Jon and I spent the entire morning meeting with some people we knew in Georgia. It was already well after a lunch which never happened, when we got loose to go do some exploring on our own around town. Given the late-day start, we decided to hike up to Narikala Castle.
The castle functioned militarily from the 13th through the 19th Centuries. Once upon a time, there were buildings all throughout the grounds of the castle. In the 1800s when the Imperial Russian Army used the castle as a weapons-storage facility, an explosion leveled many of the buildings inside the walls. Since then, things haven’t quite been the same. A new church was cobbled together up there in the 1990s, but it isn’t the sort of building that would take your breath away. The view you get from up there is a different story.
Narikala Castle overlooks Tbilisi from a steep hill. The reverse approach to the castle is practically a cliff. To reach the ruins, we had to walk from the city center to the sulfur baths, turn right and follow a cobblestone road inclined at about the same angle as a staircase. You pass by residential buildings that are probably far sturdier than they look, perched as they are on their respective sections of rock. A vigorous five-minute walk, and you’re at the top.
We walked the walls, at times climbing in between the broken and crumbling sections. With the exception of the recently-built building with the cross on top, wall is just about all you get, up there. I was pleased with that; what remained was an uninterrupted line of sight all around the walls, much as the builders of those walls must have seen the place before everyone else moved in.
Jon and I talked tactics for a while, and came to the conclusion that we each would’ve probably died twenty or so separate, painful deaths just trying to reach the walls – never mind actually doing something remotely akin to taking over the place.
We raised visors, ceded the castle to the setting sun and made our way back down to the city, promises of food and drink overriding any thoughts of defending those old rocks to the death. That night, over Khinkali (Georgian meat-filled dumplings), fried cheese and Kazbegi beers, Jon and I planned our next trip.