With five days left till the end of our trip, we weren’t planning on doing any more strenuous activities. Definitely not hiking anywhere in the Caucasus mountains near the Russian border. Not even though the leading robber baron of Svaneti (and his son), had been arrested and put behind bars in 2004. We were set on lazing about in Tblisi, maybe do our laundry, some souvenir shopping, or get a scrub in a hammam.
But when the outgoing guests at Leo’s Homestay went on and on about how great the Caucasus mountains near the Russian border were, we thought, what the heck, one more for the road.
So we hopped on a mashrutka (mini-bus) to the Tblisi bus station and then looked for another mashrutka headed to Kazbegi. The second mashrutka was full, but we found a taxi driver who offered to take us for 40 GEL (20 Euro), which was less than half the standard fare. We soon discovered that he was crazy. Apart from driving on the wrong side of the road and overtaking at blind corners, the guy made it a point to swear and menacingly point at every single cow (there were many) and dog on the road. All the way to Kazbegi.
We arrived in Kazbegi (1,750m asl) a good three hours later, a little peeved but at least still in one piece, and checked in to Emma’s Guest House run by Leo’s friend, Piqria Burduli. It was a bargain too: comfortable rooms, great views, and good food (dinner and breakfast) for just GEL35 (17 Euro) per person.
There are apparently many wonderful walks to be had in the mountains surrounding Kazbegi. We tried to do the most basic one: a two hour walk up to the 14th-century Tsminda Sameba Church situated on a hill at 2,200m asl. Here’s the rest of story in pictures: