Saturday, June 09, 2012

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Caucasus mountains finally

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:52 PM
No skirmish about leaving Tbilisi but unwilling to leave the wonderful Holiday Inn. First stop today was the Jvari monastery with breathtaking views of the town of Mtskheta, the capital of eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia, the town of confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. Next we went to the walled cathedral Svetiskhoveli, beautifully nestled among hills. Gorgeous cathedral in a gorgeous setting. The day was bright, sunny and refreshing. Then we saw some wonders. The confluence of a dark and a white river. You can literally see the dark and white waters converging. Then a place with no name, a side of a hill, with orange iron rich rocks with water running down but it's absolutely non slippery. It's beautiful but I dont know what made them non-slippery when water was running on them. Must check with our geologist friend Dr O'Reilly. We followed the winding Georgian Military Highway up hill, past the ski resort town of Gudauri, where in Soviet times must have been bustling but today it's deserted and looked abandoned and unkept, past the Friendship Memorial and came to the Jvari (cross) Pass at 2395m, absolutely freezing, and arrived very cold at Kazbegi (also known as Stepantsminda - town named after saint stephan), a resort town along the Georgian Military Highway, surrounded by majestic Caucasus mountains. Finally, the Caucasus! They are what the Hippo came to Georgia for. We stayed at the Ilia State University Alpine Ecology Institute, with very basic accommodations, and very slow internet, but the homemade food was simple and delicious.

Before dinner we explored town. A local museum, which was the poet Alexandre Kazbegi's house, a gorgeous structure with a garden where he was burried along with his parents, located just a few minutes walk from the town square by the Tergi river, and contained photos and original furniture. A local hotel by the square with the equestrian statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Some very small grocery stores (one named Google Market with the google ball colors). And a mere 4km to the Russian border. The mountaintops were covered in snow and fog and no views of the Kazbek mountain, one of the 5000+ ft mountains in the Caucasus, the third highest mountain in Georgia (after Mount Shkhara and Janga) and the seventh highest peak in the Greater Caucasus Mountains. In the evening, I had my tea on the university terrace, cold but at awe with the tranquility of the misty Greater Caucasus, veiled in fog and clouds. heaven!

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