Trans Eurasia travel

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Not far to the west of the 300 Aragveli metro station, the Metechi Palace Hotel rises above the road to the right/north; this is the base of various airlines and the German embassy. A little further west is the Avlabari Square and metro station, heart of Tbilisi's Armenian quarter. At its west end is the Echmiadzin church, named after the Armenian equivalent of Canterbury; built in 1804, it now has a crack in its east end and scaffolding inside, due to vibration from the metro trains passing underneath.

To the left, Meskhishvilis leads towards the massive new Sameba (Trinity) Cathedral on Mount Elia, begun in 1995 and finished in 2004. Regarded as an eyesore by many people, it is equally venerated by many others, who cross themselves whenever they glimpse it on the far side of the city. It was built on the Armenian Khojavank cemetery, which was treated with a scandalous lack of respect. It's the largest religious building in the Southern Caucasus, with an interior area of 2,380m2. It's certainly way out of scale for a Georgian church, even though it's in an exaggerated traditional Georgian style; a long esplanade with fountains leads past a belfry to the cathedral with a sort of triple-decked west end. The apses are very high but the windows only reach two-fifths of the way up. The interior is still being decorated but is quite bare at the moment; there are five additional chapels in the crypt. The terminal of marshrutka 155 is outside the main entry.

Opposite the Armenian church, a flight of steps and an alleyway lead to the Chapel of the Transfiguration, set on the battlements of the Sachino Palace; although the Avlabari cliffs have long been fortified, all that remains is this chapel and a round pavilion both built in 1776 for Darejda, wife of Irakli II and then Queen Mother. They're set in an attractive garden, from which there are views stretching from the bathhouses to Tbilisi State University. The chapel has a simple, vaulted nave and sanctuary with a very low dome at the west end under a belfry with external bell ropes. There are some early 20th-century frescoes, and plenty of whitewashed areas.