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Direction: Akhalkalaki – Mt. Abuli. The Abuli Fortress

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Mt. Abuli is only 14 km away from Akhalkalaki. It`s 37 minutes` drive and about three hours` walk. There are a lot of interesting things to see here: just outside the city there is a mountain called Tavshanka ( Mt. Amirani, 41°27’22″# 43°48’25″E). If you turn towards this mountain, you can drive along the eastern slope of the mountain and get to the Paravani River. The river springs from Lake Paravani and is considered to be a mountain river but here and further on it is mostly like a valley river, without rapids or steep surface slopes. The terraces are almost on the river level, so you can see the beauty of the other bank very well.You can walk along the bank and around the mountain, climb its top in less than an hour, even less if you are driving. It`s a low mountain, rather a hill, but it is covered with various landscapes: a river and a wood at the foot and a softwood forest on the top. Besides, there are some holy places on the top, from where you can see a stunning view of the city, Mt. Abuli and the nearby villages.
Further on the way to Mt. Abuli, 200 meters away from the hill, across the bridge over the Paravani River, the river is in a small rocky gorge. You can see medium size rocks, which can be easily go around when rafting in spring and summer time. To the left there is a small natural pool, where people dip into water on Epiphany, and not only. The water in it is considered to be healing, and above the pool, in the cliff you can see a sacred place called Vank. The road leading to Abuli is paved and even. To the right of the main direction we can see the village of Bavra, which is so close to the city that the villagers usually get there on foot down the highway. Next we go through the village of Kartikami, past a church and small grave sculptures of animals. To the left you can see part of the Samsari Ridge with Mt. Abuli. The Samsari Ridge is a meridional ridge, which divides the basins of the Paravani and Khrami, the right tributaries of the Kura, 75km long, 3,301 m high. (Didi Abuli, Wikipedia).
From here you can either go straight towards the mountain or turn in the direction of the village of Kulikami to see beautiful landscapes with springs. There are a lot of natural springs here, the biggest of which are the Ablar Springs supplying the city and 10 villages with water. The cold and healthy water from these springs makes it worth a visit.
It takes 20 minutes to get from Kartikami to Abuli. In the center of the village there is a protected monument, Saint Virgin Church dating back to the 10th century. Before 1884 it was smaller called St. Harutiun Church. According to the type of construction it is a three-nave basilica. Here it is the interior that is divided into naves, like in all the basilica temples that became common in Samtskhe-Javakheti in the Middle Ages. The entrance from the western side is decorated with cornices and above it there is a cross engraved with the following text: Christ`s Cross. Christ, have mercy upon the Kalatozes. The interior of the church is divided into three halls with oval columns, the altar is in the eastern part.
It is only 19km from here to Mt. Abuli. Didi Abli (Big Abuli) together with Patara Abuli (Small Abuli) is often mentioned as Abuli. This mountain is an extinct volcano. The volcanic cone has lost its normal shape due to the height and age. On the slopes there are glacial circuses, rims and small lakes. Most of the mountain is covered with alpine meadows.(Wikipedia)
Mt. Abuli 412649N 434048E is located to the east of the city and can be seen from all over Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities. The view of Abuli is different depending on the spot it is observed from. While observing the mountain, we can often see different colors, shapes and shadows of moving clouds. Sometimes it gets completely covered with clouds. It is particularly impressive at sunrise, when the outline of the whole mountain with its peak is seen very distinctly. In winter the mountain gets completely covered with snow obtaining different colors from white and light-pink to purple shades. This mountain attracts people with its mysterious beauty. It is especially beautiful if you see it from the city. This view has become a symbol and pride of Akhalkalaki, which is why it is included in the city`s coat of arms. If you go up the mountain, you will see how magnificent it is and will witness some panoramic views of the landscapes both in the direction of Akhalkalaki and Lake Paravani and other parts of Samtskhe-Javakheti. And in the night you can even see the lights of Tbilisi. At sunrise the shadow of the mountain falls on the Turkish border, just in the middle of Lake Khozapini (Kartsakhi).
On the mountain there is a megalithic building – the Abuli Fortress, 2,600 m above sea level with the following coordinates: :(DMS) 41°22’22.74″N 43°41’5.96″E (DM) 41°22.379′ N 43°41.0993′ E, (DD) 41.5766 N 43.8968 E. This unique building is a megalithic fortress supposedly built in the Bronze Age.
It is part of Patara Abuli and it won`t take you long to get there by car, especially if it`s a crossover or an off-road vehicle. You can also walk there, but if you choose to go up on a bike, you might encounter some difficulties. This fortress has a number of unusual features: it consists of flat rocks without any cement. It has a round shape. What impresses most about the fortress is its size and location on top of the mountain with views of two cities on both sides and the height the fortress is located at. For comparison, the highest settlement in Europe is Ushguli, 2200 m above sea level, which is 400 m lower than the Abuli Fortress.
Next, the wall circle of about 50 m along the perimeter is surrounded by an outer circle of walls a little lower – 2 m high. There are several wall openings leading inside the fortress. The cairns that are next to the building are of considerable interest too. They are likely to be ruins of other buildings that can be found all the way to the fortress if you climb the mountain along the eastern slope. If you go up from the west, you will only see them closer to the fortress, where the landform changes and we have to walk. These areas are hard to pass from both sides, which will take a long time and you should take water with you. Both tourists and researchers are interested in Abuli. In the fortress there are no other materials except stones and rocks. Even the foundation is made of stone, which will make it hard to examine the ground and do perforation. The fortress is also unusual from the point of view of its location regarding the water sources. Settlements and fortresses used to be built next to water resources. Can we make a suggestion that there used to be water resources here? Was Abuli just a fortress or did it have other functions as well? There are a lot of suggestions and these gigantic megalithic buildings are still to be studied. In 2013 a hypothesis was put forward, according to which the fortress was an astrological object. An expedition with the American doctor Gordon Houston and Badri Gigelava, organized by Irakliy Simonia, a professor at Ilia University, head of cultural astronomy laboratory, are examining the fortresses of Abvuli and Shaori comparing them with the British Stonehenge and are doing research which proves the archa-astronomical purposes of the fortress. To be more exact, they suggest that the fortress was used for orientating in time and space and for observing stars and other astronomical phenomena.
You can meet tourists here every day, but there are fewer and fewer of them as it gets colder. The local people like to show them their mountain and tell them a lot of stories and legends about unusual natural phenomena. Sanasar and Levon accompanied us and told us a lot of mysterious stories. One of the most interesting stories is that at a very big height, between the two peaks there appears an invisible river. “A loud sound of the river can be heard when we go up to the sanctuary on the 15th of June, but it can`t be seen.” They name the lakes that can be seen from the top by their old names and know all the roads in this area. They warn tourists about wolves that come out when it gets dark. If you want to get to Lake Levani and Lake Abuli, you should go along another road, before you get to the fortress. Lake Abuli can be reached by car as well. There is also a road to these lakes from Ninotsminda. From here you can go down towards Lake Paravani and see two Shaori fortresses: Shaori 1 – 2,760m above sea level on the western peak and further to the east 400 m away is Shaori 2, on the other peak, 2,600m above the sea level.
The village with this name does not exist today. On the map of Vakhu-shti Bagrationi, the village of Shaori is marked near Lake Paravani. In time of the “Wide List ofGurjustan Vilayat“ (1595), the village was empty, although it was recorded in Akshehir district ofAkhalkalaki Liva and taxed in the amount of 6,000 Akcis. Vakhushti Bagrationi in his “Geography”mentions Shaori River and Shaori Fortress. According to S. Jikia, the manuscript from the Athonmonastery, which was written in Shaori by the hand of Akvila Mtbevari and was ordered by KingBagrat Kuropalates in 1002, was written in Javakheti Shaori, near Paravani Lake.
Cyclopean” complex Shaori is located in municipality of Ninotsminda, on the shore of Lake Paravani, northwest of village Tambovka, at the altitude of 2775 m from the sea level (pl.CCCXVI, CCCXVII). Archaeologically, this complex has not been studied. In 1997, we only madegeodesic and architectural measurements.Shaori complex has attracted the attention of researcherssince a long time. After Vakhushti Bagrationi, in 1895 the fortress was visited and described by E. La-layan. In 1898, Shaori was mentioned in a newspaper article by V. Gulisashvili. In the same year, thecomplex was described and published in detail by I. Rostomashvili. According to I. Rostomashvili, the fortress Kor-Oghly is the fortress of Shaori marked on the map of Vakhushti., L. Melikset-Bekagrees with his opinion. Sufficiently voluminous information about the Shaori complex is provided by L. Melikset-Beck in hin monograph about the megalithic sites, published in 1938. Several times a brief description of the cyclopean fortress was published by D. Berdzenishvili. In 1997-2002, archaeological research on Mount Shaori and at the foot of the mountain was conducted by the Triailet Archaeological Expedition.The Shaori complex consists of two parts, which are located on two peaks of the mountain: opperand lower ones. The main part is at the highest point of the mountain. It has theform of an irregular quadrangular and is surrounded by a strong wall (the inner area is 28 X 36 m). The walls are built with a local basalt stone (Shaori mountain is an array made of basaltic rocks), dry masonry is used. The width of the walls in the lower part is 3.0 – 4.5 m, and in the upper part 1.0 – 2.0 m. The maximum height of the surviving walls is 5.0 m. Inside, small rooms are attached to the entire perimeter, one, or two doors high. The second door was preserved only in the northern part of the fortress. For today in the fortress there are 31 rooms. The rooms of the first floor are covered with at basalt slabs, which were the door of the second floor. Above the roofs of the second floor there is a path around the entire perimeter of the fortress. The stairs leading to the path have been preserved above the roofs of the rooms No. There is a one entrance in the fortress and it is from the eastern side. The width of the entrance is 1.0 m and its height is 1.3 m. Directly to the entrance comes a road, paved with large basalt slabs. It starts from a hollow located between two peaks. The beginning of the road and the entrance to the upper complex are directed to the east. The surface of the road in places is plane, and in some places steps have been created. Along the road there are three platforms. Along the road and on the platforms there were manghirs standing (three menhirs are preserved). The road starts at the lower fortress and goes serpentine westward and adjoins to the gates of the central complex from theeast. The length of the road is 310-315 m, width 2.0 – 4,5 m. At the beginning of the road, near the hollow, there are rooms built on the both sides. On the both sides of the road are three platforms, the edges of which are fortified with stone walls. On the door of the sites, stone slabs have been preserved in places. At the wall of the second platform there is a 2.3 m height menhir. From the second platform the road ascends upward by stairs. At this point the road becomes narrower and steeper, and then planeagain. In this place, here is the second menhir, 2.9 m high. Northeast of the central complex, on theright side of the road there is a small room and a third platform. The third menhir (L. Melikset-Bekcalls him an obelisk) stood at the entrance to the fortress. Menhitress, which is built with dry masonry. The thickness of the walls reaches 4.2 m. Outside the fortress there are ruins of a church.In 1979, in Poka the treasure of Ilkhanid silver coins of the 14 th century – 155 dirhams – was found. The treasure is stored in the Georgian National Museum.In the outskirts of the village there is situated a church of Surb Mariam.
Kaurma
The village is located in municipality of Ninotsminda, on the banks of river Paravani. According to S. Jikia in the “Wide List of Gurjustan Vilayat” this village is mentioned underthe name of Gaurmek. The archive lists contain the names Gorka and Gormak. In the documents of1832 and 1835 this village is mentioned under the name of Gori moke and Gormake. Perhaps the oldGeorgian name of the village was Gormake.According to the materials of the “Wide List of GurjustanVilayat”, village Gaurmeki was part of the Akshehir district of Akhalkalaki Liva. Three families livedin the village: Sargis Gabasdze, his brother and grandson Matskverela. The amount of taxes was12,000 Akcas. In the village there were a mill and an oil mill. Village Gaurmeki is also mentioned inthe “Jaba List of Childir Eyalet”. In 1705-1706, annually, the village had to pay a tax in amount of7,000 Akcis. In the 30s of the 19th century the village was populated by the resettlers from Erzurum. There is one small church in the village, on which there are three inscriptions in “Asom-tavruli”. The inscriptions were published by I. Rostomashviliand E. Takaishvili. Two large inscriptions are above the southern door, on the sides of the carvedcross: “Christ, glorify King George and his sons”; “Christ, glorify Melkizedek, the Catholicos ofKartli, and help in “That Day”, Amen.” The western window is surrounded by an ornamental framewith beautiful carvings. At the edges of the window there is an inscription: “Christ, be merciful tome Iovane, with my son, on “That Day”, Amen”. According to E. Takaishvili, the king mentioned inthe inscription is George I (1014-1027) and Catholicos Melkizedek was his contemporary. In timeif reign of Bagrat IV, Melikisedek was inherited by Catholicos Okropir, who is mentioned in thesecond inscription. E. Takaishvili believes that “the building of Kaurma church was started underMelchizedek and finished in time of Okropir. In any case, this church belongs to the first half of the 11th century. In the southern wall of the church there is a round window with an elegant quadrangularrosette and animal ornament. Between villages Kaurma and Estia, on the conical mountain there are ruins, which the local population calls “Kala” – the fortress.
The original appearance of this fortress is difficult to determine, in view of the fact that the main part is converted into a sheepfold. The fortress is built with dry masonry. On the one side it is surrounded by an artificial moat. The inner area is approximately 50X20 m. Inside the fortress ruins of buildings are visible. According to D. Berdzenishvili, the old name of the village was Tontio, which is mentioned in the “Testament” of Catholicos Melkizedek, and also in the chronicle of Juansher “The Lifeof Vakhtang Gorgasali”. In the village, on the Paravani River there is a bridge with five arches, which functions to this day. The bridge is quite wide, the width reaches 3.0 meters. According to E. Takaishvili and N. Berdzenishvili, at the beginning of the bridge there was an old Georgian inscription.
Shaori
The village with this name does not exist today. On the map of Vakhu-shti Bagrationi, the village of Shaori is marked near Lake Paravani. In time of the “Wide List of Gurjustan Vilayat“ (1595), the village was empty, although it was recorded in Akshehir district of Akhalkalaki Liva and taxed in the amount of 6,000 Akcis. Vakhushti Bagrationi in his “Geography”mentions Shaori River and Shaori Fortress. According to S. Jikia, the manuscript from the Athonmonastery, which was written in Shaori by the hand of Akvila Mtbevari and was ordered by KingBagrat Kuropalates in 1002, was written in Javakheti Shaori, near Paravani Lake.

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