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October 17—Saturday

We rose early and had breakfast at the sisters’. Then Fr. John took us up the mountain, first to the spot where Grand Duke George Alexandrovich (Tsar-Martyr Nicholas’s brother) died; he was riding a bicycle and had a tuberculosis attack, and a peasant woman who happened to be there came, and he died in her arms. Then we went to a place that Fr. John really likes and has considered making a hermitage there. It is very beautiful and relatively

quiet, though logging trucks go by on occasion. He then took us back and up the mountain past the observatory and showed us from afar on the other side of the mountain where he had already built a small cabin and would like to go there to live. That area is really quiet. It is down between two mountains, and he said no one goes there. It is extremely remote and beautiful, and in the winter time there is so much snow, that you can’t get in or out. Since we had walked down to a certain place to look, and it was a very steep climb back up, Fr. John showed us a path we could walk, and he would pick us up further on down. So, we walked until we got to where the observatory is, but no sight of him. We walked further, and since we were obviously beginning to descend the mountain, we figured we had gone too far and started back. Then Fr. John finally showed up. We went back down, stopped and looked at the house where Grand Duke George had lived, which is now a convent, and went back to his house. We gathered up our things and departed for Zarzma. We rode in Fr. Zurab’s car, while Fr. John went on ahead in his jeep.
The spot where Grand Duke George Alexandrovich died. The remains of the chapel built over the spot, destroyed by the Communists
The general area in the mountains where Archimandrite John would like to build a skete.
Standing at the spot where Fr. John wants to build a skete: from left to right: Fr. Zurab, Archimandrite John, Metropolitan Ephraim and Archdeacon Andrew.
A couple of houses off to the right, where the Grand Duke's suite used to live.
The house where Grand Duke George lived. It is now a convent under the Georgian Patriarchate.
The road, as most of them are, was very bad most of the way to Zarzma, especially when we were going up the mountain. There are Moslem villagers living all around the monastery, right up to its walls. But they all love and respect Fr. George, because he is such a compassionate person and helps them in any way he can, with food, money, clothing, etc. Actually, he is known and loved for many, many miles around. Because of this, last year when busloads of people came from the Patriarchate to try to take away the monastery, the villagers came out to defend him, and will certainly do it again if necessary.

So, when we got part way up the mountain, Fr. John went on ahead to let them know we had arrived, and then we went up the rest of the way and entered the monastery. They met the Metropolitan with ringing of bells. Fr. George and the other clergy came out and met him formally with the cross, and they went into the church where the three women chanters from Tbilisi were chanting "It is truly meet". It was a very moving sight.

After this was all accomplished, Fr. George took us out the back door and showed us a cross that was standing in the court. He said it had been found because of a revelation to someone, where they were told to go and dig in their field. They found the cross and it has been dated very early (? 7-8th century). The whole area is indescribably beautiful. No photographs or video I took gets anywhere near giving an idea of actually how beautiful it is! Fr. George took us into a room below a little chapel right next to the church, where, it seems, they used to store the bones of the fathers of the monastery. There are bones there, which Fr. George reverently piled at one end of the room. He thinks there might even be another level below that one where more might be stored. He then took us around the church and showed us other things, like the winter church and a stone placed there by one king with his inscription on it (unfortunately, I don’t remember the story about it or who it was exactly).

The small chapel above the place where the bones of the fathers are kept.
A beautiful view from the back of the church, looking towards Turkey and the Black Sea.
Another view from the back of the Church, with the stone Cross which was found through a revelation.
Then we went to eat supper, where we also had a meeting with all the clergy. Fr. Alexander also showed up, so that everyone was there. I was supposed to stay in the next room with Fr. Andrew. The Metropolitan was in a building in the compound, and the other clergy were next door to him. We went and had the vigil which finished about 10:00 or so. It turned out that both Frs. Gelasi and Zurab had gotten sick, probably from the milk we drank. Fr. Zurab was sitting by the stove in the room where we ate. When I came in, I couldn’t believe how warm it was; actually, too warm for me, and it wasn’t that cool outside. I told Fr. Zurab that I would probably get sick like him if I were to sleep in a room that warm, so he agreed to stay there, and I went over to the room where the rest of the clergy were, and one layman came also. So there were five of us in one room. We all slept very nicely, though poor Frs. Zurab and Gelasi were rather ill all night and were not able to serve the next day. (Several people actually got sick, and they blamed it on the milk they served us at supper.)

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