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Akhalkalaki – Lake Paravani Direction


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The distance between Akhalkalaki and Lake Paravani is 58 km and it takes an hour and forty minutes by car and nine hours on foot. Just outside the city we pass by the village of Khospio, with the Paravani River flowing across the village up to the highway. A little higher, by the river there are two churches: St. Georgi and St. Nino. (წმ.გიორგის და წმ. ნინოს სახელობის ეკლესიები), built in the 9-10th centuries. As we drive on beside a gorge on the left, we enter the Ninotsminda municipality. The countryside here is as various and beautiful as in the Akhalakalaki municipality. On your left you will see the village of Jigrasheni, a popular place for picnics. Just opposite the railway station Baku-Tbilisi- Kars there is a restaurant, which works in summer and early autumn. A little further is the town of Ninotsminda, until 1991 called Bogdanovka, which was founded in 1930 and became a city in 1983. It`s a new town, which became the center of the Ninotsminda region in 1991 and has been the center of the Ninotsminda Municipality since 2006. This municipality has been developing very rapidly and has become one of the municipalities of Georgia that have a big potential for tourism. The high season here starts in June, when the temperature goes up to 17.9 degrees Celsius. The peak of the season is in July with the biggest number of visitors and very comfortable weather (up to 23 degrees). At the end of the high tourist season in Ninotsminda, in September, the temperature goes down to 17.4. The city church, Surb Sargis Church, was built in 1884. At present there are 21,503 residents living there. There used to be a large community of ‘dukhobors’, people who were exiled from Russia in the 19th century. At the beginning of the 1990s there were about 7,000 dukhobors, who lived in 10 villages with unusual names. Some of those villages are situated in this direction: Tambovka, Vladimirovka, Rodionovka ( v. Paravani), which lie by the lake.
To the left of the Ninotsminda road sign there is a direction with Lake Saghamo and Lake Paravani and a lot of interesting cultural monuments. We pass by a number of villages, including Satkhe( Satkha) on the right, 6 km away from Nnotsminda. You can turn right and go to that unusual village, which is located at the interflow of Paravani and Bugdasheni rivers, at the height of 1,800 m above sea level. A new ethnographic museum was opened here recently.
Further on, in 500 m along the main road you will see the village of Didi Arakali with a beautiful church Surb Khach with a dome and a bell tower. Next comes the village of Saghamo by Lake Saghamo (41°18′19″ N.L. 43°44′24″E.L.), a lake in Georgia, in the Paravani River basin, at the height of 1996 m above sea level. The area of the lake is 528 square km, the average depth is 2.3 m. It has a tectonic origin. The maximal water level is in May – 2.8 m, the minimal is in September. The Paravani River flows across the lake: it flows in and out of it. The lake gets frozen over in winter, in summer the water temperature is 14.5 degrees Celsius. The lake is beautiful with its shape and the wavy shoreline, numerous small islands and streams next to the lake, which can be seen quite well. You can see the V-type shape and the underwater vegetation. Around the lake there are vast territories with pasture lands next to the road, a bit further there are hills and forests with mountains behind. Just opposite the lake, across the road in the village of Saghamo, you will find St. Joan`s Temple, which is a basilica built in the 6-7th centuries. After a restauration the temple became slightly larger thanks to the new additional building.
The road running from Ninotsminda is paved, the infrastructure around is quite developed: there are some cafes and small restaurants, resting places in the woods and by the lake popular with tourists.
One of the most remarkable historical places is the megalithic Abuli Fortress, which can be considered one of the most interesting historical attractions in the country. Further on, to the east you will find the Shaori Fortress. (See more details about the fortress in the Direction Akhalkalaki – the Abuli Fortress).
The village of Gandzani ( Gandza) is situated between the lakes Saghamo and Paravani. From this village lies the most convenient way to the Abuli Fortress, which is on top of Mount Patara Abuli. For that, you need to go north-west in the direction of the mountain. Gandzani is located at the height of about 2,100 m above sea level, Abuli is 2,799 m above sea level, so it`s about 700 m. The way to Shaori-II begins north-west of Lake Parvani from the village of Aspara. First the path goes north to the mountain, where the Shaori Fortress is situated. You can leave your belongings at the foot of the mountain and head for the fortress because it`s the most convenient route to the lakes. From the Shaori Fortress you can see a stunning view of Lake Paravani. Within one day you can also visit Lake Levani. You can also see the sights of Vandzani. There are two Orthodox churches here: one in the upper part of the village, with an inscription on its western wall (asomtavruli) and one nave. The other church in the lower part is Holy Virgin Church. Outside the village, in the field, there stands a menhir. In the upper western part of the pillar there is a bas-relief picture similar to that of the Murjakheti menhir. The Gandzani menhir stands in a small church east of Gandzani.
The coordinates of the menhir.
(DMS) 41°21’16.02″N 43°44’17.46″E
(DM) 41°21.267′ N 43°44.291′
(DD) 41.3545 N 43.7382 E
Another menhir like that is found near the village of Vladimirovka next to the cemetery, 50 m away from the old church foundation.
The coordinates of the menhir:
(DD) 41.41368 N 43.76045 E.
Lake Paravani, 41°18′19″ N.L. 43°44′24″ E.L., is situated at the height of 2,073m above sea level and has an area of 37.5 square km. Its maximal depth is 3.3m and the average depth is 2.2m. The cubic content of the lake is 91mln cubic meters of water. The water is highest in October and November, and the lowest is in May and June. In winter the lake gets frozen over and the ice sheet can be up to 73 cm thick. The lake takes in the waters of the Shaori, Sabadostskali and Rodionovkistskali,rivers as well as underground waters. The Paravani River, the right tributary of the Kura River, flows out of Lake Paravani.
The climate of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region is rather severe. At the hottest summer time the air temperature does not go above 22 degrees, and in winter it goes down to – 25. The ice sheet covers the lake from early autumn to late spring.
The lake is surrounded by beautiful alpine meadows. It is particularly beautiful here in spring, when colorful plants blossom on green grass. The weather by the lake often changes and the white fluffy clouds take very unusual shapes. Tourists often compare the panoramic view of the mountains by the lake to a stage, where everything is changeable and, like the theater curtain, the flow of clouds opens up a new story each time. The positive emotions after a visit to this place remain for a long time.
In 1989, in honor of St.Nino`s entry into Georgia, an open refectory was built on the shore of the lake, on the very spot where St. Nino, the Christian Enlightener of Georgia, stopped for a rest on her way from Kapadokia to Georgia. Near the refectory, on the shore, there is a monastery. In 1992 a nunnery was opened in the Patriarch`s house. In 2010 the monastery started production of its own Georgian European cheese. At present, a project on building tourist infrastructure has been launched. A visitor center, degustation rooms and church stores are planned to be built in the village of Poka, near the monastery and the Holy Virgin Church.
Every year, on the 1st of June, church members gather here and after a public service, which takes place in the open air, in the open refectory on the shore of Lake Paravani, travel St. Nino`s path. The pilgrimage starts at the village of Poka and Lake Paravani and finishes in the Svetitskhoveli Church in Mtskheta.Lots of people come from abroad to take part in the pilgrimage. Anybody can participate in it, but they have to be prepared for it both physically and spiritually.
Recently a burial mound was discovered on the bottom of the lake. Quite by accident an ancient stone structure was found on the bottom of the lake. As a result of the very first examination the size of the structure was established – 900 square meters. Scientists from different spheres and divers were involved in the project. The work under supervision of Professor Licheli was united into a treatise named “Lake Paravani”. During the exploration a great number of kitchen and household utensils were found and excavated, which are claimed to date back to the 4th century BC. The excavation works were hampered by the cold weather and the turbidity of the water. But soon on the eastern side an opening was discovered that led right to the center of the burial. A lot of archeological finds dating back to the period of 12-16th centuries were discovered around this ‘corridor’. Most of them were artifacts which had remains of glazing on them. It is still a mystery how that burial of huge rough basalt blocks went under water. But there is a lot of evidence that in the Middle Ages people of considerable culture lived in this place. The oldest things found on the bottom of the lake date back to the II millennium BC. And at this the exploration of the lake bottom was not finished.
A.Isaakyan wrote about the beauty of Lake Paravani and the underwater fortress in his memoir ‘ Vahan Teryan’ in 1938: “The next morning we walked to Lake Parvana, on the bottom of which a white castle was believed to stand. The local farmers claim that on a clear day when the water is particularly transparent one can see the peaks of towers. The scenery would change from time to time: emerald meadows, ringing streams, swaying fields of wheat would turn into arid ravines, still further on cliffs with intricate outlines and colorful reefs. There was a blue fog above Lake Parvana. But in a minute or two it opened up its silver mirror, and the sun light reflected in it, shone brighter than in the sky.” Vahan was looking around and began to recite the poem ‘Parvana’ by H. Tumanyan:
Абул и Мтин в одеждах снеговых
Царят средь гордых гор, как в старину,
Когда держали на плечах своих
Заоблачную крепость Парвану.
Vahan Teryan was born and grew up in the village of Gandza ( Gandzai). Here you will find a museum of the poet. It is open every day but Sunday from 9am to 4 pm. The museum was founded in 1957 and it keeps the poet`s belongings, photos and documentary materials connected with his life and work. The traditional Day of Teryan`s Poetry are celebrated here every year on the 23rd of July. Visitors and residents first participate in a liturgy at the church of St. Karapet in Gandza and then visit the museum. The mentioned church was built in 1859 by Teryan`s grandfather. Being the village clergyman, Grigor Teryan, together with the village community, raised money, designed the building and organized the construction of the church. The church is 19.00 m x 12.70m big, it has arches resting on four columns. The interior walls are decorated with frescoes and icons. (41.352293, 43.746937)