Telavi has not yet undergone the major reconstruction like Tbilisi, Signaghi and few other Georgian cities. So this city, which back in XVII-XVIII was the capital of the principality of Kakheti and the residence of the Kakheti Kings, is presently a somewhat depressive place with just a few attractions.
Batonis-Tsikhe Fortress (“Fortress of the Ruler”), situated in the very city center, is probably the main point of interest in Telavi.
The fortress complex centerpiece is the reconstructed former Palace of the Kakheti Kings, surrounded by the defensive walls of about 5m high, with several towers along their perimeter, and two entrances – to the east and the west. The eastern entrance (the one I took) is crowned with a typical Georgian graceful balcony. The most massive towers are in the southern walls, facing a public garden stretching along Erekle II Ave.
The Royal Palace is surrounded by a small garden, not too scenic in winter yet obviously looked after. There are also two royal court churches, the ruins of the bath and the tunnel within the fortress walls.
The Palace was initially laid down by order of King Archil of the Bagrationi dynasty in about in 1667-1675, as was one of the churches, a small chapel, and a bath. Later, in the second half of XVIII century, the Palace was further fortified by Kartli and Kakheti King Irakli (Erekle) II. It was surrounded by the castellation walls, and a larger church had been built in the northeast corner of the fortress, thus being multifunctional – a royal court church and a defensive tower. The tunnel, apparently, used to serve as the secret exit from the fortress.
The territory of the fortress had been given to the Telavi History Museum. The Royal Palace now hosts historical and ethnographic collections and Ketevan Iashvili Art Gallery, a private art collection donated to the museum. Entrance to the museum is for a symbolic fee, while I had no problem walking around the garden for free.
On the square in front of the eastern entrance to the Batonis-Tsikhe Fortress, there is an equestrial statue of King Irakli II. It overlooks the road to Telavi from the hill, with the side view of the Alazani valley.
Unless you are a fortification geek like myself, Batonis-Tsikhe Fortress is hardly worth specifically going for. But if you are in the area of Telavi, which has a lot to offer (see my reviews of Alaverdi and Shuamta Cathedrals, and of Gremi Royal complex in particular), it is well worth a short stop-over.
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