Zugdidi_ugogeorgia

Tropical summers, mild winters, exotic fruit, spicy dishes and unforgettable hosts – Samegrelo is one of those places it can be hard to leave. Also known as Mingrelia or Mengrelia, this western region, warmed and watered by the Black Sea, is home to the Megrelians, a distinctive sub group of Georgians who have their own language, and traditions. The region is divided into a low-lying wetland around the major seaport of Poti and a hilly northern section, guarding the approaches to Svaneti. The area is a natural cornucopia, overflowing with mandarin groves, tea plantations, chilies, kiwi fruits and wine that tastes like garden flowers. The humid streets of Zugdidi, Samegrelo’s capital, house some of the country’s best cooks. Megrelian food, much more spicy than in the rest of Georgia, includes dishes that almost taste like curry such as bazhe and Satsivi, as well as maize and cheese sticky goodness called elargi, and a local variant of Khatchapuri that many consider the best. Alomg with sampling the local specialties, no visit to Zugdidi is complete without a trip to the Dadiani Palace Museum. Housed in an extraordinary neo-gothic pile that looks like an English boarding school with a Georgian villa attatched, this museum displays the collection of the Dadiani family, the former Dukes of Samegrelo. Along with swords, guns, antiquarian books and a shawl believed to have been worn by the Virgin Mary, the museum also contains one of only three copies of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask. The mask found its way to Georgia after Napoleon’s nephew married into the Daiani family.

Zugdidi

Zugdidi, the capital of Samegrelo region, is a city with population about 76 000 in the Western Georgian historical province of Samegrelo (Mingrelia). It is situated in the north-west of that province. The city is located 318 km west of Tbilisi, 30 km. from Black sea coast (where recently are built modern sea resorts – Anaklia and Ganmukhuri) and 30 km. from Egrisi range. The name “Zugdidi” means “big/great hill” in Laz-Mingrelian (Colchian) language.
Architectural sights of this city are Queen’s palace and Niko’s palace (now the Dadiani Palace museums, both of XIXth cent.), St. Virgin (1825-30 y.) and Mantskhvarkari (10-14 cc.) churches. There are also an old Botanical Garden (Queen’s Garden) and the city boulevard.
Historically Zugdidi was a capital of principality of Mingrelia (Odishi) until 1867, when the principality was abolished by the Russian Empire. In 1993 there was an administration of first President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Salkhino Palace

The Salkhino Palace – is another architectural landmark of Dadianis’ summer residences. The Salkhino Palace is also known as the Kvevri Palace. The palace was constructed, on a site originally occupied by a modest royal residence in the village of Salkhino near the Martvili Church, during the reign of David Dadiani’s father Levan V Dadiani (r. 1804-1840), although the building did not assume its final shape until later. Construction materials were hauled to the site by peasants using 100 pairs of oxen and buffaloes yoked to sledges.

Nokalakevi

Nokalakevi, literally meaning “the place where town was”, is a beautiful village and an archaeological site of Samegrelo. In Georgian chronicles, Nokalakevi is called Tsikhegoji – the Fortress of Kuji. According to Georgian chronicles, the fortress was built by Kuji – duke of Egrisi range and Svaneti in the 3rd c B.C. It is located in the district of Senaki. Presumably it was the place of the mythological city of Aia, capital of the Kingdom of Colchis. The Golden Fleece was said to be kept in this very place.
During archeological excavations were found several different layers of civilization on the territory of Nokalakevi. The oldest layers date back from the 8-7th cc B.C. Different valuable archeological materials were unearthed on Nokalakevi’s territory.

Martvili Monastery

In the 7th century the monastery of Saint Martyrs was built in the village of Martvili. Its base was a huge oak tree that served as a pagan idol for centuries. People used to worship this oak as a god of fertility, fruitfulness and prosperity. In the 1st century, one of Christ’s Apostles – Andrew the first, converted the natives to Christianity who then cut down the oak tree and built a church named after Andrew the First.
The church is cross-domed, and paintings on the walls date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. A two-storey cathedral was built next to the church in the 10th c.
In the Middle Ages the Martvili Monastery was a centre of culture and education. It attracted many writers, translators and philosophers.

Dadiani Palace

The Dadiani Palace, belonging to the former dukes of Samegrelo region, is located in Zugdidi town. The museum complex consists of the palaces of Princess Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani and her son Niko Dadiani (19th c.), a church, and a decorative garden laid out by the Dadianis. Niko Dadiani’s Palace is beautified by a stone balcony and an enormous ballroom (the largest in Georgia). The palace garden is planted with unique trees and bushes, brought from different parts of the world.
In 1850 with the initiative of Prince of Megrelia David Dadiani a museum was opened in their palace. It housed a collection of ancient numismatic items, European military weapons of the Middle Ages, paintings, and works of fine art.
Today more than 50 000 rare exhibits are on display at the museum. Among its collection of relics of European monarchs and imperial families there is a death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte brought to the palace by the husband of David Dadiani’s daughter, prince Ashille Muratt, grandson of Napoleon’s sister, Carolina. The museum also houses the relics of Christian saints, including the Shroud of St. Mary, which was brought to Georgia in 1453. It was first kept in the Bedia Church and then in the Khobi Church. Later, in 1533, it was brought to the palace of Levan Dadiani I. At present the mentioned Shroud is brought to the public eyes anualyy only on 15th of July during the religious ceremony.