I have already told you about Davit Gareja and Uplistsikhe cave towns in my previous articles. Now, I am going to tell you about one of the most beautiful cave towns - Vardzia. Tourists love to explore this underground monastery and fortress. The caves in Vardzia are stretched along the cliff for around five hundred meters, which makes this place even more mystical.
Vardzia is a cave monastery complex that exists since the 12th-13th centuries. It is located in Javakheti, in the Aspindza region, 1300 meters above the sea level. The story of Vardzia is connected with King George III and his daughter Tamar. While King George was hunting with some Georgian nobles and his daughter, they lost her. Tamar was playing, and that is why she did not notice that she was lost in the cave town. Right after they noticed that she was missing, the King ordered to stop hunting and started searching for her. The hunters started to run around, and they were crying out the following words: “Tamar, where are you?”. She heard the voice and answered back with a happy voice: “Aq Var Dzia” which means: “I am here uncle.” So, from those words comes the name of this place ‘Vardzia.’
They started to excavate the caves near the high cliff in the gorge of the Mtkvari River. Since the cliff was getting destroyed easily, the excavation process became very difficult. That is why they changed the place, and they chose the stronger cliff where Vardzia is located today. After Tamar became the 'king', she ordered to excavate 365 rooms there, as she wanted to hide from the enemies. The construction of the rooms was finished just in one year, as they needed one day per room. It is important to know that the old caves were existing in Vardzia before the monastery was founded.
Today, several monks are taking care of this place. Around 300 halls have survived, so it is possible to visit them. In addition, there are some tunnels from where you can see the old irrigation pipes, that still provide the drinkable water. Also, 15 rocky churches have survived. The visitors can also see the portrait of King George and King Tamar. There is one, very interesting portrait of King Tamar when she was not yet married. It proves that she was taking care of the constructions of the monastery at an early age. You can also see 28 cellars that survived, which include 235 clay pots (Qvevri) in total. From 2007, Vardzia Monastery is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
While visiting Georgia, do not miss Vardzia, especially if you are a history lover. Visiting one of the oldest cave towns and monastery will make your trip even more memorable. And be sure that this beautiful cave town will stay in your mind for a long time.
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