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Kakheti, the place to go for wine..first stop: IKHALTO.

Kakheti, here we go!

So much to see in this region....

Small qvevri at the entrance of Ikhalto Monastery/University

On the way to the region of Kakheti...

mixing white and black, ebony and ivory. Very cool!

the essentials for a barbecue in the field. A glass, champuris,
a box to turn over and use as a seat,
and a dish of untold goodies..
One magnificent set of grapes!
Grapes are part of the Georgian natural environment. All Georgians drink their rich wines, most families have a plot that they keep and harvest. It was only logical to see little, and large plots at this wonderful harvest time of the year. The owner was ready for a break, and invited us to share his barbecue. We thanked him, but time was short.

Let's continue with Ikhalto! pronounced "I "kh"alto
Close to the town of Telavi, Ikhalto Monastery was the first university, also called an "academy". Imagine King Irakli II and Shota Rustaveli studying there for a moment, not at the same time period, of course...What is striking in Ikhalto is the size of it, as well as what is left of the site itself. It is tiny, really, but breathes history. Newly restored, and quite nicely done, as a matter of fact. It is truly a place where you can imagine a time, long past, where it was at the top of the literary world. Truly a must-see! 

The church. Ikhalto Monastery.
True to the orthodox style, it dates from the 8th-9th Century. It was therefore already standing when Shota Rustaveli, national poet, studied here in the walls below.

The wine press above was part of the big cellar and was placed very close to the "marani", or buried cellar. You can see here the visible tops of the ancient qvevris buried below. 
Qvevris can hold hundreds of liters of wine. 
The monks in Ikhalto were masters at processing the grapes in their vineyards.
But what was studied here, besides the ancient art of wine-making? Theology, geography,astronomy, philosophy, but also manual crafts, such as pottery making, or pharmacology, and many others.

The access to Ikhalto is quite good. Watch for the sign that goes up the hill in the village of Ikhalto. Big parking up above. The site is calm, and the view is lovely. 

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