A traveler's photo diary around Tbilisi's Cable Car, Narikala Fortress, and the Upper Bethlehem Cathedral from the tourist's trail.
After exploring Tbilisi's Old Town and Sioni Cathedral, my husband and I decided to walk over the Bridge of a Thousand Martyrs and take the cable car up to the Narikala Fortress, which overlooks the city.
The Bridge of A Hundred Thousand Martyrs is not only one of the best places to see all of Tbilisi, but it's a very important place to remember Georgia's often bloody past. In 1227, Tbilisi was sacked by Mongol invaders who forced Georgians to desecrate holy icons from Sioni Cathedral on the bridge- and the Christians who chose to defy were beheaded- earning the bridge's gory name. It was hard to stand on the bridge, not only as a Christian- but one who had never experienced such horror and despair- while knowing not incredibly far from where we stood, other Christians are slaughtered everyday.
It is somewhat strangely beautiful that now the bridge is quiet except for the sounds of buzzing traffic, tourists, and pedestrians who make their way peacefully across the Mtkvari River- which is once again surrounded by thriving churches, and watched over by numerous glittering tile icons at the base of the river that can be viewed by scrambling down a small set of steep stairs at Metekhi, just under the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
From the bridge, we walked across the street towards the cable car entrance- but we walked over to marvel at the Bridge of Peace first. This swooping statue of glass- cradling a pedestrian bridge- which connects Tblisi's old and new districts. Be sure to look for the view of Sioni Cathedral!
We then rode the cable car up- and very thankfully did not get a gondola car with a glass bottom. My husband and I are somewhat skittish around heights- I'm used to riding in gondolas as I love skiing here in Colorado- but going over a city is a bit more nerve wracking, and I don't know I could ride in a gondola with a glass bottom!
From the top of the gondola, we peeked over the other side of the Narikala Fortress to view the botanic gardens, but we spent most of our time photographing the beautiful Tbilisi skyline and walking along the ridge to the Mother of Georgia Statue (our decision to spend less time exploring the fortress was partly because we really needed a bathroom, which doesn't exist at the fortress, even though the views are spectacular).
The Mother of Georgia statue, which you can see from all over Tbilisi, holds a sword in one hand for enemies, and a bowl of wine for visitors with the other. I scurried out on a small (and dizzingly high over a cliff) landing just under the statue for this cool shot straight up at it:
From the statue, my husband and I found a small trail marked "tourist's trail" back down to the city. If you don't want to pay for the cable car (though it is about $1 per rider, each way) you can walk up one of the numerous trails heading to the top of the hill- but we were already tired from walking all day, so we chose to just walk on the way downhill.
The view from the trail was spectacular- we kept stopping to take as many photos as possible. I was really glad I chose to wear comfortable tennis shoes at the beginning of the day, instead of the Sperrys I had been wearing- especially on the trail- as it has no handrailings and the stairs leading down to the city are quite steep. I slipped a few times but always caught myself- I wouldn't head down the trail in the rain, and opt for the more gentile trail back from the Narikala Fortress instead.
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