Georgia, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Noah’s Ark

 

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The history of both Armenia and Georgia begins with Noah’s Ark, pictured here, which to all accounts landed on Mount Ararat. Both countries metaphorically share this mountain and it can be said that their histories go back to the beginning of time.

 

Mountain Ararat

Georgians claim descent from “Kortholts” and Armenians claim their ancestry from his brother “Haik”, both great grandsons of Noah and his Ark. Georgia became the world’s  2nd  Christian country preceded only by Armenia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, both countries were left with massive environmental problems …especially  inheriting oil polluting from heavy metals, erosion from uncontrolled logging and over-grazing….among others.

 

The following mill has disintegrated over about 20 years after their leaving Georgia.

And this is a good example of all of their buildings.

mill

Both Armenia and Georgia reversed this situation and are now entering world trade because of their excellent organic food products and wine development. Our guide said “We couldn’t afford the pesticides needed for crops or money for new equipment……so organic farming and wine production was our only choice. And now it’s paying off.”

Driving into Tbilisi, Georgia, we quickly discovered one of their city’s idiosyncrasies: any alley is considered a 2-way street. The direction is determined wholly by who gets half way first. Since the front of our rental had been damaged coming cross-county.

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(the white stuff on the ground is our front bumper ….smashed by two teenagers

backing into us…..and then poorly reattached),

I do believe oncoming drivers felt we had nothing to lose….and that worked!

 

 

 

We found Hotel Kapola, an original converted mansion and checked into our Suite #12.

Hotel Kapala, Tbilisi

They had overbooked.  I had reserved a 4 day stay 3 months earlier, and since no-one wanted to pay the price of the suite….we got it by default!

thT69MOWWU.jpg History from the balcony

And it was magnificent.  The large balcony overlooked the hillside, the river and the mountain. That night we ate at our roof top restaurant, overlooking the same view.

 

thY1J3I5V2.jpgDinner on Hotel's rooftop

 

Lovely music coming from a small band playing In the bar. The only problem was the waiter. Mike ordered a bottle of white wine, the waiter bought red….already uncorked and poured it without “presenting” it to Mike first. The situation was immediately solved by the manager.  The waiter was a bit hostile to Mike afterward….but he had no idea how easily he got off!

The next morning we met our local guide, Lila. For brevity’s sake I will reflect on a few sites, although all were marvelous.

Citadel and Fortress wall

The most impressive was Saint Nicolas Church (4th century) surrounded by the remaining fortress walls sitting on the hill top. The city is growing up to the ancient Citadel and has just opened a tram running from down town up to it. Our energetic tour guide felt we would enjoy walking up the historic pathway to the Citadel…….but we compromised: took a cab up and walked down.

 

Aerial Tramway

We saw the new tramway begin operations the day before we left Tbilisi. Afterward we walked through the Old Town Pedestrian restaurant street. While we ate, Lila, early 50’s, gave some insight on family life both before and after the Soviet Collapse.  “First”, she said, “they got rid of all the intellectuals either by transferring them to ‘work farms’ or  deporting them to Siberia. Then assigning jobs to all, regardless of experience, and paying minimum wage. Minimum housing….4 families to ONE flat.  All worked until too old or too feeble, and then received bare subsistence pay.

I had to move away to get an education and returned afterward as an educator at the  University.”  She said the older generation got used to this life, accepted it as normal  and were lost, at first, when the Soviets left.  This is what happened to her own family.

Kakheti David Gareja Complex Georgia

View of the 6,000 year old monastery that will begin the sequel.

8/24/2014

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The Serendipity of Senior Malfunctions when traveling Independently

This first segment has to do with “closed” mountain passes, “bus” people,  (derogatory, yes…due to being independent-travelers), hotel and motorcycles.

Driving to Lake Bled, Slovenia  was nerve wracking with narrow roads and hairpin turns, additionally  complicated with falling snow. But on the plus side, there was little traffic and at the top of Julian Alps, none. Julian alps Then the clouds split, the sun shined and we stopped to see the spectacular scenery surrounding us.

When we drove  again, the snow returned, but stopped just before we reached Lake Bled. (We later found out the road had been “closed” but we could  not read the Slovenian signs.) Lake Bed Slovenia

This tiny lake is surrounded by lush mountains and centered with a small island containing a castle and a church. The surrounding mountains are snow-capped, but almost none around the lake.

We chose Park Hotel, notably for its view of the lake, which we could see from our balcony.   Park hotel The lovely  dining room was only open for breakfast and the service bar in the empty lobby was only staffed just before busses arrived …and departed. We walked down to the lake and found a small restaurant  “Rike”  overlooking the water and serving excellent trout. The next morning we arrived at the dining room at 8:30, and hordes of people  were racing from the dining room to their busses. The waiter started to close the door but we said it’s only 8:30 and he said we usually close the doors when the busses leave. Mike said we don’t have a bus. The buffet was cleaned out, only some lettuce leaves and cold toast. The waiter looked at us “What would you like?” And it was good.

There was a 5 mile pathway around the lake, the weather good and exercise was needed. Tree branches overhead, birds, frogs, water frothing on the sand…wonderful. Near the end of the trail we saw a campsite. Camp ground Lake Bed Just as we bought  coffee and sat at a table, at least 50 motorcycles  (not shown in this picture) roared in.  Guitars appeared, songs rang out, beer was flowing….a very jolly group!  With only a mile to go, and  they would be passing us on a dirt road, we decided to wait till they left. (Some less steady than others.)   We had really enjoyed their conviviality! Some of our “malfunctions” when traveling were the best part.

 

1/11/2015

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Eulogy for a dog: Update

Two years have passed since Gamba died, but the walks haven’t ended and neither have the life lessons.

Once I got over being bed-ridden and tired of my T-shirts being sopping wet from tears I decided life must go on from the passing of my beloved Gamba. Ok, I’m exaggerating the intensity of the grieving period I had for her death, but it was sad and I do miss her and the memories of the old times of my life that I associate with her.

 

Fortunately Gambas third companion, following Lobster and Coquille, Daisey is still going strong. Though stout and aging herself she still manages the various routes I’ve developed over that past near decade and a half.

Starting on Santa Clara Street and meandering through the parks, the bike path that runs along the train tracks, my old elementary school and the familiar surrounding neighborhoods. Then back to home, time and time again a steady constant in my life. Though certain parts of ones life transform drastically there are those routines and habits that can be relied upon to steady ones feet on in turbulent times. These familiar grounds, though sometimes boring and stagnant, can be of great solace when life seems to be turning upside down and falling apart.

My weekly routine on Santa Clara street that includes this dog walk, a little yard work, and visiting with my grandmother are pillars of comfort and stability in what seems to be the ever expanding and changing life around and within me.

Each dog, like each human, has its own personality and nature. Gamba was a natural guard/hunting dog- mostly disinterested in other humans and weary of other dogs. Coquille was much friendlier and timid- rather frightened of strangers but playful with dogs. She also seemed to have a bit of inclination for herding. I remember when she was young her nipping at my heels on occasion; she grew out that habit after she learned people did not enjoy being nibbled on. And Daisy, was disinterested in both humans and other dogs, but deathly loyal to her “pack”. Caroline and I have both noticed her attached nature, she is what would be deemed a, “Comfort dog”. Always nearby and attentive to her owners needs; Where you go, she goes.

There’s a unique quality of friendship a pet can provide, since there is no verbal communication the entire relationship is built upon affection, attention, and simply spending time together. There is no second guessing of the real intentions in a relationship with a dog; They simply want to be with you, to love you, and for you to love them. If it weren’t for this fact I would be a tad bit embarrassed and sad to admit that next to my own brother Daisy is one of my best friends.

I don’t need a near death experience to have my life flash before my eyes. Rather a series of slow walks with a quiet and still mind provides a perfect canvas for every memory to paint itself across and allow myself to be the witness to my own life. Then to look over at my companion, who I am always grateful to for not speaking and distracting from this experience, and gaze into her eyes and wonder, “What do you feel at this moment?”

Probably the same thing, what a trip and it’s not even over yet; It never is. Now, here’s a treat, let’s do it again next week.

Sixteen years in the making, Kevin Klimczak.

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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza with the Parador de Siguenza

 

This 12th century medieval castle was begun in 1133 and built on a Roman settlement.  Until  this last century  it was the enclave of bishops and cardinals who maintained this castle and the Cathedral in the adjacent village.

Although an exceptional entrance portal, there were a few drawbacks. There are 40 wide steps up to the massive doors…and difficult to drag the luggage behind. Happily there are 2 elevators to get to your floor…and ours was on the 4th!

A small altercation when the receptionist said “no balcony” caused me to snag my Reservations out and show her “Superior, with balcony”. Then smiles.

It had a lovely view.

The view from our balcony included part of the castle wall, the mountains and a distant peek at the town.  (If you reserve the parador ahead, are over fifty years, you get generous discounts, excellent service and  accommodations…. just  carry the receipt!)

The timing was good. We were surrounded by greenery and they were just putting up the umbrellas . From what we could see on the location map, there were only two main streets that converged in the Central Plaza. These were commercial, narrow and stoned. With no car…need better shoes.

The downtown Plaza much improved as we approached the Cathedral! The church is just behind the plaza. We went to enter and found the church was locked (probably closed for lunch). We walked around this beautiful 12th century structure that the religious owners of the palace- for almost a thousand years- had also enhanced the cathedral.

After this we limped our way back to the parador and passed this picture in the lobby.

 

This picture was the only info I could find of the original building after its destruction. During the Spanish Civil war in the 30’s the bombing wrecked havoc on the castled. Looking closely you will see there are a few structures remaining.


 

This original chapel survived! One of the service people had to lead us to the balcony so we could see. Because of its age they don’t allow tourist to enter the lower levels, nor are there any signs for it.

Lovely original and mostly formal dinning room. Mike ordered a scrumptious bottle of wine to go with his seafood and I had to accept it graciously even though I was having “kid” (baby goat). And that night we slept like babies.

The following was an evening shot from the city below the parador. And what a memory!

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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza continued: Parador de Cuenca, Spain

This is one of several overviews because the area is so large!  The most noticeable sight is the Hanging Houses on the right that lead up to the old town.

Looking at the walk way below, there are a few hardy souls heading for the old town. In the ravine is the river that together with the Hanging Houses, helped keep out the attackers over hundreds of years. You can see a bit of the town in the distance.

This view of our lovely Parador was originally the site of a 16th century convent and retained some original paintings.

This area, Costilla-La Mancha, was immortalized by Cervantes (1547) in “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. The tall, skinny knight riding a sway backed horse and wearing a medal dish as a hat and accompanied by his side-kick, Sancho. Both were out to defend those who needed protection….and did!

This infrequently visited area has great mountain ranges, dramatic gorges and the two cities of Toledo and Cuenca and these were the factures that drew us to Cuenca.

 

Four of these hallways encircled a beautiful outdoor patio (I could not take a picture because of the bright light).  The comfortable  furniture, and nearness of the bar made social interaction available ….weather rain (rare) or heat (hot summers)….air conditioning within.

This view of our lovely Parador was originally the site of a 16th century convent  and retained some original paintings. This lovely painting above a large doorway was one.

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We separated after breakfast:  Bert, a photographer, and his wife, Frie, were off to explore.  Shortly thereafter  Mike and I followed, but a little more slowly. After crossing the track and walking steeply uphill, this was a fantastic  close-up of a Hanging House. It was open for tours.  But the first room  WAS the balcony… and there was no way I was going to look out or down from there!

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I took this lop-sided picture of this 12th-18th century Cathedral because of the horde of people surging up the steps trying to enter the church.

Little did we know that it was the beginning of May Day Celebration in the square and the church was locked. There was laughter, music, and finally prayer. This assuages my desire to see the antiquities housed inside.

IMG_48231The younger priest wending their way through the crowd to line up before the stage.

This joyful celebration was worth missing the 12th and 18th century antiquities in the Cathedral.

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My opinion is that this row of religious were older, because they got the seats. Because of the crowd (and not understanding much of what they were saying) we moved on to eat lunch and of course have a glass of lovely wine.

 

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These ceramic tiles shown on the back of the dinning room wall were done during the 14th century. Interestingly enough they were made by musicians of the time and they placed their work upon this wall. The parador saved it.
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                            (I dare you to try walking through the above)
—-Many of the pictures are by Burt Haegemans.
(My camera died)
Although I saw no, “Don Quixote” these Spanish people are wonderful!
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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganzia continued: Parador de Alarcon

Not the biggest parador…but certainly being established in the 11th century makes it one of the oldest. Driving in, left side, bottom, and curving up to the parking lot behind, you walk through an iron portcullis to the inside of the courtyard. The village it still guards is behind the tower. Notice the high ramparts ….you will see us walking around them shortly!

This Medieval Arab Fortress was an exceptional witness to the Reconquest beginning in the 8th century and it perfectly preserves and maintains  the aura of Arabic influence.

Our bedroom, high on my priority list. I enjoyed having some of the “original” castle (left wall of rocks) to lull us to sleep.

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The window just above the staircase was our room. It looked down On the small but lovely courtyard with tables, umbrellas, greenery….and a couple  drinking wine! They were very friendly and asked us to join them. We did.

I told them what I had over heard from the concierge earlier talking to a customer: “Yes, you can go up to the battlements, walk carefully around the perimeter and please return the key.” And while we were there with Bert and Frie the couple with the key returned. Naturally, we ran and got the key for ourselves.

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This is what we saw when we got to the top of the turrets. Leaning down we saw the River Jucar below circling the ramparts.

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I could see Mike puzzling over what lie beneath us- or whether or not he was going to jump- but he looked puzzled by what he saw.

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We found out later that it was set up for paddle boats, canoes, etc for taking short trips around the river.

Mike Pondering jumping

Mike pondering jumping???

Bert and Frie added that we hand’t finished the wine yet and it was getting warm. Whoops, we were going down the stairs very quickly!

——The previous 4 photos were courtesy of Bert Haegemans.

Before meeting our friends for dinner Mike and I wanted to see the very old village the castle had guarded, and a very special church.

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Walking through the village on the rough heuwn steps, you can see the church (dark brown at the very top) but it was locked. A native offered that it was rarely opened except for special events because of its antiquity.

Interior dinning area Alacron

The dinning room that evening was beautiful with excellent roast lamb! A bit crowded but this Parador can only accommodate 28 people.

We found out that our new friends were also moving on to the next Parador that we had reserved for 2 days- how wonderful!

To be continued– with the Parador de Cuenca.

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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza, May,2017

This is the view of the mountain top Parador. Our room was near the back, overlooking the swimming pool and defense walls both surrounding and protecting. This 10th century castle was strategically located in the upper part of town, like a typical fortress.

The next step, for me, was seeing the bedroom!

tortosa-swimming-pool

Exceptional! On the 4th floor with a big balcony overlooking  the pool, mountains and valley.

Having flown in to Barcelona at 8:30am, we arrived at Tortosa in time for breakfast and after, a body- stretching walk around the fortress.

This is a Moorish burial site preserved from when they owned the castle in the 11/12th century. Notice the bony hand in the front left corner, third metal bar cuts it right in half… and nobody had an answer for it.

Just down the hill from this site, one can see how the city has grown around and up to the fortress its self…and not just for protection….these large, beautiful structures need many talented hands.

This is the front facing court yard. I had to take a narrow picture to reveal the centuries old defense system of bows and arrows and slots in the walls where they could be used!

A picture from our balcony looking over the pool (presently being cleaned….and, of course, it opened the day we left). Look carefully to the top of the mountains on the right. See the fuzzy white candles…from the ancient to the modern…they are windmills supplying energy to the surrounding towns.

Parador de Tortosa Interior Glass

We sat in this alcove eating our dinner that first night. Above was one of the four Catalan Gothic windows preserving the Moorish elements in the castle walls. The interior denotes the passing of time with the Christian regal character prevailing.

Sancta Maria

 

The next day we were up and, “walking” the town- which meant going up and going down- a lot…

The cathedral of Santa Maria of Tortosa is located in the space in which the Roman forum was traditionally placed.

In 1347 the building work of the Gothic catherdral started and it went on until the middle of the 18th century. It was built attached to the cloister, which dates from the 13th century. We started the tour in the ribbed underground vaults. Interestingly enough, we found out that the organization wasn’t allowed to charge us to visit the cathedral so they did charge us a nominal fee to go through the dungeon basement first. The cathedral was overwhelming, started in the 12th century and pretty much finished in the 13th. We hunted for a Jewish Synagogue in the old town and did happen upon a very old and frail looking building that may have been one, but now is just basically falling down.

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We had to end up in the town of Girona in order to find a small section of a remaining wall and archway of a synagogue….. I had to remember that in 1492 both the Moors and the Jews were thrown out of Spain. And consequently much of the  culture was destroyed. Sad.

Parador de TortosaThis was a fantastic trip and the enlightenment of visiting another world was wonderful! But it’s nighttime now and it’s off to bed… and thank God that we do have an elevator. Sweet Tortosa.

 

 

 

 

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Parador De Siguenza

A lovely 12th century medieval castle build on Roman settlements of the 11th century. It was primarily used as the residents of the Bishops and Cardinals until the end of the last century.

This Parador courtyard was added to the original building. During the time of the Bishops and Cardinals living here they needed areas where they could say their daily prayers and contemplate outside of the confines of their small rooms.


These are very old original defense wall, probably from the 11th-12th century. I would be interested to find out if any visitors had a proclivity to “rock-climb”.

 

Dinning areas are always beautiful and comfortable. The original walls and ceilings did not have glass windows of course- but the Bishops and Cardinals had a good deal of money for their refurbishing.


This staircase, the old and new sections, the walls, archways and the floors are original. But as time moved forward the glass doors and the windows were added.

 

I imagine that these, “guards at the door” started very early on for the reception of food and other necessities and when the wars came along, they were there for the fighting and protection.

This parador was the Bishop’s sea for 8 centuries.  They brought in a lot of money for the town and the church. This cathedral was in walking distance from the parador down to the town’s plaza Mayor Central.

We have not been here yet but after learning all this history, it will not be over looked!

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The Templar Knights of La Couvertoirade

And really want to go back and re-visit!!!

2Independent-Travelers

Templar Village

We left Montpellier, France on the A-75 highway to Paris. It was heavily packed with Sunday traffic and impacted with roadwork repairs. We exited for the first stop in tracking the Footsteps of the Knights Templar at the 11th century site of Covertairade. This beautiful walled city is set in the middle of pastoral farmlands with distant rolling hills. The entrance to the village is through huge doors that were barred from the inside during attacks. Then crossing a tiny plaza in front of a museum, we continued walking past both ancient and some refurbished houses and shops.

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It’s easy to spot the older buildings and the ones being refurbished, particularly windows with glass and some sharper edges on the roof lines.

The streets were narrow and graveled. We came to a lovely 12th century church adjacent to the castle/armory built on top of a ridge.
Fortress
This is the front…

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Malaga, Spain VI

balcony-malaga-spain

Malaga became a thriving port. First came the Phoenicians followed the Romans and later by the Moors. Then in the 19th century the sweet Malaga wine became one of Europe’s most popular drinks… Until Phylloxera ravaged the vineyards in 1876.

“Hotel Gibralfaro”malagala-pool-spain Is a parador with beautiful accommodations. This top floor swimming pool offers a beautiful view of the Mediterranean and the portside facility.

We walked down the footpath between our parador and the remodeling of an ancient building- no sign- to view the busy portside- But then it began to rain and we ran back up the hill to the bar.

malagala-dinningroom

 

This lovely bar was a bit crowded because of the rain and the tourists mobbing in to get a drink and get dry.

It also was a lighter eating habitat compared to the major dining room and slightly better food and quieter.

 

The dining room was larger than this but it was the only picture I could find.

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You can’t quite see this view of Malaga Costa-Del-Sol from the hotel, but it’s not far away and if the weather’s good you might thoroughly enjoy it.

Unless you hate hot beaches and lots of noise, body traffic and some other traffic!

“But and exquisite area”

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malaga-gibralfaro-2“Malaga Gibralfaro” the front of the hotel, invites patrons to relax after eating or imbibing to sit and enjoy the view, which- we did.

 

 

 

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