Tag Archives: Tsminda Sameba church

One last climb up a slippery slope

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.

Kazbegi is three hours from Tbilisi on the Georgian Military Highway, which is known for its potholes. By the way, these photos were taken from the mashrutka on the way back. We didn’t take any photos on the taxi ride there as we were busy being scared shitless

The Georgian Military Highway is an ancient passage from Tbilisi over the Caucasus to Vladikavkaz in Russia. The landscape, as you can see here, is amazing

There are a couple tunnels along the Georgian Military Highway. This is the only one that is still in use

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.

In Kazbegi, which is the last town before the (now closed) Russian border. Google has set up a mini market here

Another photo of Kazbegi

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:

View from Emma’s Guest House. We tried to climb up to that church (the little dot on the hill in the middle)

Passing the small village of Gergeti to get to the foot of the hil

We got a bit lost in Gergeti. A girl and her dog then showed us a short cut

We then met some ladies who showed us another short cut

We overtook the ladies at some point

One set of legs gave up a short distance from the top. Luckily, there was space for us in a passing Lada Niva!

The view that made Kazbegi famous among backpackers. On a good day you can see mountains towering up around it, including Mt. Kazbek at 5,047m asl. Another 900m ascent from here will take you to the Gergeti glacier

The Tsminda Sameba church, which has become something of a symbol of Georgia. Beware of the dress code though: to enter, men need to be wearing long pants and women need to wear long skirts

View of Gergeti and Kazbegi from the top of the hill

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