We drove down from the Caucuses Mountains to the valley and the city of Gori, birthplace of Josef Stalin.  Our first stop was Stalin's museum, on which construction began while he was still in office.

Stalin's birthplace, a small house, has been conserved, after all the surrounding houses and streets were torn down and a pavilion placed on top of the house.

Much of the museum collection is composed of newspaper articles and other papers and photos of Stalin, his career and his family.The guide matter of factly described him growing up, rebelking against the Czar, taking office and presiding over the killing of hundreds of thousands.  She was neither supportive nor critical, just giving us information to make our own judgements.

The centerpiece of the museum is the bust made from the wax impression of Stalin just after his death.

Outside the museum was the rail car that Stalin used for traveling around the country and the world -- he did not like flying.  Befitting a communist leader there was nothing ornate about, strictly functional.

Not far from Gori we found Uplistsikhe (literally “Lord’s Fortress“), an abandoned rock-hewn town, which once have played an important role in Georgian history. It was founded in the late Bronze Age, around 1000 BC, and continued to be inhabited until 13th century AD. Between the 6th century BC and the 11st century AD,  The caves we visited earlier in the trip were only for monastic monks, but Uplistsike was a real town with homes, theaters, shops, bakeries, wineries and other public spaces.  Long winding passageways connected internal caves.  At its peak 20,000 people lived here.  Over the centuries the soft stone has broken and slid down the hill, destroying many of the caves but much remains -- the rooms in the first picture were formerly all caves.

After spending the night in a Stalin-era hotel we drove west to Kutaisi.  click here

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