighnaghi. We got down the mini van and all that we could see was a completely renovated town with a touch of history still unchanged. There was a place to sit out once we got out of the bus station. We went there and sat for a little time just to relax and regain our lost energy during our travel.

Finishing with my travel experience let me tell you some interesting history about the city of Sighnaghi. Located at a distance of just around 117 kilometres from the capital of Georgia, Sighnaghi is one among the towns that carefully preserves old monuments. The most fascinating thing about Sighnaghi is its fortress as the entire town is surrounded by it. The fortress is said to be built by the famous king of Georgian King Erekle II in the year 1772. The fortress spans an area of about 5 kilometres surrounding the entire town with 23 towers and 7 gates in it thereby distinguishing itself from the rest of such monuments in the country. The terrace architecture of Sighnaghi perfectly fits its raised landscape.

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The buildings in the town that were constructed during the 18th and 19th century perfectly adapted to the growing world. The buildings were mostly two or three stores and the first floor of each building served as a place for stores and other such commercial purposes. Even today the shops in this area produce high quality leather, metalwork, carpet weaving and ceramic works. The town has several criss-cross streets making its way to the top of the hill and the buildings are beautifully decorated with tiled roof and bow backed windows. In Tbilisi all the buildings have courtyards and balconies but in Sighnaghi there are no such things, all the buildings are lined up along the streets resembling a proper urban town from the past. "Fifth Facade" or the roof of Signaghi is trademark of the town.

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Some of the important Georgian figures whose contribution for the development of Georgia inevitable belongs to Sighnaghi. Among them, few of the famous people were composers, Vano Sarajishvili, a great philosopher and writer Solomon Dodashivili, an important political figure Sandro Marianashivili. One of the world famous painter Niko Pirasmanishvili was born on the outskirts of Sighnaghi in a village called Mirzani. The town of Sighnaghi is popular for its metal-crafting, ceramic works, wood carvings and leather production. Carpet weaving, rugs and goblin tapestry is one among the oldest traditional work in Sighnaghi. Georgia is known for its wine production since the ancient times. The town of Sighnaghi lying in the Kakheti region of Georgia also produces a wide variety of grapes for wine production. Kakheti as I have mentioned in one of my previous articles is known as the Cradle of Wine. There are around 500 different varieties of grapes that are cultivated in Georgia and most of them are cultivated in the Kakheti region.

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Apart from all these facts there has been recent renovations in Sighnaghi that has attracted a lots of tourists. Now a days there are quite a good number of recreational activities, delicious cuisine and wonderful wine cellars. Since Sighnaghi is located in the Kakheti region one could very well see the snow covered Caucasus mountain ranges towards the north meeting the horizon. The beautiful Alazani valley can be found towards the south. Khornabuji Fortress ensemble is a good place to see in Sighnaghi which has big walls and numerous towers running up the hill. There are also a network of underground tunnels and Khirsa monastery which has a bell tower that was built in the 14th century in it. The antique paintings that are found in Ozani are also a notable place to visit. In the areas such as Nekresi, Tchremi and Gurjaani various early christian archaeological evidences are said to be found which are not very far from the town of Sighnaghi. According to Georgian myths various warriors have dwelled the fortress of Sighnaghi in search for some valuable possessions. To those people who want to taste the crystal clear wine of the Kakheti region with a touch of nature Sighnaghi is a good place as it is not too far from the country's capital.

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As I have mentioned about all the stuff to be done when you visit Sighnaghi I would just tell you what we did when we reached there. We didn't really know anything about the place and after taking the small break in the park near the bus stand we had the snacks that we carried all way from Tbilisi. After walking a small distance we were able to see some classic trendy bikes in which 4 people can travel and a battery operated vehicle with a open roof for tourists. They were meant to carry people to the top of the hill but we prepared to walk our way up the hill as we thought that would be fun. On our way up the hill we met a couple from Budapest and they were so cool people to talk with. They were on their vacation to Georgia and we all became friends. We shared our contact information and the trip gave us some good friends as well.

We went to the top of the hill where we saw a museum but due to our bad luck it was closed and we couldn't wait for it to open. We walked our way to an old church that had some curling steps to reach the top. From the top we were able to see the scenic beauty of Kakheti region. Then we walked around the fortress wall exploring the city, however there was not much to explore except for the scenic beauty of the city. We walked around the entire fortress around 4 kilometres and we were really really tired. We reached the bus station fully exhausted and we ran into a nearby shop to get something to drink and eat. After having a small snack we went to a store that was selling some handicrafts of Sighnaghi. We bought some stuffs as a sign of remembering Sighnaghi and we went back to the bus station. The bus arrived a couple of minutes later and we all boarded the last bus from Sighnaghi to Tbilisi and reached our city in the night. Our journey to Sighnaghi gave us some really unforgettable memories and some naturally beautiful that flashes in our eyes even today. Even though this is not the best place that you may visit for a vacation in Georgia it is still a good place to go and have some fun at least for a day. Until I write my next article about something interesting take care and cheers!

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