MVW Travels: Day 17, Stalin is watching you

Dateline: Gori, Georgia—16 Mar. 2017

Today was my only full day in Gori so I decided to make the most of it. I visited two museums and climbed up to a fortress.

The one thing a visitor needs to know about Gori is that the history of Josef Stalin looms large over the city.


One upsell that adds to some properties is an option to prepay for breakfast. As I didn’t know what to expect in Gori, I opted in for this stay. My main reason was so I could avoid having to wrangle up some breakfast food on my own. My Poti bananas were easy to get because the market was across the circle. That was stroke of luck.

My planning paid off, and having eggs and sausage waiting for me saved me some walking, and I never had to leave the house. This made my morning very pleasant and lazy.

Afterwards, I took my time getting a shower. A bit before noon I started out to explore.

The Stalin Museum

Stalin was born in Gori, and only lived here a short time. To put it mildly, he made his name as a revolutionary in Tbilisi and then later in Russia. The museum chronicles his life from birth to death. A majority of the artifacts came from the Kremlin after he died.

The museum building is two stories, with most of the exhibits on the second floor. It includes photos, models of the houses he lived in, statues of Stalin, and gifts he was given by the various communist countries.

On the grounds in front of the museum, the house he was born in has been preserved.

To the side is his personal train car. What’s interesting is that he “inherited” it from the Tsar he overthrew. He didn’t like to fly and traveled most everywhere by rail. The train car itself is bulletproof. The walls and windows were reinforced for the Tsar, and Stalin changed very little. One notable improvement he made was to add an air conditioning unit. The train car had everything a head of stated needed to travel and still conduct business including a telegraph room and sleeping quarters for bodyguards. The inside was very cramped and hard to get pictures of.

The tour and exhibits did a good job of presenting the history of Stalin without glossing over his brutal rule of the Soviet Union.

The Georgian War Museum

I stumbled on this little bit of history almost by accident. I saw a street sign pointing towards it, but walked right past it. As I was wandering around the city, I passed back by and saw the entrance.

This is small, lightly visited museum. I got a slight chuckle about the attendant turning on the lights after I paid the entry fee. I was the only one inside.

The exhibits start with the Soviet revolution and continue through the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. Hopefully they’ll never have to add more exhibits.

The Gori Fortess

The remains of a medieval castle sit atop a hill in central Gori. My feet were feeling slightly better today, and I decided to make the climb. The higher I went, the more the wind howled.

At one point, only a few steps from the top, the wind almost sent me for a tumble. The only saving grace was that it was blowing into my back, and I went forward. The steps in front of me saved me from a fall. Had it been blowing the other way, I would’ve landed on my butt.

There’s not much at the top other than a police box and spectacular views of the surrounding city. I don’t know if the two policemen in the box were lucky to have the duty or not. I doubt much happens that needs their attention. But it was nice to know that help was in the neighborhood, if needed.

The trip down the hill was much shorter than what I remembered about going up. Funny how that works.

My feet will pay for the climb, but I decided that it’d be worth it for the photos. I have no idea when I’ll be back, and would’ve kicked myself for not going up there.

Back at the house

As the afternoon moved towards evening, the temperature started to drop. I was glad I was off the fortress hill. I flopped down on the bed, and enjoyed the warm room. I took the time to catch up on news from home and do a few Russian lessons. Once I felt less like an icicle, I realized I only had a cup of coffee since breakfast. I needed to go get some dinner.

I tried a deferent market than I did last night. An apple and a sweet bun was my choice. Back at the house I found out just how hungry I was. I also made some coffee and spent more time hugging the cup than I did drinking it.

The family of the house came home and I had a nice conversation with my host’s wife. She spoke very good English and I really need to get better about getting names.

What's next?

I’m going back to Tbilisi by minibus in the morning. My only plan for the day is to get to my next stay and relax for the afternoon. The minibuses are a crap shoot for what sort of ride I might get. Hopefully I won’t have someone’s grandmother sitting on top of me.

Use the MVW Travel tag to see all the posts in this series.