A trip to Mtskheta is like a journey through time. According to wholevehicles.com, the city was founded in the first century BC. e., this is the very first capital of Georgia – after it Tbilisi took the title. But Mtskheta remained the spiritual heart of the country: it was here that Christianity was first adopted, back in 327 AD. e.
By modern standards, this is not even a city, rather, a large village, but everyone here will feel the former greatness, and most importantly, the spirit of the times, even just walking along the streets. Mtskheta is popular among tourists from all over the world, because the Georgian authorities are investing in the restoration of monuments that have survived to this day. There are few of them in the city itself, in fact there are three main ones: Samtavro Monastery, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Bebristsikhe Fortress.
Cuisine and restaurants of Mtskheta
Khinkali, tobacco chicken, chakhokhbili, kebabs, satsivi, barbecue, lobio, kharcho, chashushuli – in Mtskheta you can appreciate the whole variety of authentic Georgian cuisine. There are a lot of restaurants and cafes. During the day they feed a whole army of tourists, and in the evening – residents of Tbilisi who come here for family dinners. The interiors, as a rule, are designed in the national style, sometimes deliberately rustic. A characteristic feature of local establishments is open terraces with beautiful views, where it is pleasant to sit with a glass of good Georgian wine. The local fast food also has a national flavor – there is always the opportunity to have a snack on the go khachapuri, kubdari pies with minced meat or lobiani cakes stuffed with beans.
In the most expensive restaurant in Mtskheta – Gujari – you can not only have a good lunch, but also learn how to bake bread in the stone oven “tone”. But it is best to get acquainted with the whole variety of Georgian wines in the Wine House – a kind of symbiosis of a restaurant and a wine cellar.
Dinner with wine in an expensive restaurant costs 35-45 GEL per person, a hearty lunch with wine in a cafe – 15-25 GEL, street fast food – 3 GEL. A bottle of Mukuzani or Kindzmarauli wine in a restaurant – 32 GEL, Khvanchkara – 40 GEL.
A very popular place is the Salobie restaurant, which looks more like a roadside cafe. Its menu has remained unchanged since 1960. Prices are nowhere lower – homemade meat pies for 1 GEL, huge khinkali for 0.60 GEL apiece, a liter jug of red wine – 7 GEL, branded lobio in a pot covered with mchadi corn tortilla – 2 GEL.
Entertainment and attractions
Any walk around the spiritual capital of Georgia is always a bit of a pilgrimage. It is worth starting with the main attraction of Mtskheta – the Svetitskhoveli temple. According to legend, the tunic of Jesus Christ was once buried in its place. The chief rabbi of Mtskheta brought it to Georgian land from Jerusalem and presented it to his sister Sidonia. When she died, she was buried along with sacred clothing – no one could snatch the chiton from the girl’s hands. And after some time, a tall cedar grew on the grave of Sidonia.
In 319, St. Nina, the niece of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, came to the ancient capital of Georgia in search of a sacred relic. And although she did not find a tunic, she managed to convert King Mirian III and his subjects to the Christian faith. Nina chose the place for the first temple in the royal garden, where a mighty cedar grew. The tree was cut down and 7 pillars were hewn out of it for the new church. 6 of them were installed, and the 7th took off into the air and fell into place only thanks to the prayers of the saint. Hence the name of the church – Svetitskhoveli translated as “Life-Giving Pillar”. The current temple was built on the site of the original one in the 11th century. For centuries, it served as a coronation and burial place for Georgian kings from the Bagration family. Its discreet interiors are still illuminated only by the flame of candles and the rays of the sun pouring from the windows.
A tour of Svetitskhoveli with a personal guide will cost 25 GEL.
A walk along the tangled streets of Mtskheta will lead to the Samtavro monastery. King Mirian III and his wife Nana, canonized as saints, are buried in his Church of the Transfiguration. The name of the monastery is connected with this: Samtavro – “Royal place”. Blackberry still grows near its walls, where St. Nina once preached and treated the sick. Where her hut stood in thorny bushes, a small church Makvlovani was built – the oldest surviving temple in Mtskheta.
Immediately after the adoption of Christianity, St. Nina and Tsar Mirian III installed a wooden cross made of sacred cedar on a high mountain above the city. In the 6th century, a stone temple was built over the cross – Jvari, which means “Cross” in translation.
From the ancient walls of Jvari, a magnificent panorama of the city opens up, which Lermontov so admired in his poem “Mtsyri”. From here you can clearly see how “embracing like two sisters”, the waters of the muddy Kura and the purest mountainous Aragvi merge. It was in this place that in 326 St. Nina baptized the people of Georgia. In her hands then was a cross made of grapevine. Morning is the best time to take pictures.
Vine and viticulture have long been part of Georgian culture. To learn the secrets of excellent Georgian wines, you should go to the winery of the neighboring village of Mukhrani, which is 20 km from Mtskheta. You can limit yourself to a simple inspection of the farm (10 GEL) or order a tasting with a master class (50 GEL).
4 things to do in Mtskheta
- Think about the eternal, standing in front of the Life-Giving Pillar in the Svetitskhoveli Church.
- Recall the description of the Jvari temple in Lermontov’s poem “Mtsyri”.
- Try to observe the measure when tasting Georgian wines.
- Appreciate the traditional Georgian feast at the Gujari restaurant.
Weather in Mtskheta
Mtskheta is located between two mountain ranges at an altitude of 460 m above sea level. Winter here is dry and warm. Great luck to see the fallen snow, giving the city an unusual look. Summer is hot and suffocating, and although everything literally melts from the heat, the city is filled to overflowing with vacationers. The best time to get acquainted with it is September-October, when the daytime heat subsides and the crowds of tourists disappear, as well as April-May with soft green foliage and aromas of flowering gardens.