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Capidava (Romania)

Capidava was an important Geto-Dacian center on the right bank of the Danube. After the Roman conquest, it became a civil and military center, as part of the province of Moesia Inferior (later Scythia Minor), modern Dobruja. It is located in the village with the same name, Capidava, in Constanţa County.

Capidava took its name from the old Getic dava "settlement" that was in a close area. Capidava name has the characteristic Dacian ending, the suffix –dava meaning "settlement, village, town". This Getic toponym, means the "curve fortified settlement". The Getic name had been preserved by the Romans under the form Capidava in the Antonine Itinerary,  Calidava in the Tabula Peutingeriana  and Cappidava or Capidapa in the Geography of Ravenna. The entire territory took the name "territorium capidavense". Petculescu noted that, in the zone of the Danubian frontier zone, the names of the sites of the forts and the civilian settlements related to them were overwhelmingly of pre-Roman origin, mostly Geto-Dacian. In the southern part of the frontier, there was a concentration of names ending in dava, characteristic of the Geto-Dacian hill-forts, indicating that the Roman army on this arrival in this zone of the Danubian frontier found a lot of local tribes dwelling in fortified sites according to their traditions habits. Nevertheless, Capidava is one of the few Roman-era settlements with indigenous names in the area were no significant pre-Roman settlement was found. According to Irimia, this is at great extent because of insufficient research.

After the official withdrawal from Dobrudja of the Eastern Roman Empire (ca. 600), the city was rebuilt by the Byzantines in 10th century, also hosting the local population. Fire caused by the Pechenegs in 1036 led to its final abandonment. In the spring of 1036, an invasion of the Pechenegs devastated large parts of the region, destroying the forts at Capidava and Dervent and burning the settlement in Dinogeţia. In 1046 the Byzantines accepted the settling of Pechenegs under Kegen in Paristrion as foederati. They established some form of domination until 1059, when Isaac I Komnenos reconquered Dobruja.

The ruins at Capidava were known by word of mouth from long ago, as the Turkish village (a military colony) founded in the 18th century under the name of Kale-koy, that is "the village of the fortified settlement". The first scientific explorers of the Dobruja's land, from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were captain Mihai Ionescu-Dobrogeanu and archaeologist Grigore Tocilescu who mentioned the fortification and gathered antiquities from its area.

In an archaeological survey conducted before World War I, Vasile Pârvan identified it and asked Pamfil Polonic Sr. to create a concise plan of the ruins. Right after the war, Pârvan intended to undertake a vast project of archaeological research in Dobrudja likely to be joined by all his pupils in Bucharest and Iaşi. Starting from 1924 and continuing in 1926 and 1927 they initiated here archaeological excavations, led by one of Vasile Parvan\'s assistants, Grigore Florescu, later a lecturer in epigraphy and antiquities with the Faculty of Letters of the University of Bucharest. Grigore Florescu led the researches at Capidava until 1960, when he died on the archaeological site of Drobeta. Until 1954 he worked alone, helped from time to time by his students. Between 1949 and 1954, the excavations at Capidava as well as other field research on the Roman period were interrupted.

The most important monuments uncovered at Capidava include epigraphical and sculptural ones, and also pottery: vessels, amphorae, clay buckets, jars, bowls, lamps. At the same time, they uncovered metal, bone, glass, stone, earth artifacts and coins. The coins date from the time of John I Tzimiskes, Basil II, Constantine VIII, and Theodora. Of the total of almost 50 epigraphic monuments uncovered 25 are funerary steles, and the rest are altars, honorary or simple votives. The sculptural monuments uncovered number 15 and are capitals, a hand, a shaft-column, a leg, a serpent, an eagle.

In 1969, in the ancient Geto-Dacian settlement of Capidava that subsequently become a Roman fortress, it was discovered a pitcher (of local make, in the Roman-Byzantine tradition) which – beside the sign of the cross and the Greek alphabet – carries the name Petre (a common name in the Danube valley, interpreted as Romanian by some Romanian historians).

Exact location

Capidava village, Constanta County, Romania

 

Driving directions from Bucharest to Capidava, Romania

E81 - 186 km, 1 hour 56 mins

Bucharest, Romania
1. Head toward Strada Ion Câmpineanu  south on Calea Victoriei Pass by Ing  (on the left)  - 350 m
2. Turn left at Pizza Hut  onto Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Pass by Banca Comercială Română  (on the right) - 350 m
3. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit  onto Bulevardul Carol I/DN2/E60/E85 Pass by Parcul Colțea  (on the right) - 300 m
4. Turn right at Gold Reserve Invest IFN  onto Bulevardul Hristo Botev Pass by Satya Com. Srl  (on the right) - 650 m
5. At Maelstrom Entertainment Web Design Bucuresti, continue onto Strada Matei Basarab Pass by Parcare cu plată  (on the right)  - 180 m
6. Turn right at Panco Sa  onto Bulevardul Mircea Vodă Pass by Swedish Trade Council  (on the right) - 500 m
7. Turn left onto Bulevardul Unirii/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by Alpha Bank Romania Sa  (on the right in 650 m) - 1.8 km
8. Turn left at Spalatorie auto  onto Calea Dudeşti/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 2 roundabouts Pass by OMV  (on the right in 108 km) - 157 km
9. Exit onto DJ223/E81 Go through 1 roundabout - 550 m
10. Turn left onto Strada Constanţei/DJ223 - 700 m
11. Turn right onto Strada Gării/DJ223 - 600 m
12. Take the 1st right  onto Strada Nicolae Titulescu/DJ223 Pass by Parc copii  (on the left) - 280 m
13. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit  onto Strada Seimeni/DJ223 Continue to follow DJ223 - 6.8 km
14. Turn right to stay on DJ223 - 3.4 km
15. Turn left to stay on DJ223 Pass by Capidava  (on the left in 12.4 km) - 12.5 km
16. Turn right - 230 m
Capidava Romania


Enisala (Romania)

The name comes from the words Enisala His Eni, which in Turkish means New Village. The ruins of medieval fortress Yen-Sale (ENISA ENISA, Heracleia or Heraclitus) is 2km from the town Enisala on a limestone hill that dominates the lakes Razim and Babadag.

The history of the city and nearby settlement is illustrated by the names which it had: the Vicus Novus (New Village) and the Slavonic  Novo Selo.

The fortress is situated in a complex with numerous archaeological remains from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. Archaeological research was started in 1939 and continued during the years 1970-1998. Medieval settlements connects two levels of living. First, prior to construction of fortifications, was dated on the basis of archaeological material in the late XIII - early XIV century. The second level corresponds to the period of raising walls.

The fortress was built for military purposes, defense and surveillance of water and roads on land, in the second half of the fourteenth century by an authority aimed at the Danube. Based on construction techniques, the archaeological material and historical realities it has been hypothesized that only interested in raising a fortress located in northern Dobrogea fortification system with focus on high for naval traffic control were Genoese merchants who had large money gained from trade and navigation. Enisala has an irregular polygonal plan, the following variation of Jurassic limestone massif that is located. Enclosure walls, towers and bastions, partially preserved and restored, maintained for the most part on a height of 5 - 10m. The main gate bastion of Oriental origin, with double arch, frequently encountered in medieval and Byzantine builders used in various buildings in the Balkan Peninsula and in the Romanian in Neamt Fortress, Church of St. Nicholas The Court of Arges and Moldovan churches built by Stephen the Great.

Between 1397 - 1418, during the reign of Mircea the Elder, the city was part of the defensive system of the Romanian Country. After the conquest by the Turks in Dobrogea 1419 - 1420, there was installed an Ottoman military garrison. Later, due to advance beyond the Danube mouths Turkish rule until the White Castle and Chile (1484) and due to the formation of sand seams separating the Black Sea Razim lake, the city was abandoned. In the sixteenth century, it no longer corresponded to strategic and economic interests of the Turkish (Ottoman).

Exact location

Enisala, Tulcea County - 44°52′42″N 28°49′7″E

 

Driving directions from Bucharest to Enisala Fortress

Suggested routes
1. E81 - 315 km, 3 hours 11 mins 
2. DN2A/E60 - 275 km, 3 hours 53 mins
   
1. E81 - 315 km, 3 hours 11 mins 

Bucharest, Romania
1. Head toward Strada Ion Câmpineanu south on Calea Victoriei Pass by Ing (on the left) - 350 m
2. Turn left at Pizza Hut onto Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Pass by Banca Comercială Română (on the right) - 350 m
3. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Bulevardul Carol I/DN2/E60/E85 Pass by Parcul Colţea (on the right) - 300 m
4. Turn right at Gold Reserve Invest IFN onto Bulevardul Hristo Botev Pass by Satya Com. Srl (on the right) - 650 m
5. At Maelstrom Entertainment Web Design Bucuresti, continue onto Strada Matei Basarab Pass by Parcare cu plată (on the right) - 180 m
6. Turn right at Panco Sa onto Bulevardul Mircea Vodă Pass by Swedish Trade Council (on the right) - 500 m
7. Turn left onto Bulevardul Unirii/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by Alpha Bank Romania Sa (on the right in 650 m) - 1.8 km
8. Turn left at Spalatorie auto onto Calea Dudeşti/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 2 roundabouts Pass by OMV (on the right in 108 km) - 157 km
9. Continue onto A2 Go through 1 roundabout - 51.0 km
10. Keep right at the fork and merge onto A4 - 14.8 km
11. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto DN2A/E60/E87 - 1.3 km
12. Slight left to stay on DN2A/E60/E87 Continue to follow E87 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by Ruana (on the left in 1.0 km) - 75.0 km
13. Slight right toward Strada Heracleea/DJ223A - 800 m
14. Take the 2nd right onto Strada Heracleea/DJ223A Continue to follow DJ223A - 8.2 km
15. Continue straight onto DJ222 - 900 m
16. Turn left Destination will be on the left
Enisala Fortress, Tulcea, Romania

 2. DN2A/E60 - 275 km, 3 hours 53 mins

Bucharest, Romania
1. Head toward Strada Ion Câmpineanu south on Calea Victoriei Pass by Ing (on the left) - 350 m
2. Turn left at Pizza Hut onto Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Pass by Banca Comercială Română (on the right) - 350 m
3. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Bulevardul Carol I/DN2/E60/E85 Pass by Parcul Colţea (on the right) - 300 m
4. Keep right at the fork Continue to follow DN2/E60/E85 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by MOL Bucuresti Colentina (on the right in 5.8 km) - 55.1 km
5. Slight right onto DN2A/E60 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by Petrom (on the left in 35.6 km) - 62.1 km
6. Turn left onto Şoseaua Lactilrom - 2.0 km
7. Turn right onto Şoseaua Amara/DN2C Pass by D & P advertising (on the left) - 2.0 km
8. Take the 1st left onto Strada Matei Basarab Pass by BCR Agenţie (on the right in 1.2 km) - 3.1 km
9. Turn right onto DN21/E584 - 93 m
10. Sharp left onto DN2A/E60 Pass by Lukoil Hârşova (on the right in 57.4 km) - 59.8 km
11. Continue onto DN22A - 16.2 km
12. Turn left to stay on DN22A Pass by Popas Cicurova (on the right in 34.1 km) - 37.1 km
13. Turn right onto DN22D - 15.0 km
14. Turn left onto DJ223A - 7.6 km
15. Turn left onto DJ223A/DN22/E87 - 2.5 km
16. Slight right toward Strada Heracleea/DJ223A - 800 m
17. Take the 2nd right onto Strada Heracleea/DJ223A Continue to follow DJ223A - 8.2 km
18. Continue straight onto DJ222 - 900 m
19. Turn left Destination will be on the left - 1.5 km
Enisala Fortress, Tulcea, Romania


Tropaeum Traiani (Romania)

Tropaeum Traiani is one of the most important ancient monuments in Romania. It was built by Emperor Trajan in 109 AD. The monument was erected to commemorate the Roman victory in the battles that were given to the conquest of Dacia and the inscription with the names of soldiers who died in those battles. It consists of a cylindrical base, which is based on circular stairs several times, and the upper conical roof, with scales on concentric rows of stone, which stands in the middle of hexagonal superstructure. The top is bifacial, having an armor with four cylindrical shields. At the trophy are two statuary bodies containing each representing the three captives.  Over large scales cone roof of stone placed on a trophy was hexagonal, high of 10.75 m. Also on the monument was found an inscription, which has remained fragmentary, dedicated to the god Mars the Avenger. The ensemble, which was part of the monument, also includes a shrine, on whose walls were the names of about 3,800 Roman soldiers killed in battle, and also a mausoleum, with three concentric walls, which seems that was buried commander (praefectus castrorum), who with his life, decided the victory of the year 102.

Exact location

Location: Adamclisi, Constanta county

Driving directions from Bucharest to Adamclisi, Romania

Suggested route
E81 - 214 km, 2 hours 12 mins

Bucharest, Romania
1. Head toward Strada Ion Câmpineanu  south on Calea Victoriei Pass by Ing  (on the left) - 350 m
2. Turn left at Pizza Hut  onto Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Pass by Banca Comercială Română  (on the right) - 350 m
3. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit  onto Bulevardul Carol I/DN2/E60/E85 Pass by Parcul Colțea  (on the right) - 300 m
4. Turn right at Gold Reserve Invest IFN  onto Bulevardul Hristo Botev Pass by Satya Com. Srl  (on the right) - 650 m
5. At Maelstrom Entertainment Web Design Bucuresti, continue onto Strada Matei Basarab Pass by Parcare cu plată  (on the right - 180 m
6. Turn right at Panco Sa  onto Bulevardul Mircea Vodă Pass by Swedish Trade Council  (on the right) - 500 m
7. Turn left onto Bulevardul Unirii/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 1 roundabout Pass by Alpha Bank Romania Sa  (on the right in 650 m) - 1.8 km
8. Turn left at Spalatorie auto  onto Calea Dudeşti/E81 Continue to follow E81 Go through 2 roundabouts Pass by OMV  (on the right in 108 km) - 157 km
9. Take the exit toward DJ223 - 260 m
10. Sharp left onto DJ223 - 28.0 km
11. Turn right to stay on DJ223 - 10.4 km
12. Turn left onto DN3 - 4.3 km
13. Turn left to stay on DN3 - 9.9 km
14. Turn left - 100 m
15. Turn right   
Adamclisi, Romania


Ancient Nessebar (Bulgaria)

The Nessebar peninsula - the ancient city Messembria called Messemvria in the late Middle Ages and later Nessebar, was inhabited thousands of years ago, at the end of the Bronze Age. The Old Thracians called it Melsabriya, which means "town of Melsa", the legendary founder of the settlement. Messambria has two convenient harbours - south and north, where even today there are many remains of ancient vessels.

Messambria began to mint its own coins around 440 BC, approximately since then the first minted gold coins are dated. The town had good trade relations with the polis of the Black Sea and Aegean Sea as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Findings testifying to the rich economic, cultural and spiritual life of this period are set out in the archaeological museum in the city.

According to the legends in its existence Nessebar had about 40 churches. Data for 23 of them is currently available. And now due to the many well-preserved churches, especially from the period XIII - XIVcentury the town has been called by local and foreign researchers "The Bulgarian Ravenna". Almost throughout its history Nessebar has been a residence of a bishop. Thus, two of the churches - "St. Sofia" and "St.Stephen"- are more commonly known as the Old and the New Bishop Churches.

The cultural heritage of Nessebar is preserved in five expositions. The Archaeological Museum presents a rich collection of Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance exhibits.

Because of its unique nature and very well preserved monuments from different eras on the seventh session of the World Heritage Committee in Florence in 1983, Old Nessebar is listed as a monument of world cultural heritage.

 

Exact location

Location: Nessebar, Bourgas District

 

Driving directions from Burgas to Nesebar, Bulgaria

Suggested route
Route 9 - 10.4 km, 20 mins

Burgas, Bulgaria
1. Head west on ulitsa Knyaz Boris I/улица Княз Борис I toward ulitsa Hristo Botev/улица Христо Ботев - 91 m
2. Take the 1st right onto ulitsa Hristo Botev/улица Христо Ботев - 550 m
3. Continue onto ulitsa Odrin/улица Одрин - 500 m
4. Turn right onto Route 9 - 1.4 km
5. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto bulevard Nikola Petkov/булевард Никола Петков heading to жк. Искрев/жк. Зорница - 850 m
6. Turn right to stay on bulevard Nikola Petkov/булевард Никола Петков - 82 m
7. Turn left onto ulitsa Dimitar Dimov/улица Димитър Димов - 850 m
8. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Route 9 - 3.2 km
9. Take the exit toward Каблешково/Солници - 120 m
10. Continue straight onto Route 906 - 13.5 km
11. Slight right toward Route 9 - 6.5 km
12. Turn left onto Route 9
Go through 1 roundabout - 4.0 km
13. Turn right - 950 m
14. Turn right toward ulitsa Han Krum/улица Хан Крум
Go through 1 roundabout - 1.4 km
15. Continue straight onto ulitsa Han Krum/улица Хан Крум - 1.3 km
16. Continue onto ulitsa Mesembriya/улица Месембрия - 350 m
17. Turn right onto ulitsa Monsenyor Anzhelo Ronkali/улица Монсеньор Анжело Рокали - 290 m
18. Turn right - 40 m
19. Turn left - 48 m
Nesebar

 


Selimiye Mosque (Turkey)

The Selimiye Mosque is an Ottoman mosque in the city of Edirne, Turkey. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Selim II and was built by architect Mimar Sinan between 1569 and 1575. It was considered by Sinan to be his masterpiece and is one of the highest achievements of Islamic architecture.

This grand mosque stands at the center of a külliye (complex of a hospital, school, library and/or baths around a mosque) which comprises a medrese (Islamic academy teaches both Islamic and scientific lessons), a dar-ül hadis (Al-Hadith school), a timekeeper's room and an arasta (row of shops). In this mosque Sinan employed an octagonal supporting system that is created through eight pillars incised in a square shell of walls. The four semi domes at the corners of the square behind the arches that spring from the pillars, are intermediary sections between the huge encompassing dome (31.25m diameter with spherical profile) and the walls.

While conventional mosques were limited by a segmented interior, Sinan's effort at Edirne was a structure that made it possible to see the mihrab from any location within the mosque. Surrounded by four tall minarets, the Mosque of Selim II has a grand dome atop it. Around the rest of the mosque were many additions: libraries, schools, hospices, baths, soup kitchens for the poor, markets, hospitals, and a cemetery. These annexes were aligned axially and grouped, if possible. In front of the mosque sits a rectangular court with an area equal to that of the mosque. The innovation however, comes not in the size of the building, but from the organization of its interior.The mihrab is pushed back into an apse-like alcove with a space with enough depth to allow for window illumination from three sides. This has the effect of making the tile panels of its lower walls sparkle with natural light. The amalgamation of the main hall forms a fused octagon with the dome-covered square. Formed by eight massive dome supports, the octagon is pierced by four half dome covered corners of the square. The beauty resulting from the conformity of geometric shapes engulfed in each other was the culmination of Sinan's life-long search for a unified interior space.

At the Bulgarian siege of Edirne in 1913, the dome of the mosque was hit by Bulgarian artillery. Owing to the dome's extremely sturdy construction, the mosque survived the assault with only minor damage. On Atatürk's order, it has not been restored since then, to serve as a warning for future general. Some damage can be seen on the image of the dome above, at and near the dark red calligraph to the immediate left of the central blue area.

The mosque was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 10,000 lira banknotes of 1982-1995. The mosque, together with its külliye, was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2011.

Selimiye Mosque was built at the peak of Ottoman military and cultural power. As the empire started to grow, the emperor had found an immediate urge to centralize the city. Sinan was asked to help to construct the Selimiye Mosque, making the mosque distinctive and served the purpose of centralizing the city.

Like all other Ottoman mosques in the earlier periods, the Selimiye Mosque had a multitude of little domes and half domes. However, the limit in building Selimiye was to viewing the mosque as a single unit from inside or outside rather than separate masses. Sinan believed that building a single dome would be the only resolution to achieve this. Hence, he ambitiously decided to replace the busy confused domes in the center with an enormous one. The author of Other Colors, Orhan Pamuk mentioned that he saw a connection between the wish of the central dome and the centralizing political and economic changes made by the empire, but the idea was later objected by another book written by Sinan’s friend, Sai, claiming that Sinan had taken his inspiration from Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.

In order to accentuate and draw attention to the centralize structure of the mosque, the traditional placement of different sized minarets was abandoned from the design as Sinan believed that cascade of smaller domes and half-domes used earlier would play down the gigantic single-shell dome. Besides, four identical minarets were planted at each corner of the marble forecourt to enforce attention on the surrounded central dome. The four vertically fluted symmetrical minarets amplify the upward thrust, shooting towards the sky like rockets from each corner of the mosque. With the great dome rising subtlety from the center, it had harmoniously interplayed with the half domes, weight towers, and buttresses crowded around it. It was believed that the circular architecture was to affirm the oneness in humanity and called out the simple ideology of circle of life. The visible and invisible symmetries that were called out from the exterior and interior of the mosque was to evokes God’s perfection through the plain and powerful structure of the dome and the bare stone.

Exact location

Location: Meydan Mh., 22000 Edirne/Edirne Province, Turkey - 41°40′N 26°34′E

Driving directions from  Ankara to Edirne, Turkey

Suggested route
O-4 and O-3 685 km, 6 hours 42 mins
This route has tolls.

Ankara, Turkey   
1. Head north on Kızılay Myd toward Ziya Gökalp Cd - 9 m
2. Continue onto Atatürk Blv - 1.9 km
3. Turn left onto İstanbul Cd - 850 m
4. Keep left at the fork - 1.2 km
5. Keep left at the fork - 270 m
6. Keep left at the fork and merge onto Fatih Sultan Mehmet Blv - 3.6 km
7. Continue onto Atatürk Orman Çiftliği Köprüsü (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Blv.)     550 m
8. Continue onto Fatih Sultan Mehmet Blv - 6.4 km
9. Continue onto Fatih Sultan Mehmet Blv (İstanbul Yolu) - 3.8 km
10. Continue onto Fatih Sultan Mehmet Blv - 5.5 km
11. Continue onto İstanbul Yolu - 2.1 km
12. Take the ramp on the left onto Ankara Çevre Yolu (Kuzey Çevre Yolu)/O-20/E90 - 1.6 km
13. Keep right at the fork and merge onto O-4
Partial toll road - 399 km
14. Continue onto İstanbul Çevre Yolu/E-80 - 3.3 km
15. Continue straight onto O1-O2 Çamlıca Bağlantısı - 3.2 km
16. Continue onto Çamlıca Girişi-K13 (İstanbul Çevre Yolu) - 3.6 km
17. Merge onto O-1 - 16.6 km
18. Continue onto O-3 - 9.1 km
19. Merge onto E-80
Partial toll road - 167 km
20. Slight left to stay on E-80
Partial toll road - 51.9 km
21. Exit onto Lalapaşa Yolu/D535 Continue to follow D535 - 2.7 km
22. Turn right onto Büyük Fırın Sk - 450 m
23. Turn left onto Muradiye Bayırı - 190 m
24. Slight left onto Mimar Sinan Cd - 69 m
25. Take the 1st right onto Saray Yolu - 40 m
Edirne/Edirne Province, Turkey

 

Driving directions from Edirne city centre to Selimiye Mosque

Suggested route:
Mimar Sinan Cd - 500 m, 1 min
Or Walk - 8 mins

Saray Yolu, Edirne
1. Head south on Saray Yolu toward Mimar Sinan Cd - 40 m
2. Slight right onto Mimar Sinan Cd - 400 m
3. Turn left onto Taş Odalar Sk - 69 m
Selimiye Mosque
Meydan Mh.
22000 Edirne/Edirne Province, Turkey


Mtskheta (Georgia)

Mtskheta - the ancient capital of Georgia with its picturesque view on its landscape, churches and fortresses offers a unique glimpse of nearly the whole history of the country. Built in the central part of Georgia (Iberia, Kartli), at the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi, Mtskheta was exposed to the influences coming from east and west alike. The Great Silk Road crossing the country passed through the city.

Spread in two directions on both banks of the river Mtkvari, the city was the center of ancient Georgian culture and pagan religion: The highest deity - Armazi was erected on the top of the Mount Kartli in the ancient capital. The remnants of the advanced civilization of various quarters of the city and rich archeological findings indicate the existence of a highly developed agriculture, viniculture, as well as the great skill in architecture, pottery, glassmaking, and refined work in gold.

The spread of Christianity throughout the area since the late first century and its announcement as an official religion in early 4th c. was an important turn in the history of Mtskheta, which became the playground for these major events: The beginning of the history of Christianity in Georgia is linked with the event of the burial of Christ’s robe in the royal garden in Mtskheta. Thus Mtskheta became the home to the most important sacred relic kept in Georgia and hence the cradle of Christianity in the country. Furthermore, according to the historical sources in the early 4th c. St. Nino of Cappadocia came with the mission to Mtskheta and converted royal family into Christianity.

In early 6th c. the capital was moved to the newly founded city Tbilisi. Thenceforward, Mtskheta lost its secular and political importance, though maintained the role of the most significant religious center of the country till nowadays. Inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list, the major attractions of the town: Jvari monastery (586-604), Svetitskhoveli cathedral (11th c) and the Samtavro Church (11th c) are amongst the most outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture of Georgia and Eastern Christian medieval world in general.  

Svetitskhoveli cathedral is the one of the most significant landmarks and sacred sites in Georgia. The Church represents a symbol of Christianity in Georgia, as it’s built on the place, where, according to the tradition, the robe of Christ, brought by Jews to Mtskheta was buried in the 30s of the 1st c AD.

According to the written sources, after the crucifixion, Christ’s robe fell to the Jews from Mtskheta. Rabbi Elioz which brought it to Mtskheta was met by his sister Sidonia, who gripped the robe and was so moved that fell dead on the spot. Thus, she was buried with Christ’s robe in her hands. Later, around 330, after the adoption of Christianity, the newly converted King Mirian, following St. Nino’s instructions decided to build the first church on the place of the cedar of Lebanon, which grew upon Sidonia’s grave. According to the tradition the cedar was cut down, but the builders were unable to move it. Only after Nino’s prayer did angel lift it up in the air. It settled down in its place, exuding a life-giving balm and miraculous radiance. Thereafter, the church was named Svetitskhoveli, which in Georgian means “life-giving pillar”. Svetitskhoveli became the first cathedral of Georgian archbishops and after the 5th c of the Catholicoses.

In 5th c. King Vakhtang Gorgasali built the three-aisled basilica on this place, which was replaced by the glorious cathedral of Svetitskhoveli in the first half of 11th c. The magnificent cathedral Svetitskhoveli is of an “inscribed cross” type, with elongated ground plan and with the dome rested upon four free standing columns. The church exemplifies the highest peak of development in medieval Georgian architecture, inspired by the political and economical flourish of the country united under the rule of Bargrationi dynasty. Alongside the unprecedented complexity and enormous dimensions of the cathedral, the basic feature of this period - the profound artistic solutions in design and decor of both, the interior and exterior of building, enhanced by the spectacular contrast of shade, light and color is reflected in the structure of the inner space and the rich carvings on the facades of the church.

Alongside its cultural and religious importance, Svetitskhoveli has been an important burial place of the country. The representatives of Georgian royal family: King Vakhtang Gorgasali, Erekle II, last king of Georgia George XII and many other queens, nobles and important religious figures are buried here.

The magnificent cathedral of Svetitskhoveli symbolizes the glorious past of Georgia and retains its importance as a great masterpiece and the most venerated sacred site of the country till nowadays.

Jvari Monastery - Built on the rocky mountaintop overlooking the ancient capital Mtskheta, Jvari Church (The Church of the holy cross) represents one of the most important masterpieces of Georgian medieval architecture.

According to written sources, the church was built on the place, where the large wooden cross was erected by St. Nino as a symbol of newly adopted State religion. The cross was considered to work miracles and drew a lot of pilgrims. Its octagonal stone basement is still seen in the interior of the church. Later in 544-586, ruler of Kartli - Guaram has built the small church next to the wooden cross. The remains of the latter are preserved on the northern side of the big church up today. In 586-605 next to the Minor church the big church of Jvari, the most outstanding example of this epoch was erected. Its construction was initiated by ruler of Kartli Stepanoz I. The stone carved images of the donator and his family members are still preserved on the facades of the church.  This is the first Georgian church to be abundantly decorated with the sculpture. The architectural type of the building tetraconch (the four-apse domed building) with four additional chambers in the corners, culminates the artistic explorations of previous periods (evolved in the architectural designs of the 5th, beginning of 6th c. churches) and gives start up to new series of 7th c. monuments of i.e Jvari Type. Balanced harmony of proportions and perfect adjustment of moderate decorations with tectonic architectural forms characterizes the structural design of the Jvari Church and hence becomes the feature of the monuments of i.e. Classical Period (6th-7th c). Erected on the cliff overlooking Mtskheta Jvari is unique with its exceptional location and harmonious interaction with the surrounding landscape.

The Great Mtskheta Archaeological Museum-Reserve displays several exceptional archaeological exhibits of different historical periods the agricultural tools (4th millennium BC), toys, examples of the ancient Greek epigraphy and precious metalwork marked with highest level of craftsmanship. Museum-Reserve also includes ancient burial ground used from the 2nd Millennium BC till the 8th-9th centuries AD, the settlement remains of 8th-7th centuries BC, Armaztsikhe-Bagineti- an acropolis of the city of Mtskheta and the royal residence of the rulers of Iberia (3rd century BC – 8th century AD), Armaziskhevi being the royal residence of the rulers of Kartli and their burial ground and a mausoleum built in the 1st century AD at foothill of a rocky mountain.

Although Mtskheta was the capital of Georgia only from 3rd c. BC to 5th c. AD, it retains its importance as a cultural and religious center of the country till nowadays.

Text: Anna Shaniashvili, Art Historian

Exact location

Location: Mtskheta, Georgia -  41° 51′ 0″ N, 44° 43′ 0″ E

Driving directions from Tbilisi to Mtskheta, Georgia

1. ს1 - 23.5 km, 29 mins

2. Guramishvili St - 24.6 km, 28 mins

 

1. ს1 - 23.5 km, 29 mins

Tbilisi, Georgia
1. Head northwest on Dimitri Uznadze St toward Ushangi Chkheidze Street - 350 m
2. Take the 2nd left onto Orde Dgebuadze St - 200 m
3. Slight right onto Nikoloz Baratashvili Named Left Bank - 4.7 km
4. Slight right toward Robakidze Ave - 230 m
5. Turn left onto Robakidze - 1.4 km
6. Turn right onto D. Aghmashenebeli Ave
Continue to follow ს1 - 8.4 km
7. Sharp right toward Tbilisi Bypass Rd - 1.7 km
8. Turn left onto Tbilisi Bypass Rd - 450 m
9. Keep left at the fork and merge onto ს1- 1.7 km
10. Exit onto Zahesi-Mtskhata-Kavtiskhevi-Gori     - 3.9 km
11. Turn right onto Narekvavi-Mtskheta-Railway Station - 300 m
Mtskheta, Georgia

2. Guramishvili St - 24.6 km, 28 mins

Tbilisi, Georgia
1. Head northwest on Dimitri Uznadze St toward Ushangi Chkheidze Street - 350 m
2. Take the 2nd left onto Orde Dgebuadze St - 200 m
3. Slight right onto Nikoloz Baratashvili Named Left Bank - 6.5 km
4. Slight right toward Ksani St - 450 m
5. Turn right onto Ksani St - 600 m
6. Turn left onto Guramishvili St - 2.7 km
7. Continue onto Sarajishvili St - 2.5 km
8. Turn left to stay on Sarajishvili St - 3.6 km
9. Continue onto Tbilisi Bypass - 2.4 km
10. Keep left at the fork and merge onto ს1 - 1.7 km
11. Exit onto Zahesi-Mtskhata-Kavtiskhevi-Gori - 3.9 km
12. Turn right onto Narekvavi-Mtskheta-Railway Station - 300 m
Mtskheta, Georgia

 


Old Tbilisi (Georgia)

As the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi (Tiflis) is a significant economic, social, and cultural centre in the country. Located strategically at the crossroads between Europe and Asia and lying along the historic Silk Road routes, the city has been exposed to a transmission of influences from east and west alike throughout the course of its history.

Archaeological studies of the region have revealed that the territory of Tbilisi was settled by humans as early as the fourth millennium B.C. The earliest actual accounts of settlement of the location come from the second half of the fourth century A.D, when a fortress was built during King Varaz-Bakur's reign. However, according to legend, the origins of the city date to the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali, who ruled from 447 to 522. Tradition says that the King went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon, and during the hunt, the falcon injured a pheasant causing both birds to fall into a hot spring. Afterwards, the king decreed his capital to be built on that very spot. Accordingly, the city's name derives from the Georgian word for "warm" (tbili).

Tbilisi's favourable and strategic location did not necessarily bode well for its existence as capital. Located strategically in the heart of the Caucasus, Tbilisi became an object of rivalry between the region's various powers, including Persia, the Byzantine Empire, Arabia, and the Seljuk Turks.

In the twentieth century, Tbilisi was the capital of the Transcaucasian Federation (1918), the first independent Georgian Republic (1918 - 1921), the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia (1921 - 1991), and finally the second independent Republic of Georgia since 1991.

Tbilisi is a multicultural city, historically known for religious tolerance. “Georgians are kind, friendly, staid and restrained at the same time. Here you have the possibility to live with, discuss and protect your faith and traditions. There’s no other place in the world where one would find so many foreigners of different origins as in Tbilisi. In the city, you come across Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Turks, Persians, Indians, Azeri, Russians and Europeans.”- wrote a French traveller Jean Chardin (1643 –1713). This feature of the city is especially evident in the city's Old Town, where a Mosque, Synagogue, and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches can all be found within less than 500 meters from each other. Hence, Tbilisi acquired the attributes of an international city while retaining its own specific Tbilisian culture and urban folklore, as can be seen on the historical photos of small traders - Kintos - and artisans - Karachogels, etc. - as well as on the canvases of Niko Pirosmanashvili (1862-1918), who is considered to be one of the greatest Georgian painter.

The city rises in terraces from both banks of the River Mtkvari. In the old section are medieval buildings and courtyards, narrow streets, overhanging balconies, and the famous hot sulphur springs.  Narikala Fortress, (Persian word, means citadel (or inner fortress) - the main citadel of medieval Tbilisi, longitudinally follows the eastern part of Sololaki range. Despite many destructions and alterations during the centuries, Narikala continues to dominate the Old town owing to its exceptional location. The origins of its building are lost in the mist of time. Most probably the fortress was established in the 4th century. From early time citadel was successfully possessed by Persians, Byzantines, Khazars, Arabs and Mongols. Each invader left its own mark on the main fort of the capital. 

19th century, after the annexation of Georgia by the Russian Empire in 1801, is a new stage in the development of Georgian Architecture. The city has been extensively modernized. The areas of Tbilisi which were built up mainly in the 19th century (Rustaveli Avenue, Vera district, etc.) have a contrasting neoclassical, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed the construction of splendid buildings designed in Art-Nouveau style. The city’s attractions include: the Sioni Cathedral (6th c. rebuilt 16th-18th c.), the Anchiskhati Basilica, the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi (6th-7th c.), the Metekhi castle and church (1278–89) together with the sculpture of King Vakhtang Gorgasali, the recently built Sameba Cathedral, a funicular railway running to height of Mtatsminda overlooking the city, as well as museums and exhibitions, sulfur baths and local bazaars.

Tbilisoba (Day of Tbilisi) the largest annual celebration in the city, commemorating the foundation of Tbilisi is held towards the end of October each year and attracts many tourists.

The picturesque landscape of Tbilisi, dotted with ancient churches, fortresses and modern buildings, offers a unique glimpse into nearly the entire history of the country.

Text: Anna Shaniashvili, Art Historian

Exact location

Location: Tbilisi, Georgia: 41°43′0″N 44°47′0″E

 

Info for tourists

Video about Tbilisi, Georgia:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ6j6jqU79M


Yerevan City (Armenia)

Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. It has been the capital since 1918, the thirteenth in the history of Armenia.

The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain.

Yerevan possess great cultural heritage. There are many sightseeings, museums, churches, historic and cultural monuments, cinemas, theatres, galleries, exhibitions, circus, cafeterias, bars and restaurants, fountains, large and small parks in the city.

The city is home to many cinema halls; among them the famous Moskva cinema. Since 2004, every year Moskva hosts the Golden Apricot international film festival. Many other cinema halls characterized with important architectural values are operating in the city such as Hayrenik, Nayiri, Rossiya, etc. The Yerevan Opera and Ballet Theatre consists of two concert halls: Aram Khatchaturian concert hall and the hall of the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet named after Alexander Spendiarian.

Numerous theatres and halls allow the audience to enjoy a multitude of various shows and performances, such as the modern Complex named after Karen Demirchyan. Other significant theatres include: Yerevan State Musical Comedy Theatre named after Hagop Baronian, Russian Drama Theatre named after Constantin Stanislavski, Yerevan State Dramatic Theatre named after Hrachia Ghaplanian, Yerevan State  Hamazgain Theatre and the State Pupppet Theatre named after Hovhannes Tumanyan. The Sundukyan State Academic Theatre of Yerevan is the oldest modern theatre in Armenia.

The Armenian Genocide Memorial (Genocide Museum & Tsitsernakaberd Monument): This structure is located on a high altitude above the city center. The monument is very auspicious and is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The monument has a huge collection of paintings and sculptures which reflect the lifestyle of olden days. The famous monument of Tsitsernakaberd meaning "Fortress of swallows" also lies within its premises and is worth watching.

Victory Park: This is basically an amusement park and is one of the main attractions of Sightseeing in Yerevan. The park is famous for the monument of Mother Armenia. It also houses a store which displays Soviet military equipment which was used during wars. The Park also presents a superb view of the city center.

Katoghike: This is another popular tourist attraction of the city. It is the smallest and the oldest church of the city which is constructed in typical Armenian style.

Erebuni Fortress: This fortress houses a lot of ancient jewelry and arms and ammunitions which were used during wars. It also houses a lot of paintings which reflect the lifestyle of the natives.

Matenadaran: This is a huge museum which is also a research institution. It is dedicated to the Armenian language. The museum has huge collection of different varieties of books and scrolls on Armenian literature.

The National Art Gallery: This gallery is situated at the Republic square and lies adjacent to the Historical museum. The gallery has several floors housing different types of paintings which are organized according to their country and origin.

Republic Square: It is located at the heart of the city. The construction of the square began in the year 1926. Many architects have given their valuable ideas in building this square. The first general plan for rebuilding Yerevan was laid in the year 1924 by Alexander Tamanyan.

Exact location

Location: Yerevan, Armenia - 40°11′N 44°31′E

 

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