Art Palace

The first week in January, we took a bus from our neighborhood in Vake to old town Tbilisi, to visit the Art Palace. The Palace was designed by Paul Stern in a Gothic, Islamic style, and was built in the late 19th century by German Prince Constantine Oldenburg, as a token of his love for a Georgian woman named Agraphina Japaridze. According to one story, Agraphina was married to a Georgian nobleman when she met Constantine, and Constantine won her freedom from the marriage and the right to pursue her, in a card game. 

In 1927, The Georgian State Museum of Theater, Music, Cinema, and Choreography, founded by a famous Georgian public figure named David Arsenishvili, was established in the Palace. During the Soviet era, the palace was damaged, but in 2014, with the support and funding from the US Embassy in Georgia, the Palace was restored and the Museum re-opened to the public. Today, the Museum houses a collection of 300,000 objects depicting Georgian theater, cinema, circus, folklore, opera, and ballet.

When we entered the Palace, I stopped in the foyer to admire the beautiful multi-colored stain glass windows, that created a kaleidoscope of color, on the walls, as the sun shone through them. After buying our two tickets, for 2 Lari each, or $1.40, we proceeded to the first room that held costumes that were copied from the frescos of Georgian nobility. One of the costumes was a re-creation of the one worn by Queen Tamar in the 12th century.

Next, we headed to a room that held works of art by Svimon Dadiani (1916-1974), who was born in Georgia, but who left the country with his family, in 1921, after the Soviet takeover. After leaving his homeland, Dadiani resided first in France until 1939, then in the US where he became the only Georgian soldier to fight in the American Army during World War II. After the war, he received veterans benefits from the US military to attend art school in Virginia. Though his paintings were influenced by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, he became known in the art world as the Georgian Modigliani. It was Dadiani’s hope that one day his country would be free of Soviet control and his legacy could be returned to Georgia. On October 31st, 2017, this was made possible through an agreement between France and Georgia to bring his works, that included paintings and sculptures, to the Museum, at the Art Palace, and to open a permanent exhibit. 

When we reached the second floor of the Palace, we had a guided tour of rooms that had been restored to their former glory, and which contained, paintings, sculptures, China, and costumes, from the 19th and 20th centuries, donated by Georgian artists who worked in the fields of theater, cinema, opera, and ballet. After a memorable tour of the Palace, we bid our guide farewell and exited through the Love Tower, and down the stairs to the courtyard. The Georgian State Museum of Theater, Music, Cinema, and Choreography, made a lasting impression on us, and if you are ever in Tbilisi, I highly recommend you visit.

The Georgian National Opera Theater 

The Georgian National Opera Theater was originally founded in 1851 but was destroyed by a fire in 1874. In 1896, having been reconstructed in a Neo-Moorish style, by German architect, Victor Schroter, the Opera Theater re-opened. The Opera Theater was once home to Georgian National Composer Zacharia Paliashvili and has carried his name since 1937. It also houses the State Ballet of Georgia, led by, the internationally renowned Georgian Ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili. Recently the Opera Theater has hosted opera stars such as Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras and has been a venue for National celebrations and Presidential Inaugurations.

The Nutcracker Ballet

On January 13th, we had the opportunity to see the inside of the Georgian National Opera Theater, when we attended a matinee of The Nutcracker Ballet. As you might recall, from a previous post, we were scheduled to attend a ballet at the theater, last November, but it was canceled. We were thrilled that our tickets were exchanged for The Nutcracker. Though it might seem late in the season for a Christmas ballet, Georgians don’t actually celebrate Christmas until January 7th, and New Years, until January 14th, according to the Orthodox calendar. 

When we entered the theater, we were shown to two terrific seats, in the center, and up an incline, which we had specifically picked out, for a perfect view of the stage. While we waited for the performance to start, we took in the classicly decorated surroundings of the theater, from the crystal chandeliers to the balconies on each side, that had ornately carved, gold painted railings. 

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on a classic Christmas fairy tale, from 1816, by E.T.A. Hoffman, called, “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”. In this ballet adaptation, directed by, Nina Ananiashvili, with musical accompaniment by the Opera House of Georgia, conducted by, Papuna Ghvaberidze, a young girl named Marie, is given a Nutcracker doll by her Uncle Drosselmeyer. She goes to sleep on Christmas Eve and dreams that her Nutcracker doll comes to life as a prince, and they sail away on a magic boat to a kingdom at the top of the Christmas tree. 

The Ballet was captivating, with a flawless performance by the dancers, beautiful music, creative costumes, and stunning scenery. We enjoyed the Ballet so much that when we return to Georgia, we’ll definitely attend another performance at the Georgian Opera Theater, in Tbilisi. 

A Getaway to Mtskheta

On January 15th, we took a minibus from the Didube Station to Mtskheta, a small city 20 km from Tbilisi, that has been inhabited, since before 1000 BC. Mtskheta is located on an ancient trade route, where the rivers Mtkvari, and Aragvi, come together. It is believed by archeologists to have been a major trading post, because of the glass perfume bottles, Greek and Aramaic writings, pottery, metalwork, and jewelry, that was unearthed in this location, that was once the capital of the early kingdom Iberia, ( today’s Eastern Georgia).

After we met our host and got settled in our room at the guest house, we explored the small city including the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a burial site for Georgian kings, and the site where it is said that the shirt of Jesus was buried. When Georgia announced Christianity as it’s official religion in 326 AD, the first Christian King Mirian built a church over the grave, where Christ’s shirt is buried. The biggest cedar tree pillar, of the seven that he used to build the church, hung in the air and was said to have magical powers, to cure diseases. The Cathedral was later given the name of this life-giving pillar called, “Sveti Tskhoveli”.

On Wednesday, we had breakfast at Ornament Xpress, that serves a great pumpkin soup. When we finished our delicious meal, we walked over to the center of town, where we hired a taxi for 20 Lari, which is about $7.00, to take us to Jvari, The Mtskheta Cross Monastery. Jvari, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is built on a hill, near Mtskheta, overlooking the two rivers, Mtkvari, and Aragvi. There are other church ruins on the hill, but Jvari Cathedral that was built between 586 and 605 AD, is the most prominent, intact, religious building, in this location. It was a lovely, clear, almost balmy day, and perfect for visiting the Cathedral, and taking in the gorgeous view from the hill. 

On Thursday morning, the day we were leaving Mtskheta, there was a rare snowfall. We stopped in at Ornament Xpress for our last scrumptious, meal, before they called us a cab to take us back to Tbilisi. 

I hope you enjoyed reading my post about our January activities in Georgia. Now I want to update you on my goal incentives for the year.

Being More Tolerant

This month, while working on my goal for being more tolerant, I learned there are some things I have to accept because I can’t change them such as the way they allow cars to park on the sidewalks and the way the traffic laws are not enforced, here in Georgia. Rather than internalizing the negative feelings these situations cause in me, I’ve learned not to let them bother me. In other cases, I can take an action to change a situation, as long as it doesn’t hurt me or someone else. In the case of our gym being too hot, because they allowed the employees to regulate the heat, according to their own comfort level, we couldn’t tolerate it and decided to change gyms in early January. We’re now going to Aspria Gym, where we were told that the manager is the only one to regulate the heat. We were assured that the temperature won’t go above 24 Celcius, and so far, it hasn’t. I believe it’s important to treat yourself well, and if you can change a situation to fulfill your own needs, and it’s done in a respectful manner, I think you should.

To Be More Adventurous

This month, I have also been working on a goal to be more adventurous. We are leaving Georgia in March, and on our way out, we are planning to stop in a town called, Tskatubo, to visit Sataplia Nature Reserve, where they have dinosaur footprints and the Sataplia Cave. We’ll also be visiting Prometheus Caves in a town called, Kumistavi. If that doesn’t sound adventurous enough, we are also going to Banja Luka, Bosnia, this spring, to do some whitewater rafting, and horseback riding.

I want to thank all of you who follow my blog. I have to admit, that at times, I’m plagued with self-doubt, but it’s your kind words, and encouraging comments, that keep me moving forward.  

Until next time

Christina, The Traveling Diva

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