Thursday 29th August 2019
29.08.2019 - 29.08.2019 31 °C
The day was taken up with a trip to Kazbegi. We’d booked a tour to go by minibus with a group and guide. This is a well worn route with lots of tour buses plying their way up and down as well as lorries that are making their way to and from Russia on the Georgian military highway. Reading other people’s blogs, it sounded as if the road is pretty poor and narrow but it was metalled the whole way with only a couple of sections with multiple hairpin bends.
Our guide was called Mike and due to the international clientele he had to explain everything in Russian and English. We were the only English people on board with others from Nigeria, Russia, Poland and Spain. The tour stops off at various points en route, partly to enjoy the scenery, and partly to try and get us to buy things like honey. Our first stop was at a major reservoir and then we stopped at a honey stall next to the confluence of two rivers - one dark and one lighter in colour due to the minerals held in the water. The honey was interesting, particularly as quite a few wasps had managed to die a sugary death in each sample. I liked the chestnut best although it wasn’t such a hit with the others.
Lunch was at a restaurant favoured by tour companies. The food was fine and it arrived quickly, which is probably the point. We then carried onto the ski resort of Gudauri where the Friendship monument can be found. The Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument was built to celebrate the bicentennial of the Treaty of Georgievsk and friendship between Soviet Georgia and Soviet Russia. Seems ironic considering that there seem to be ongoing tensions at the moment. It’s overlooking the Devil’s Valley and filled with a mural showing scenes from Georgian and Russian history.
A small tourist trap has built around the site with hawkers and interestingly, loads of people selling paragliding lessons flying over the valley. Nick & Lindsay would probably have done it if we weren’t on a tour. I wasn’t so enthusiastic plus my travel insurance wouldn’t cover it! Apparently, although I didn’t use it, the WC was stomach churning.
Last stop was the Holy Trinity Church, close to the village of Gergeti. We had to swap the minibus for several Mitsubishi people carriers. It was quite busy at the top & - like a mosque, you have to wrap a skirt around you and cover your head. Widow Twanky rides again. It was a small church with the usual religious icons. It’s in a stunning setting under Mount Kazbek with a monastery next to the church. Some of the people on the bus left us at Stepantsminda (the name Kazbegi is now known as). We felt that this was something that we would have liked to do because,, although we were travelling through amazing scenery, we weren’t engaging with it in the same way that you might if walking/clambering through. This is something we would like to do at upcoming places. On the way back we did one last stop at Anauari, a fortress situated by the Aragvi River, not far from Zhinvair reservoir. This was another small church the most dramatic aspect being the dog fight that kicked off with snarling and biting which was terrifying - everyone had to jump on the wall in case they got caught up in the carnage. The only way to break it up was by someone throwing a stone which broke it up.
We were back very late so we quickly freshened up before going to the nearest recommended restaurant - Gvimra - at the end of our street. The food was fine but not that exciting considering that it was pricier than everywhere else that we’ve been to so far. Once we had eaten, we just had a few metres to stagger back to get ready for bed after such a full day.