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28 July 2011 / leggypeggy

The unsung museum of Gori

The knights of Gori seen from the fortress.

We spent part of a day in Gori, Georgia. For our morning exercise, we climbed to the ancient fortress in the centre of town. Admission was free, the views were great and the giant binoculars worked.

Apparently a fortification has been located on this hill since ancient times and an early one is believed to have been besieged by Pompey in 65 BC. Most of the current building dates from the Middle Ages.

A knight up close.

From above we saw a circle of eight statues—all knights, all seated, some missing heads and limbs. Initially we assumed they had been vandalised, but when we reached them we realised the absence of body parts was intentional. That’s the way the sculptures were made.

Then we did what the Lonely Planet says everyone should do—visit the Stalin Museum. Iosif Jughashvili—later Joseph Stalin—was born and attended school in Gori. The museum was built soon after his death and covers his life, but in only glowing terms. Admission was almost A$10 a head with an English-speaking guide thrown in.

There are three darkened galleries of photos, photos and more photos of Stalin, his parents, his buddies and various world leaders. There are plenty of documents, too, and some of the many gifts presented to him. His death mask lies eerily in state in a room by itself. Another room is a reconstruction of his first office in the Kremlin and, finally, his childhood home and his private, bulletproof railway carriage are in the garden. He had an intense fear of flying.

The guide shows us plenty of photos and tells us only the rosy aspects of Stalin's life.

Throughout the museum, there were virtually no explanations in any language other than Georgian. And the guide could/should have been better. She was knowledgeable about many aspects of his life, but she was completely silent on the atrocities that stemmed from his psychopathic behaviour. That fact that she spoke through her teeth was another downside because it made her especially hard to understand. We left a little disappointed and feeling rather ripped off.

Fortunately the best was to come. As we walked back toward the truck, a bustling Tamila accosted us in the street. Had we been to her museum? Yes, we’ve been to the Stalin Museum. No, no, not that one, she said.

Tamila then led us to where she works as a historian—the Sergi Makalatia Historical and Ethnographical Museum of Gori, hidden away on a side street with absolutely nothing to identify it. But the staff were most welcoming and ‘could you please wait a moment until our English-speaking guide is available’.

Nino explains the different weapons and the weaving they are hanging on.

What a gem of a museum. It was small, intimate, well laid out and almost everything was explained in both Georgian and English. Nino, our guide, proudly told us that she had done all the translations. She asked us to let her know if we spotted any mistakes, but she’d done a great job.

The price was great too. Normal admission is about A$3 a head, but we got a group rate so only paid about A$2.

I’m going to tell Lonely Planet to add them to their guidebook. If you’re ever in Gori, you’ll find the museum at 12 Kirion II Street, tel (+995) 8 370 72867. It’s open daily from 10am to 6pm.

See also https://leggypeggy.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/for-libby-and-other-museum-nuts-2/.

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