Well, I’m definitely behind in posting now, but this has been a quiet weekend so perhaps I can catch up soon.
The weekend after the Telavi trip (the second weekend in October), I joined several of the ETA and TLG girls for a day trip to Kazbegi. Kazbegi is a district in Georgia on the Russian border just a few hours north of Tbilisi, and Mt. Kazbek is one of the the highest mountains in Georgia and known for its incredibly picturesque views.
The plan was to meet in Tbilisi on Friday night, and then get up early on Saturday morning to meet our driver and head out of the city. Our driver was the brother-in-law of Jess’s host mother and he gave us a great deal. He also turned out to be a fantastic “tour guide,” as he knew all of the good places for us to stop between Tbilisi and Kazbegi. We made a quick detour to Dunkin’ Donuts in Liberty Square on our way out of town (we wanted/needed to-go coffee), and then were on our way.
Our first stop was Jvari Monastery, which was built in the 6th century. The highway between Gori and Tbilisi runs right past the monastery, so I’d passed it many times but hadn’t visited it yet. It was very cold and windy, but definitely worth the stop for the view.
When we left the monastery, we headed to Mtskheta, the city we could see from Jvari. Mtskheta is considered to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, the former capital of Georgia (well, the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia, from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD), and the birthplace of Christianity in Georgia. It’s also the headquarters for the Georgian Orthodox Church. We walked through the city and visited Svetitskhoveli Cathedral before continuing on.
Our next stop was Ananuri, a 17th century “castle and church complex” on the Aragvi River. Both the buildings and the surrounding nature were really beautiful.
After Ananuri, we continued on towards Kazbegi, stopping again soon for lunch. We sat outside at a typical Georgian restaurant where we had the usuals: khinkali, khachapuri, mtsvadi, shoti, soup, and wine. I’m not usually a big soup eater, but since I’ve been here, I’ve had one great soup after the next, mmmm. 🙂
We only made one more stop between lunch and Stepantsminda (the small town at the foot of Mt. Kazbek), at a monument just off the Georgian Military Highway. I haven’t been able to find much information about this monument, but the different names I’ve seen it called on others’ blogs give you an idea of what it’s about:
- The Soviet-Georgian Friendship Monument
- The Russian-Georgian Friendship Monument
- The Russo-Georgian Friendship Monument
- The Friendship Memorial, 1783-1983
The only website where I could find any information about it at all simply said that it was built in the 1980s (1983, perhaps?), so we’ll just leave it at that. (Though if you know more about it, please share in the comments)!
The monument was certainly interesting, but what was really spectacular was the view:
After spending some time climbing around and taking pictures, we continued on to Stepantsminda, the small town near Mt. Kazbek.
We had originally planned to hike from Stepantsminda to Gergeti Trinity Church, a beautiful church above Stepantsminda that sits in front of Mt. Kazbek, but it was already 4:00 and much, much colder than we had expected or dressed for, so we decided to drive up instead. We switched vehicles to something that could handle the road, and headed up. When we got to the top, after a very bumpy and twisty-turny ride, we were sad to discover that the view (or lack thereof) was very different from what we had expected and looked forward to!
The fog was so thick that we couldn’t see anything at all. The view that the area is famous for, looks like this (photo from Wikimedia Commons):
But, instead, all we could see was this:
Of course, the fog lifted a bit as we were driving back toward Tbilisi:
In the end, it was a little disappointing to go all the way there and not see the church or mountain at all, but we still had a great time anyway, and I’m definitely planning to go back in the spring when the weather is warmer and the sun is shining.