One of the most interesting parts about traveling overland is seeing how neighboring countries and cities directly compare to each other. As you go east to west you see cultures and people groups change. You watch as wardrobes slowly morph into the next wardrobe and taste as the foods gradually add flavors. One thing that has been of most interest is watching the religion change. In fact one day I hope to be able to publish a whole book on just some of the religions of the world. We started with Buddhism in China, which actually quite suddenly and drastically changed to very conservative Islam in Xinjiang province, which then changed to more cultural islam in south Kyrgyzstan, to nominal and mixed islam and Russian Orthodox in North Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, then back to predominant Islam in Azerbaijan, but then a sudden and complete change to Georgian orthodox in Georgia. Minarets that once used to break the skyline and calls to prayer have been transferred to crosses on every building and church bells ringing on certain hours. The women continue to wear skirts and head coverings and the men continue to wear robes and funky hats. Countries right next to each other, with such similar religious conduct, but with such different purposes.
In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, there is a church on every corner. Though throngs of tourists step in and out of these churches every day to observe the art and architecture, there are also dedicated monks, nuns, and church members in and out of the church doors performing their religious ceremonies. Incense is being waived, candles are being burnt, crosses are being kissed, scripts are being read, and religious icons are being adored. Gold fills the room as every painting is outline with golden castes of figures with only faces poking through. Colorful motifs of saints occupy the church pillars with angels painted on the walls. Every church has a floor plan shaped like a cross with a large wooden chair in the middle facing the front. This is where the archbishop of the church conducts his liturgy every Sunday morning to the masses. Throughout the week activities are going on. The priest in this photo was offering this cross to repentant sinners to cleanse them of their wrongdoings. In the corners, other priests were discussing other topics with people seeking refuge. On one side 3 young women continued chants of praise as the flow of ceremonies continued. Others were circling the church, lap after lap, reciting prayers. It was a cathedral full of life, seeking, and wonder.