I know, I know…it’s unbelievable that it took me this long to go to Gori. I had actually been TO Gori before–I attended a conference there the first time I was in Georgia, and of course I’ve driven through many times, but it took me this long to properly go to Gori as a tourist. Somehow I’d missed out when my friends had visited Gori before, and none of them were keen to return. However, I desperately wanted to visit the Stalin Museum before it becomes the Museum of Stalinism. Fortunately, I recently met with some students from my university doing a one-month study abroad program here in Georgia, and they suggested that I might be able to join their class trip to Gori. They checked with their professor, and the next morning I was tagging along on their trip to Gori (thank you, thank you, alma mater!).
We started with a stop in Mtskheta, where I’ve been many times before (in fact, it’s where the blog’s banner photo was taken), but this time the weather was lovely and clear. I’d heard that you could see the Caucasus from Jvari Monastery on a clear day, but I’d never been there on a clear enough day to see it myself. I can now testify that you can, indeed, get a splendid view of the mountains from there. See?
After seeing the sights in Mtskheta, we continued up the road to Gori and went to the Stalin Museum. Now, the Stalin Museum in and of itself isn’t all that interesting. It’s primarily old photos, maps, and tchotchkes (though I must admit–the Stalin carpets were quite fascinating. Can you imagine curling up in front of the fire on your fine, hand-made Azeri carpet featuring Stalin’s likeness?). The museum also contains Stalin’s first office furniture, and some of his uniforms. However, the museum hasn’t had heat since the fall of the Soviet Union, so it was rather chilly to visit in January. Due to the weather inside, we had a rather quick and cursory tour of the museum. In separate exhibits on the museum campus are the home where Stalin was born (which makes my apartment seem palatial) and his official train car– both worth taking a peek. This is a museum that’s more interesting for its historiography than for its content. It’s also the most expensive museum I’ve seen or heard of in Georgia, so take that under advisement.
Although it was the Stalin Museum that I most wanted to see, it was the cave city of Uplitsikhe that was the highlight of the trip. Uplitsikhe is just outside of Gori, and the road there parallels a beautiful little river and goes through the woods to the site in the mountainside. The tourism infrastructure is far more developed at Uplitsikhe than at the other famous cave city I’ve visited, Davit Gareji. This infrastructure included stairs, and railings, and even some signs! The views were beautiful, and the city itself was fascinating–whereas Davit Gareji is a monastery and most of the caves are just that (though there are interesting frescoes), Uplitsikhe was a city with a variety of structures, built both within and beyond the caves themselves.
Especially given Gori’s proximity to Tbilisi, I can’t believe it took me this long to visit!