I woke up early to visit a nearby monastery, and looking out my window as the sun rose I saw this:
Finding out way to the Nekresi monastery complex proved far easier than we expected. Perhaps because we’re becoming accustomed to asking around at bus stations for information (rather than relying on the internet, which is an information black-hole when it comes to the Caucasus), we hopped on a marshrutka headed toward Kvareli and rode until we saw massive stone buildings growing out of the side the mountains like fungus on a fallen tree. When I asked the driver to stop, he knew exactly where we we going and had the good sense to mention that the last bus would be coming by around 2pm.
On a map the hike looked to be around 10 km, and we walked off the main road past farmers and sheepdogs, up the steep and winding road to Nekresi. Of course, even as we began making our way toward the hills, the landscape captured our attention.
As we climbed, the view became an excellent excuse to catch our breath.
The churches at Nekresi date back to the fourth century, though there are inscriptions at the site dating back to the first century, long before Christianity made its way to Georgia. Perhaps most intriguingly, this is the only place in Georgia where pigs are still sacrificed in a Christian setting. The legend surrounding this tradition has many versions, but in my favorite version the monks successfully fended off the attacks of Muslim invaders by loosing pigs from their sty, which saved the monastery from destruction.
We had a canine guide for the site, but unfortunately her english was not exactly stellar.
The monks still make and sell wine in the traditional way, with fermentation in underground clay vessels, followed by bottling in plastic soda bottles.
A fourth century church and a pomegranate tree uninterested in sharing its fruit:
The wintery light seemed so fitting for the almost empty site. Walking around the complex felt like uncovering a secret world, guarded by steep hills and frosty ground.
I don’t think this country will ever get boring. Traveling close to where I live shows the richness of this country’s history and culture, as my list of destinations only grows as I spend more time in the region. Every day I find something new I wish everyone could experience. Some beautiful moment surfaces from beneath swirling garbage storms and broken down marshrutkas, reminding me that you just have to know where to look. Usually not too far.