At the foot of the Mount Kazbek

At the foot of the Mount Kazbek

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The town of Kazbegi, officially named Stepantsminda, is the last village located on the Georgian military road. With a population of less than 2000 inhabitants, it is a township where many of the streets are not made of asphalt. Without a market square and lacking a touristy style, after the destabilization of the country in 2008 it again began to attract tourists, most of whom are Poles.  All this thanks to its picturesque location and the view it offers to mount Kazbek – a potentially active volcano and the third highest mountain in Georgia.
In Kazbegi you will meet two groups of people:  Those who prepare themselves for the mountain expedition up to Kazbek summit, and those who just want to take a look at the mountain from the valley point.  We’ve joined second group.  In addition there is a flagship and place of Georgian worship – the towering Gergeti monastery.  Over the past few years it was uninhabited, but recently one priest moved in as a volunteer, despite the hard or nearly impossible access to the monastery during the winter.
kosciol
Hitchhiking toward Kazbegi we found rather easy.  Even though it’s the last town before the Russian border we got a ride quite fast.  Since we didn’t book anything in advance, we were hoping that the locals would recommend an affordable place to stay overnight.  Our driver Zaza, had another plan.  While driving, he called all the guest houses, found proper place for us and he even got us a 20% discount.  He would probably have invited us to his place if he wasn’t a guest himself.  But we got invited for a dinner.
Georgian cuisine is really tasty, but it would be untrue to say that it is diversified.  Cheese is the main ingredient, present in almost every single dish, along with many varieties of shashliks and almost lack of vegetables makes this cuisine really heavy.

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We were pleasantly surprised we had tried “Imeruli” several times before, but this time it was done slightly different, beside crucial ingredients it was added chopped nettle which made dish fresh and light.
The next day, after a whole night of celebration of Polish – Georgian friendship, nothing could move Iza out of the bed.  I woke up early and was began to worry about our water situation, as our supply was low (back then I did not realize how common it is in that part of the world for water to simply disappear for an indefinite period of time) so I decided to find an ATM.  Since we grew up spoiled by European civilization, we hadn’t thought it over and we didn’t bring enough money, hoping to find an ATM.  As a result, this was not that easy.
There are just three ATMs in the town –  one in the center, which did not work when we got there, the other we couldn’t find (apparently it was in some office) and the last one was in a fancy hotel at the top of the hill.  I was not that eager to climb up there, but the fact that we had no water and no prospects for breakfast I was convinced that hiking was our only chance to see mount Kazbek. When Iza finally got up, the whole mountain was behind the clouds and remained this way for the following two days :)
Around 1 pm we decided to reach the smaller peak where the Gergeti Monastery is situated. There are two trails that lead up to the highest point, one moderately difficult and one which is  gravel road for cars, which is about 2km longer.
When we made it to the top, the clouds were hanging all around us, it was a stunning sight to behold!   We were a bit envious of the other travelers who had arrived the day before and had set up tents and were able to watch the sunset and sunrise from this location, but we were happy to have made it.  We stood there a while admiring mountain peaks…and the cars parked just outside the main entrance of the monastery. Unfortunately in Georgia, nobody pays much attention to such details.
panorama

Iza&Wiola
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We've met each other during classes the least associated with our faculty at the university and it couldn't be an accident. Silly grinning at our English teacher telling about his hitch-hiking adventures, we haven't known yet that we will begin to travel together. The series of unfortunate events made us share a tent, a camera and memories. Now almost nothing can stop us from hitch-hiking.

Iza&Wiola
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