|At night, a wonderful sight to behold!|
What is left now, what has been renovated by the Georgian government, is a wonderful display of magnificent buildings, a quiet and beautiful place to wander and wonder..
Akhaltsikhe, or New Fortress, is home to Rabath, or rabati. Very christian in medieval times, it was conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th Century, so the population of Georgians and Armenians, who already had their own set of churches, had to convert to stay alive.. So in Rabati, the recent renovation work has rebuilt surrounding houses all adorn with beautiful balconies, and restored the fortress to a splendor unequaled in Georgia. You will see a synagogue, a mosque, a catholic church, the pacha's chamber...and so much more. It is spotless, polished and, no, don't step on the grass! Some houses at the entrance have also gone through extensive renovation.
The grounds are young still, since the renovation dates from 2011, but as the trees mature, it will certainly be a sight/site to see.
Rabati is also the home of a National Museum of History that hosts fantastic pieces. Pottery dating from centuries ago, and millenia, too! A page from a 16th Century rendition of the man in the Panther's skin, from Shota Rustaveli, and articles of clothing too magnificent to describe. Absolute must see! The one unfortunate thing is: no pics allowed and no postcards..bummer!
It could look like a Disney project to most, and the new buildings look out of place somewhere, but it does bring some interesting beauty to a region that has been hurting for a long time. There is a very expensive hotel in Rabati, but you can find rooms to rent with acceptable standards right below the fortress. On the way out of town south of Akhaltsikhe, try the rooms on the river. Basic, but clean. The owners also operate a car wash. Negotiate the price...
The best way to see all of Rabati is as follows:
Buy tickets to see Rabati in the evening; see the outside perimeter. Rabati has an outside area, but inside the fortress. It consists of the first "level of defense". There is plenty to explore. Then wait for the lights to come on at sunset. The fortress doesn't close ever, because it holds a hotel, so there is plenty of time to take beautiful pictures or relax on the terrace of the restaurant. The prices are reasonable..
In the morning, come back in. You can enter the center of the inner fortress at 9am. The restaurant serves a nice khatchapuri and 2 coffees for only 10GEL (7$ or less.2013 prices).
Then, it takes an average of 2 to 3 hours to see the buildings, depending on how high you decide to climb. Going all the way to the top of the tower is not easy, but it is worth the effort.
You will learn tolerance as you go, or confirm your belief, as people from all faiths visit Rabati.
Really a cool place.
nb: the road from Akhalstikhe in direction of Batumi is VERY rough from Akhaltsikhe to 50 km west. Do not navigate in winter or around the rainy season. After Rouhlo, the road is ok..almost..It is better to go up to Khasuri by way of Borjomi to reach the Black Sea. Not faster, but safer..
Not far from Akhaltsikhe is Vardzia..