Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Town in Rocks

Went to the cave-town of Uplistsikhe (pronounced "oop-leet--seek-hey") this morning.. Took the nine a.m. train out to Gori (town motto: Birthplace of Stalin! He Changed History!) and then a taxi to the caves. They're only a couple miles away from Gori.

It's a strange town, built mostly out of rock, sometime in the millenium before Christ. It reached its peak in terms of people (20 k) and size in the early middle ages. Now it's a bunch of empty caves with some strangely beautiful carvings in them, and a lot of mysteries surrounding them. Number one: why would an entire town full of merchants and traders decide to live in caves? Number two: where did they go?

On the way back, we discovered some of that legendary Gorian hospitality (motto: Our taxis will leave you stranded, but unlike Stalin, we probably won't have you killed!) and spent some time in the parking lot of the Uplistsikhe monument begging for rides back, to little avail (apparent Gori bus driver mottos: "Fuck you! We're Full!)

What's weird about this is that Georgians are, deservedly, legendary for their hospitality. So, not being able to get someone to help is very, very unusual. Ah. well.

Hit the roads to wander the seven kilometers back to Gori, there to take the train back, when a busload of school kids from Tbilisi stopped, and offered to pick us up. "Are you going to Gori?" we said. "We're going through Gori, to Tbilisi!" they said. "You're going to Tbilisi?!?" we said. "Eventually!" they said.

And thus began the adventure of the second half of our day. We went to an old church (Atenis Sioni, if you're paying attention to names) and then spend three or seven hours picnicing beneath a weeping tree, eating fresh pork roasted on the ground, and cheese bread, and cucumbers, and potatoes, and watching a busload of sixth graders run around like wild things.

It was... well, incredibly fun. I played a little soccer (I wish I'd been thirty when I was in sixth grade. I totally would have been picked first every time in Gym class) I ate a bunch of pork. I hung out with an incredibly determined kid, who used all twelve of the English words he knew to convey a surprisingly large and subtle amount of information. I received a gift (an orthodox rosary, courtesy of the sixth graders) and became a "guest" for the Georgians, which is much like being a "mascot" especially when the "guest" is "American" which means "exotically cool."

And I hung out and chatted with the tour's English teacher, who was very kind, and helpful. And when she asked what I did, and I told her I was a poet, she sighed with the kind of dreamy exoticism that I cannot even begin to describe, and said "A poet...? Oh, wooooowwwww." I'm sorry Karen, but she did. It made my whole day.

Then I watched the students' history teacher wrap up all the garbage from the picnic, and throw it into the stream we were sitting next to. And I thought "I should say something!" Then I thought "I really don't want to walk home from here." And so I kept my fool mouth shut, as about three and a half kilos of unbiodegradable plastic bags and cups and knives sailed down the stream, toward the river, and eventually out toward the Caspian sea. Unless a cow eats it.

On the way back the bus driver graciously dropped us off near a metro station, and when we got on the train, we realized that we had been gone almost exactly twelve hours. So there must have been some kind of kismet going down.

All in all a good day. Maybe I'll upload some pictures of the cave cities soon. Meantime click the link waay up there. The website's awful, but the pictures are descriptive.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Yes, but I would love you even if you renounced poetry and took up writing best-selling novels. So there.