by Crystle-Day Villanueva, Greenheart Travel English Teacher in the Republic of Georgia
At Vardzia we have a 2 hour stop to see the caves and eat. We are all starving, so we grab a bite at the restaurant. It isn’t until we begin to hike up the main road, that I am regretting my greasy pork and potato choice of entree. It’s a steep hike, and with the full tummy, humidity and being out of practice, Bill Murray and I need constant breaks. The boys plunge on ahead while the girls are kind enough to hold back. It isn’t until half way through the hike that we realize we are the only ones crazy enough to hike the road. Everyone else is paying cabs to DRIVE them up! This brings me a bit more comfort knowing that this is normally a difficult hike for abled bodies. Once I arrived to the top of the main entrance to the caves I am plastered in sweat and panting, but giving myself and Bill a mental high five.
The fellas are waiting for us at the top of the first big cave. Although, Cajun beckons I join them and I have a strong desire to, I am still far too exhausted. Plus, by the way I see the boys moving, it looks like a fairly complex climb. Thank you, but PASS. I anticipate more incline as we move through the caves, but surprisingly it’s not bad at all. What’s tricky was navigating through narrow halls with wide steps. (Wonder what body structure the people had who lived here? Five foot with Four feet long legs!?) During it’s prime Vardzia was a working cave city community with a population of 15,000 people!
We walk in and out of some of the outside caves until we reach the cave church. We are suddenly greeted by a monk and as we enter the church, the stone walls are now painted with New Testament scenes. It’s beautiful (wish I had a flash on my camera!). I am in awe at how these images are still so vibrant after all these years.