Sunday, December 19, 2010

A lovely day in Zugdidi

Zugdidi apartment buildings with Christmas lights
strung across the road from the palm trees
Before I came to Georgia, I bought two travel guides about the country. I do this every time I travel abroad. I like reading about the place that I will be seeing to get an idea of the history and culture before I experience it first-hand. The guide books that I have for Georgia don't say much about the small city of Zugdidi. There is a short description of the central "boulevard," the Dadiani family palace and church, and the botanical garden. One of the books actually says that there is "no reason to linger overnight" due to the many unemployed men who sit around smoking all day and the large number of military police on constant patrol. Well, it's my closest civilization, so that's where I spent this beautiful Sunday. As far as beautiful places go, on the whole, Zugdidi is not beautiful. But it does have some redeeming qualities. The three places that the guide book described are the three nicest things in the city - and the market is pretty entertaining.

The Dadiani Palace built in the 17th century now houses a museum.
The last time I went to Zugdidi with Tea, I demonstrated to her that I knew where I was going - I knew where the market was, where to get off the marshutka, where to get back on the marshutka (most importantly), and which direction to go for the garden and church. She was satisfied that I would not get lost and said that she would feel comfortable letting me go into town by myself. At last!! So after another miscommunication this morning about time, I ran to catch the marshutka into town at 11:30. (For some reason, Georgians call "11:30," "12:30." Every time Tea tells me the time that I need to be ready for something, she names the time one hour later than I really need to be ready. I finally figured this out a couple of days ago, but this morning we misunderstood each other again. Nevertheless, I caught the marshutka just as it was coming to the house.) The ride into town was just as crowded as always, and the driver, Badri wouldn't take my money. He never lets me pay, but I always try!

Zugdidi's Christian Orthodox Church
The first place I wanted to go was the church - it was built in 1838 as the personal church of the Dadiani family who ruled Samegrelo (the region Zugdidi is in) from 1046 to 1857. The small stone church named "Church of the Icon of the Mother of God" is a typical Christian Orthodox church - no seats inside, just open space with stations to light candles and some religious icons here and there around the interior. I was hoping to catch a service of some sort, and as I approached the building, I knew I was in luck. I could hear the minister inside and the doorway was crowded with people. I pulled my scarf up onto my head (not my belief, but out of respect for theirs), pushed my way inside, and stepped over to one side where I could see some of what was going on. The church was as packed as the marshutka always is! I could just see the minister at the center of the interior. He was speaking softly - in Georgian, so I couldn't understand the majority of what he said. While he talked, some in the congregation read from their Bibles, others lit candles, and most just stood and listened. When he was finished speaking, a group started singing - I couldn't see them from where I stood, but the sound was lovely. The voices echoed up into the dome. As the group sang, I noticed shafts of light pouring in through two of the windows on the east side of the building. It looked like God's glory streaming in through the windows. I snapped a picture as discreetly as I could - it was too beautiful to resist.

Christmas lights and palm trees
I spent the next few hours walking around the palace (built in the 1700's) and the botanical garden (1800's) and the central "boulevard" - a narrow, tree-lined park with benches and lampposts. I sketched and photographed and watched people. The day was warm enough to be comfortable and sunny enough to soak up the warmth. It was nice to walk around by myself and have a few hours of quiet with my own thoughts.
Well, relative quiet with the general city noise.
Actually, it was not quiet at all.
But I was quiet.

Arched doorway at the palace entrance

This beautiful lady was sitting on the pathway to the church selling candles. Her eyes were very kind.

In the botanical garden, there are several ruined buildings. I shot several photos in this one. 

It doesn't feel like winter with some flowers still blooming.

Christmas lights strung across the road to the palace and church.

The central boulevard in Zugdidi

Sitting in the marshutka in the "bus station" waiting to go back to Shamgona, this is what I saw.

This is the view from the bridge into Shamgona. The mountains are in the region called Svaneti
which I am hoping to see before I leave. The moon was almost full last night.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a real ancient history place beautiful yet poor.
    Will be looking forward to seeing pictures. What is your email? Ours is Your blogs are well written you should think about a book.
    God Bless and Prayers. It must be hard to be away at Christmas from family. Bruce and Carolyn Boyker, East Wilton Union Church