Month: July 2015

Uplistsikhe—A New Ancient Site

Thought you’d heard of all the ancient ruins in the world? Today we’re at Uplistsikhe, a newly excavated ancient city you’re probably not familiar with.

About an hour from Tbilisi, capital of the Republic of Georgia, is a place settled in the 6th century BC, and, according to my English speaking guide, it remained inhabited until 1970. Here people lived in easily malleable sandstone caves in the mostly rocky hillside coincidentally near the city of Gori, birthplace of Stalin.

The all-important ancient Silk Road ran nearby, making this area commercially significant. Today the remnants of the societies that inhabited this place exist along with a 10th century Georgian Orthodox Christian Church that sits on the highest point of the settlement on top of the site where an ancient pagan temple once stood. The Christian church, remarkably, still functions.

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Black and White Cookies–A New York Favorite of Mine and Seinfeld

I long wanted to write this article, but I see someone beat me to the punch. My concept was to taste a whole lot more cookies and try to rate them according to some standard, but this author does a good job nevertheless.

http://ny.eater.com/2014/6/2/6214949/the-black-and-white-cookies-curious-history

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New York for the First Time–Some Hints

Plan your trip for a long summer holiday weekend, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day or Labor Day. If you don’t mind icecold weather, Thanksgiving and Christmas are great, too. During weekend holidays, especially in the heat of summer, New Yorkers head to the nearby mountains or water. You should get out on the water, too. For an inexpensive and interesting boat ride take the Staten Island Ferry. Coney Island beach and amusement park is just a subway ride away. But I digress …

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First Episode of Ethnic Cleansing?

You’ve never heard of Gremi, but you should know its story.
Seeing this “city” in the Republic of Georgia was a highlight
of my trip there. The remnants of a great city that only lasted
for 150 years tell a tale we must remember. The closest big
city, Telavi, is still a hub for traders, continuing the historical
commercial importance of this region where the Silk Road
once ran.

Today part of the site is a dormitory for Christian pilgrims
that come to pay homage to what their ancestors did here
and to see the beautiful Church of the Archangels that still
functions at the highest point in Gremi. The day I visited the
place was practically overrun with Georgian school children. Why?
Situated about one and a half hours northeast of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in the region known as Kakheti, this is the fertile Alazani Valley of the Caucasus renowned for its vineyards. What was happening on the other side of the world in
Western Asia about when Columbus was discovering America? Come to find out. A fascinating movie with English subtitles can be seen at the tiny museum built at the entrance to the site.

In the second half of the 15th century Georgia was divided into two kingdoms. King of Kakheti Georgi moved his residence to Gremi in 1466. There he built a palace. You can see remnants including his stone toilet, now more than 500 years old. There are also spacious palace rooms and winding stone stairways. Apparently Georgi never felt safe here as everything is built with defense in mind, including a system to see from the third floor to first to track intruders if needed.

The reason for Georgi’s fears: two other empires wanted to take over, Turkey and Iran. Georgi’s successor, King Levan, built the Archangels Church here in 1565 at the most secure point on top of the hill.

Church at top of hill

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In Figuring Which Cell Phone to Carry I Ran Into Taxes

See the story in the Dallas Morning News…

http://www.dallasnews.com/investigations/watchdog/20150716-watchdog-why-texans-pay-more-for-the-internet-than-others.ece

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From Oil to Water

Traveling from the former Russian republic of Azerbaijan to another former Russian state, its western neighbor the Republic of Georgia, is metaphorically like going from oil to water. The two bordering countries are as different as night and day.

Predominantly Moslem Azerbaijan largely eschews drinking liquor while Georgians drink lots of wine, vodka, and chacha (their own version of potent schnapps) at nearly every opportunity. . Georgians enjoy downing shots in unending toasts at formal events. Azerbaijani people will invite you in for tea wherever you go. That’s a good thing as the tea is served very hot, boiling off impurities from the water, otherwise undrinkable out of the tap.

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Carpet Museum in Baku a Real Gem

I like it when I visit someplace that debunks incorrect ideas I have held for a lifetime. The National Carpet Museum in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, was such a place. We’ve all seen Oriental rugs, but what do we really know about them? This museum seeks to dispel the myths.

Housed in a magnificent building opened in 2014 with great fanfare, built facing the Caspian Sea, the outside appears to be a roll of carpet.

Carpet Museum exterior

The museum is in a great neighborhood with a lot of modern Baku architecture around.

Flame Towers and Islamic style buildings from the Carpet Museum

Inside the displays are well organized down one long corridor. A problem: finding a guide who speaks understandable English. No museum guide book or map currently exists. Saving grace: the display explanations are in both Azerbaijani and English, unusual in foreign countries.

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