When I have free time I always travel to Kakheti together with my friends or with our guests. We usually get into the car and choose a particular destination to visit. We love adventurous and new experiences, so before we get there we follow one rule: on the way we pass through the villages we want and choose the routes we like. During these unplanned trips we usually discover some interesting and beautiful places that we didn’t know about. First, we find them and then take our guests to these places. There are so many things to see in Kakheti, aren’t there? In every village there are so many famous or unknown, secular, religious or natural monuments! That’s why my personal advice is to visit the villages of Kakheti apart from historical cities and to see how people live and what day-to-day lives in this region are like.
New Year is approaching and if you plan to be in Kahketi at that time or travel there during your holidays, you should know that in this region bread with raisins are baked on these days. According to the tradition, every family member should have one piece of this bread and on the New Year Night everyone cuts a piece of it. Next to such special bread they place churchkhela, dried fruits, a pig head, wine and vodka. On the next day, when the sun rises the head of the family goes outside and three time walks around the house, then gets in again and congratulates family with the New Year. Everyone gets a piece of bread from a specifically prepared bowl. This century-old tradition welcomes in a peaceful and happy new year.
Kakheti is one of the oldest cradles of viticulture and winemaking. Here winemaking is part of the culture and national identity. Grapes feature everywhere: on architectural monuments, ornaments, murals and the family houses.
Famous Kakhetian churchkhela is made of walnuts or hazel nuts, and raisins, all are threaded onto a string and three times dipped in thickened grape juice. This is how Georgian candy – churchkhela is made in East Georgia and janjukha in West Georgia. A good churchkhela is one of the most popular sweets on the New Year table and not only in Kakheti but in the whole country. I have one more recommendation for you – if you plan to welcome the New Year at home, then you should definitely visit Kahketi earlier and buy the sweets for the New Year’s Eve in any Kahketian village. Guests are very much liked in Kakheti, so you can freely knock on the door of any house and there will be real Georgian candies waiting for you on different colorful threads.
The old capital of Kakheti – Gremi is 15 minutes away from Lopota Lake & Spa Resort. On the way you can enjoy the view of vineyards, also visit some wineries, taste local wine and then drive to the city that is famous for bravely withstanding its enemies.
The city of Rebellious Kings
It is a well-known fact that Gremi was located on the Silk Road and the goods taken from China to the Byzantine Empire, Persia or Arabia had to cross this city. This meant that the city was in the epicenter of cultures – they knew about other cultures, understood other languages, assimilated things and then shared them back. Historical information about the city is poorly preserved because the place appeared but soon disappeared at one of the most difficult stages in the country’s history. The greatest damage to the city was inflicted in the sixteenth century, during the invasion of Shah Abbas and the road destroyed at that time is not reconstructed yet. Nowadays, in Gremi, one of the most beautiful cities of Kakheti, only ruins remain, with well-preserved architectural complex, the Archangels’ Church and a royal tower.
The city of Gremi
The first settlement of Gremi probably dates back to the Late Bronze Age, though its history as a city goes back to the 15th century when the first king of Kakheti, Giorgi I announced Gremi as the capital of the kingdom. The status of Gremi was preserved during two centuries and because caravans were passing through the city, it became a political, economic and cultural heart of the kingdom. The city was an educational centre as well, with its own observatory, out of which celestial bodies were observed. In Gremi people still tell stories about an old academic establishment, known as Academy. The town also had a royal district where kings received ambassadors from various countries and visited an observatory. The nobles spent their free time in public baths. The city preserved such status for 150 years.
The whole Alazani valley can be seen from the high towers of Gremi, which were for guards who could see approaching enemies and notify city defenders to meet the enemies properly.
Trade in Gremi
In those days trade rows had huge storage spaces and the city was full of Georgian, Armenian and Jewish traders. Customers arrived from different places: caravans from Persia and the North Caucasus carried weapons, precious carpets, gold and silver. The Kakhetians went on long journeys with caravans laden with silk and wine. In the city, known for its rebellious kings, foreign travellers and merchants arrived on camels, horses and donkeys, then loaded them with their belongings and went to Persia. In Zagemi, near Gremi, it seemed that coins were minted as well.
Nowadays historical complex of Gremi in declared as a museum and protected area. In the palace and the bell tower ethnographic material and part of the excavated artefacts are on display – Bronze Age weapons, jewelry, small animal sculptures, iron axes (12-13th centuries); ceramic items, glazed tiles and bricks; medieval ammunition and kings’ portraits.
Modern Gremi is one of the most breathtaking towns in Kakheti and is located in the center of the region. Moreover, if you travel there, we definitely recommend you to visit the temple and the historical part. Historically valuable journey awaits you. Gremi still keeps the flavour of the past as well as offers interesting experience. 400 years have passed after the fall of Gremi and the Archangels’ Church complex, elegant and tall, as if trying to soar into the sky, is still there in the heart of the town.
The Temple of Gremi
King Leon II of Georgia built and painted the Gremi Temple in 1565. The main part is built of bricks. The inscriptions and frescos on the walls seem to have become an example for churches of feudal Georgia. It is assumed that an earlier church must have been on the site, the remains of which are deeply buried in the ground. However, it is not possible to determine this today, because most of the hills are already covered by other structures.