A Travellerspoint blog

August 2019

Day three - the long road to Kazbegi

Thursday 29th August 2019

sunny 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.

Posted by Cath_Greig 12:31 Archived in Georgia Tagged kazbegi honey gergeti Comments (0)

Day two - getting around Tbilisi

Wednesday 28th August 2019

sunny 32 °C

Woke up earlier than my travel companions so went for a stroll. It was getting hot at 8am but the streets were quiet, no-one trying to sell day trips. Found a coffee place that was open but no Turkish coffee which is what I was hankering after. Once I was back at the apartment, the others were stirring. They are still winding down from work - something I’m not having to deal with.

After breakfasting, it was nearly midday by the time we left the place to explore. First stop - find out from tourist information about recommended tours and then take the funicular up to the radio tower. The funicular is very long and involves a stop off point halfway where people can get off to visit the nearby church. At the top of the hill which is 710 metres high, there is a Park called Mtatsminda. We hadn’t researched it so didn’t realise it actually had water slides, Ferris wheel etc at the top. It was so hot we decided to go on the log flume as we thought we’d get splashed a bit. In reality, we got absolutely soaked. My dress stuck to me like glue & it certainly cooled us down. No wonder we were told to put our bags in a locker. It was fun to watch other gullible people getting on not knowing what was going to hit them. Nick and I did the ghost train- usual stuff - and the Ferris wheel was great but quite scary as it was windy and the noise was off putting. Great views though. Tickets for the rides had to be bought individually from a box office close to the start of the rides.

Once we returned via the funicular it was time to get back for lunch and a siesta, booking a tour to Kazbegi for the following day. We were seemingly still running on UK time - 3 hours behind Georgia - so it was nearly 8pm before we ventured out again. Our destination was Fabrika via a craft beer bar called Crafted. Very friendly staff & knowledgable - the bar was off the pedestrian area of David Aghmashenebeli Avenue. This was the first street that we’d walked down where we were harassed by staff trying the get us into their cafes. It was pretty relentless and a relief to get into the relative quiet of the bar.

Fabrika is an interesting place, part hostel, part shared office/artist space, gallery etc. It was chock full of trendy young people of all nationalities. We managed to grab a table but realised it wasn’t the best place to have food so had a beer in the outside courtyard soaking up the buzzy atmosphere. We made our way back to a restaurant that we’d seen close to the Saarbrucken Bridge called Tiflis restaurant. The food was great but we managed to over order - we’re not quite used to portion sizes here yet.

Walking back at after midnight we suddenly started to gather a pack of dogs. It started on the bridge where one of the mad dogs was chasing any car that came over. No idea why it was doing that but it was really dangerous. As we walked along the river they started to follow us so we had six dogs in tow. We think they were attracted to Nick - the dog whisperer. We finally shook them off as they dropped off one by one until there were only two by the time we got to the Peace Bridge. One dog gave up on the stairs but one kept going, luckily for us, it started to follow a couple as we turned into our street. We had a vision of waking up and finding the whole pack outside the front door! It’s morning now and we haven’t checked yet so you never know...

Posted by Cath_Greig 22:00 Archived in Georgia Tagged parks tbilisi Comments (0)

Packing the bag

Day of departure Monday 26 August 2019

semi-overcast 20 °C

Today's the day that myself and friends, Nick and Lins, will be travelling to Tbilisi to start our travel adventure. Packing is one of the most difficult part of the holiday as I will be travelling back by train through various countries and temperatures and not back in the UK until mid October. What to wear?

Although evening flights can be a pain - it's been nice to have a lazy start to the day, going to the Bristol Waste reuse event and coffee at Bocabar. Lunch at home before getting a lift down to the bus station to get the coach to Gatwick.

We are now in Tbilisi and ensconced in our apartment. The journey to Gatwick was smooth & traffic free with a friendly driver. Checking in our baggage, security etc was a breeze and totally free from stress. We had a four hour wait but whiled away the time eating at Wagamama & having a quick look at the shops that were closing quite early.

Take off was delayed by an hour but was a pretty uneventful flight apart from the food they served - no veggie - apparently it was the worst airline food that Nick & Lindsay had ever eaten. It was also midnight when they served it. Thank god for Wagamama.

I didn’t really sleep on the flight - and it was 4.40am GMT - Georgia is 3 hours ahead - when we got off the plane. We had a coffee whilst working out our route into the city. Decided to get the 37 bus - it took us all the way to Freedom Square where there is a tourist information. Luckily we were five minutes away from our accommodation & managed to check in early - our host was waiting & looking out for us at the end of the street.

Despite being shattered we went out to explore after making sure our phones and local SIM card was in working order. Had a massive Katchapuri - spinach & cheese. Couldn’t eat it all although it was delicious. I think we have now got the measure of where we are in the old city, after a siesta we are raring to go and do a bit more exploring starting with the city walking tour at 6pm.

We had a wander before the tour and discovered that Hollywood is in town filming Fast and Furious 9 and the boulevard where they were filming was cut off to cars and pedestrians. Apparently Vin isn’t in town. The tour was great and our guide, Levan, was entertaining and a mine of information. We now have a better idea of where everything this. We ate at a restaurant that we’d seen earlier in the day close to our ‘home’. Good food and local wine. Also tried Chacha - a Georgian spirit made from grape skins. Pretty potent stuff. Cable cars and funicular tomorrow. There is so much to do here!

Posted by Cath_Greig 04:46 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged people home packing Comments (0)

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