When you say that something is pre-Christian in Georgia, you’re talking about something with serious age. Georgia was the second country to adopt Christianity as the state religion (in 337; the first country was Armenia in 301), and orthodox tradition states that the apostles Simon and Andrew first brought Christianity to what is now Georgia back in the 1st century AD.
So again, anything pre-Christian here is pretty darn old.
With that, let me introduce Uplistsikhe, a pre-Christian, rock-hewn town near Gori in the middle of Georgia. It is apparently one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. It was built between the 6th century BC and the 1st century AD—more than 2,000 years ago—and was home to some 20,000 people at its peak. It became the home of the Georgian kings when Tbilisi was under Arab occupation in the 7th century AD, but lost much of its importance when the Arabs were driven out in 1122. Uplistsikhe was sacked by the Mongols in 1240 and never really recovered.
How’s that for some incredible history?
To get to Uplistsikhe, I took a marshrutka (mini bus) from Tbilisi to Gori and then hired a driver to take me to Uplistsikhe (and wait for me there before taking me back to Gori). I arrived about 15 minutes before the gates opened, and there were a few other people already waiting there. Among them was an English guy, Jon, who is taking year-long sabbatical from his job as an accountant at KPMG to ride his bike all the way from England to Southeast Asia. (He’s got a blog where you can read about his adventures.) We ended up wandering around Uplistsikhe together.
Overall, the place was pretty amazing. Uplistsikhe is on the side of a mountain, and it overlooks a beautiful river valley. There are a couple railings here and there to keep you from falling over the edge of a huge cliff, but otherwise you can wander around wherever you want. That’s just one more thing that I love about Georgia.