Sunday, January 9, 2011

Classic Castles # 3 - Gori, Georgia

The oval-shaped fortress of Gori stands high on a rocky hill in the centre of the Georgian city of the same name. The current structure dates from the 13th century, though the hilltop site is thought to have been fortified since the 1st century BC. Locals claim the fortress was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century AD. In the 16th century it was captured by the Ottoman Turks, and the fortress changed hands many times in the following centuries with periods of control by the Georgians, Turks and Persians.
The territory of Georgia was annexed by the Russians in 1801, and the Russian army kept a garrison of soldiers in the castle. By the mid-19th century the fortress had been abandoned, and it slowly fell into ruin. A major earthquake in 1920 caused significant damage to the structure. The castle interior has not been preserved, and today there is little to see inside the walls.
However, the steep climb up to the fortress is well worth the effort for the superb view it provides across all of Gori and the green countryside beyond. The castle is permanently open to the public, and there is no admission fee. The trail leading to the top begins on the side of the castle closest to the central square, so if you are approaching it from the bus/marshrutka station you will need to walk around the base of the hill to the other side.
Gori is connected by bus and marshrutka with most other major cities in Georgia. It is possible to visit Gori as a daytrip from Tbilisi, taking a marshrutka there and back. Trains also connect the city with Tbilisi and the Black Sea coast, but they are infrequent and slow and not really a convenient way to travel, particularly to Tbilisi. Gori's other major attraction for tourists is the Stalin museum, dedicated to the life of the Soviet leader who was born in the city.

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