If you are fortunate enough to be on the Mtskheta to Ananuri road in the autumn you might witness the seasonal movement of flocks from their summer pastures to their wintering quarters. You may suddenly come upon large flocks of sheep together with goats, horses, dogs, donkeys and their shepherds as they meander (generally calmly) along the main road. Transhumance is an age-old part of agricultural practice and finding yourself in the middle of it can be strangely hypnotic. (Atom Egoyan uses this to striking effect in his film "Calendar" set in neighbouring Armenia.)
The Church of the Assumption dates from 1689. Many of the interior frescoes have been lost except for a Last Judgement. Most of the decoration, therefore, is the stone carving on the exterior walls with crosses, dragons, angels and vines, especially rich on the south side.
The Ananuri fortress stands spectacularly above a reservoir on the Aragvi River. The complex, from the 16th and 17th centuries, is actually a pair of fortresses and two churches enclosed by a curtain wall. The smaller Church of the Virgin is early 17th century and the brick interior has little remaining decoration except some badly disfigured frescoes. (For the larger Church of the Assumption, see part 2).
Alongside the lake is an excellent restaurant hidden in woodland. It is mainly aimed at groups arriving by car, because you can drive up to the hut of your choice and provide the music with your car stereo! The food is typical Georgian stuff...mtsvadi (kebabs), khingkali (spicy pork dumplings which leak juice all over your face as you eat them!), khachapuri (cheese pastry) and lots of salads, all washed down with beer or local fizzy stuff (usually tarxuna or tarragon). I have no idea about price, as I was not allowed even a peek at the bill.
Buses to Pasanuri (a vilage close to Ananuri) from Didube are quite a rara avis, so if you are in a hurry or want to save the day, it’s worth paying a little extra, hop in a Kazbegi bus and then ask to stop an hour later at Ananuri.
For the return to T’bilisi however, you’ll need to hitchhike until the first village, around 20 km, from where there are regular masrhrutkas to T’bilisi. I waited about 20 mminutes until i got the ride.
Ananuri lies on the Georgian Military Highway, so there is plenty of traffic passing the monastery, although as there is no village at Ananuri, there are no specific buses. If you don't have a car, you could hop on a bus heading for Pasanauri, Gudauri or even Kazbegi, and ask to be let off at the church. The return journey to Tbilisi would have to be done by hitching...it is a nice place to wait, although somewhat bleak in the rain I would think! The journey from Tbilisi takes just over an hour.