“Place of 60 Towers” – Khada Gorge

General:

IMG_0942If one wants to feel medieval spirit of Georgia, should visit Khada Gorge. It is one of the most marvelous locality of the country, which it astonishes a visitor with spectacular nature and amazing architecture. Towers from feudal past stand alongside modern houses. They are still well preserved, but desolate. According to the legend, golden rams used to pasture at the main tower, which is located further from the settlement and high up in the mountains. These golden rams protected the gorge from evil. Nowadays no one lives in these towers, only sanctuaries are kept there. Decades ago people preferred to build more up-to-date dwellings. But due to hard living conditions, absence of school, hospital and shops they left ancestral place – moved to the city. Only few families stay in the gorge year round. Others arrive during summer time or great holidays, especially local religious celebrations.

Location:

IMG_0998Khada Gorge is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) far from Tbilisi, in Mtsketa-Mtianeti region. It is near Gudauri ski resort, starts at Kvesheti village. Total length of the gorge is about 7km (4.4 miles). The way runs along the twisted river, then goes higher and higher. Small villages stand on either side like eagle’s nest. Some of them consist of several houses and it’s kind of shocking for those, for whom definition of “village” means at least thousand inhabitants. Sights and settlements can be reached by car till the end of the gorge. Khada also represents excellent place for trekking. Camp or picnic can be arranged any place – at the waterfall, near the river or on the valleys near the village.

Major sights of the gorge: 

  1. Elguja’s Fortress is first sight of the gorge. In 1881 famous Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi described it in his novel “Elguja”. It is still well preserved and represents a fortification built in the slope of the mountain. The Fortress is constructed by bare stones, without cement. It overlooks the surrounding and had intelligence-defensive functions. Its defenders were the first who noticed enemy and fought against them.
  2. IMG_0903Acidic water – on the way to the villages, on one place the soil is covered by rust. It’s because of acidic water, which naturally runs from the ground. It contains useful minerals and iron. As it’s considered, the water is characterized by healing properties.
  3. Korogho fortress and church are constructed on the high mountain. It’s amazing how the builders could carry heavy materials there. The village existed in the early middle ages. It connected the gorge to the Northern Caucasus. Locals protected the road and gave shelter to the people during invasions. The church has unique relief images – 12 scenes, which describe its construction process: oxen carry stones, women take food to the builders, people prepare mortar, architect stands with model of the church, etc. Such decoration is very rare in Georgia. In other words, ruins of Korogho are unique in the whole country.
  4. Towers, towers everywhere. Khada gorge is known as “place with 60 towers”. Every family in every village had own one – once they served as residential and defensive buildings. Otherwise it was impossible to survive in the hostile environment: Locals often used to fight against enemies. Some of the important towers are Tsetskhijvari (which dates back to IX-X centuries. It has strategic location, overlooks to whole panorama. When its guards noticed enemy, set fire to warn people about upcoming threat), Mindelauri Tower (belonged to Mindelauri family, dates to X-XI centuries. It has inscription into old Georgian alphabet Asomtavruli and 2 faces, which symbolize sun and moon); Tower of Naraidze family in the village Tskere – it has carved image of the hand on the wall.
  5. Waterfall – beautiful place to have a rest and enjoy with splendid nature.

In short, Khada Gorge is for those, who want to experience new adventures and get lost in the medieval villages. Calmness and wildness of the spot is combined with breathtaking beauty of the mountains. Indeed, it’s worth to visit!

Places to visit near Tbilisi

1. Mtskheta – former capital of Georgia, with Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Here is Samtavro Nunnery; graves of first christian king and queen in Georgia; St. Nino church (St. Nino converted Georgia into christianity in the 4th century); Bebris Tsike (ruins of fortress).

2. Bagineti – ruins of ancient city. They are located near Mtskheta. Tourists can reach it by public transport (going from Tbilisi to Mtskheta). Sign on the road indicates location, then stairs lead to the sight. There are remnants of sarcophagus, royal baths, 2-cell building, pagan church built in the 1st century AD and other buildings. The place is clean, you can find benches to sit and enjoy beautiful view to Mtskheta and Mtkvari river.

3. Armazi – trail leads in the gorge, across the river. On the way you can see ruins of the monastery complex (now fathers’ monastery), at the end of the way – ruins of old fortress overlooking the gorge.

4. Zedazeni – Church, ruins at the top of the mountain. Huge iron cross, which can be seen from the central highway and picturesque view.

5. Saguramo – home-museum of famous Georgian public figure Ilia Chavchavadze (1837–1907). He was a writer, poet, journalist and lawyer; influenced development of Georgia, introduced liberal ideas. He was killed at Tsitsamuri, near Mtskheta. In 1987 he was canonized as Saint Ilia the Righteous.

Useful travel information for Georgia

Information about Tbilisi (sights, events, hotels, bars and so on) – http://www.info-tbilisi.com/

Georgian Railway – Trains, passenger transportation, schedules, booking online
Traffic General Schedule: http://railway.ge/?web=1&action=page&p_id=479&lang=eng
Regional trains: http://www.railway.ge/samg/searchTrains.aspx?lang=en-US

Mobile operators:
Geocell: http://geocell.ge/en/
Magticom: http://magtigsm.ge/index.php?section=8&lang=eng
Beeline: http://beeline.ge/en/index.wbp

Sights to visit:
Kakheti – (full information transportation, tours, monumnents…)
Kutaisi – Bagrati church, Promete Cave, ruins of Geguti Palace, Gelati.
Tbilisi – Narikala fortress, Metekhi, Sameba church, Mtatsminda (pantheon of public figures and park at the top of the mount). Museums,… more at: info-tbilisi.com
Mtskheta – old capital of Georgia. Svetitskhoveli church (Christ’s robe), fortress over there, Samtavro monastery (with graves of the first Georgian king and queen).
Stepantmisnda – Gergeti church. amazing view
Vardzia – cave city of the middle ages.
Rabati in Akhaktsikhe
Gori (stalin’s museum) and Upilstsikhe cave city (of the ancient times) near it.
Shatili – vilalge of castle
Abudelauri lakes in Khevsureti (green, blue, white).
Svaneti
Borjomi – Mineral waters, national park, cableway, sulfur springs, Gogia’s castle and other sights nearby

Georgian undergraduate exchange students in Europe

Almost every Georgian student wishes to study in Europe. A reason for that is to gain international experience, get to know diverse people with various living standards, make new friends, share experiences with them and return to the home country with new ideas and perspectives. As one of the Georgian exchange students said: “Studying abroad is a big challenge because you need to be independent and adapt to a new environment. This experience of adapting to new environments will be of big interest later in life when you come on the working market”.

But, for undergraduate students we have only about 30 places for English speaking students far less for other language speaking (German, Spanish, Italian…) ones each year, while many more wish to be an exchange student. More difficult is to be the beneficiary of ERASMUS Lot 6.

Thus, selection process is merit-based and quite difficult to go through, so students should prepare specially for it. Competition for one-semester mobility program includes three steps: 1. Passing English Language (B2) Test 2. Writing motivation letter and presenting your grades (High GPA is required), recommendation letters, and the offered Universities, listed in priority order. The 3rd step is an interview where you have to answer some of the standard questions like “why you would like to study in Europe”, “how will you use this experience after returning to your home country”, “why are you the best candidate for this programme” etc. as well as some unexpected ones, which you should answer in a spontaneous and natural manner, because your presence of mind matters in such a situation.

I mentioned high GPA in the above analysis, but work experience, voluntary experience and other kinds of extra-curricular activities also count a lot. Skills gained through nonformal education is as worthy as those through formal learning, because it focuses on practical skills and knowledge. Formal and nonformal education can complement each other if properly understood (“What is Nonformal Education?” Arlen Etllng).

Akaki Koridze is former exchange student in Riga, Latvia. He has spent 2011/2012 autumn semester there and has just returned to Georgia. Gained experience helped him to find a job and thus excel in his career. Akaki talked with us about the advantages and significance of mobility programs, as it helps students to expand their worldview, become more aware of European educational and cultural policies and be able to accept the differences. Georgian students had a presentation of the country in one of the schools in Riga. “The school students were aware of Georgia less than we expected they would be, we had a mini-test during the presentation and the only question they gave the right answer was – who is the president of Georgia?” On the question, how did he manage to go through the selection process, Akaki answered that good knowledge of English and motivation helped him to convince the jury in his abilities, “I knew exactly what I wanted and why I needed this program for my future career”, – he says. For his Masters Degree Akaki would like to continue studying in Western Europe or in USA.

Author: Ana Koridze

Tbilisi State University

ECTS in Georgia and recognition of credits gained abroad

European Credit Transfer and Accumulations system was initially launched in 1989 as a pilot project in the ERASMUS program. The original goals of the scheme were to facilitate student mobility and bridge educational systems at a national and international level by the means of credit transfer. ECTS plays a key role in the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) through the Bologna process.

On May 2005 Minister of Education and Sciences of Georgia signed the Bergen Communiqué and thus Georgia, post Soviet state, officially joined the Bologna Process like forty five other European countries and committed itself to becoming a constituent part of the European Higher Education Area by 2010 (EPPM Project Report,2005).

After 2005, Georgian students can apply for an exchange program and study abroad so that when they are back their courses will be recognized.

Once the students receives confirmation of acceptance from a receiving institution, he/she has to compose a learning agreement, which is a study contract among the student, sending and receiving institutions and must be signed by all three parties to become valid. The study modules which the students will take during his stay in the host institution will be specified in the learning agreement. The Learning Agreement and the transcript of records guarantee the transfer of credit for courses passed successfully by the exchange student. The relevant person in charge at the home university carries out the recognition after the student returns to his/her home institution. Among my respondents there were several exchange students who have not composed a learning agreement. In this case their credits could not be transferred.

Generally, credit recognition process looks like this: students bring the grades and syllabus from the host university; relevant people check them and recognize passed courses which have analogical content as the ones which are defined by the home university’s study program.

Actually, when I started writing this article, I wanted to investigate the problems, exchange students face in Georgia but surprisingly it appeared that drawbacks are not too many. The general problem about which Georgian students are complaining during the transferring process is that recognition and reviewing the material takes long time, there is no definite answer to the question, when will you know if credits were recognized or not. “You have to go and ask about it every day in the Quality Assurance Office” – says one of the former exchange student.

Another problem can be not one-to-one correspondence between credits. For example in Tbilisi State University, one subject equals 5 credits while in many universities abroad it is 3 credits. So Georgian University requires a student to take 2 subjects to get 6 credits that will be recognized as 5. So, one credit appears to be “lost”.

In conclusion, I think that European Credit Transfer and Accumulations system is quite successfully used in Georgia and is definitely very useful for Georgian students. Additionally, it is a great step forward in the long process towards European integration.

Author: Ana Koridze

Tbilisi State University

Rallies

Rallies are part of the political culture. They are forms of non-violent resistance, widely used all over the world. In this way large numbers of people express their opinion about a certain political, cultural, environmental or social affairs. Speakers are part of the process. They can use signs, banners, other forms of creative expression, symbols, messages and so on. Some rallies can change thoughts of the people and development of human history.

List of famous rallies in the world include:

– Martin Luther King’s struggle for civil rights, his famous march on Washington DC in 1963

– Rallies in Iran from in August-December 1978. It lead to revolution and establishment of Islamic state

Iran Revolution

– “Colored revolutions” in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004). Hundreds of thousands people demanded change of their governments

Hundreds of thousands of people demanded change of government in 2003 in Georgia

–  Anti-war protest on February 15, 2003. It was the largest scale rally in the human history. Citizens of various countries, in hundreds of cities demanded to stop Iraq war. Estimated number of all protestant varies from 8 to 30 million.

– In December 2010 revolution in Egypt and so on.

It is considered that rallies are stronger if they involve many people. Though large number of the attendants does not always define success. Government may restrict freedom of speech with different means: legislation, police attacks, creating unfavorable environment, etc.

Legal regulations of rallies and demonstrations vary according countries. USA defines “Free Speech Zones” (also known as First Amendment Zones) where public can enjoy their freedom of speech, express opinions on political, social, economic issues and so on. Though they are limited spaces and in some cases organizers need to get special permission from the government.

The case is different in Republic of Georgia. Constitution provides freedom of assembly, but recent amendment in the Law of Meetings and Manifestations defines 20 meter distance limitation from the buildings. Organizers should apply for permission 5 days in advance and indicate exact date and time of the rally.

On June Rally in the central street of Milwaukee was devoted to huge military spending of US budget. They believe that USA needs to decrease war expenditures and increased finances in education, social projects, environmental issues, etc. They tried to gain attention of the citizens with slogans and different banners.

Have you ever participated in rallies? What’s your experience? Was it effective? Could it reach desired aims? Do you believe that protest of large number of people can make changes just standing together?

Locust Street Festival 2011

35th anniversary!

Sounds incredible, does not it?

Locust Street festival is one of the most famous festivals of Milwaukee, WI. It involves more and more artists and visitors year after year.

Different activities last all day long. Bands, performers occupy every corner. There are food stands, crafts, live music and street shows. People enjoy different genres of music. It is the day of universal entertainment.

This year it took place on June 12. It was the first festival that immediately followed my arrival in Milwaukee and I was really happy to feel the soul of the city.

Locust Street Festival opens with Beer Run! It’s amazing show with hundreds of participants! Men and women rush to the finish, making 4 beer stops. It’s funny and exciting!

Other street activities include giant dancing puppets, theater, shows of martial arts, hosting poets and authors, etc. Festival attendants can taste different food and beverages as well.

Besides, many organizations consider the festival as a community outreach opportunity. There they present various materials about their activities: newsletters, posters, T-shirts; talk to visitors; it is face-to-face conversation, direct dialogue of the organizations and their focus groups, mutual sharing of opinions.

Even in the crowded place you can notice Peace Action Milwaukee. Festival was a good fundraising opportunity for my organization. Selling goods, bumper stickers (which support peace) they get money for future events.

This kind of activity is common for American non-profits. They are not focused only grant writing. They also use different creative methods in order to get funds and meet organization’s needs. That’s what I learnt in Nonprofit Financial Resource Development class. Here I saw it in practice. Useful experience, is not it?

Peace action was not the only non-profit represented here. Woodland Pattern Book Center organized several activities, among them Community Ties Raffle and declared that “All the money raised by the Community Ties Raffle supports Woodland Pattern programming.”

You can learn more about the festival from the following articles and videos:

On my neighbor website you can read minute-by-minute report

You can join FaceBook page of the festival. It might be late for this year, but will get timely updates for the following one.

Watch video and fill the soul of the festival

One more video from Festival 2007. Enjoy it!