Kazbegi, Georgia: Chacha after Church

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Georgia  , Mtskheta-Mtianeti,
Friday, September 27, 2013

After spending so long in Batumi, and knowing we'd have another long city stay in Baku, we decided to take leave from the city and get some mountain air in a place called Kazbegi (its now actually called Stepantsminda but everyone still refers to it as Kazbegi).

Piling into a Marshrutka (Georgian mini bus) and I mean PILING in we managed to find space, albeit minimal, at the back squashed in the middle. With a max capacity of 17 people we managed to squeeze in 21 before hitting the road. Exhibiting driving not dissimilar to that of our mad driver from Poti we soon realised it wasn't a one off occurrence - all drivers in Georgia are crazy!!

After three hours we arrived safely in Kazbegi - a small little town built at an altitude of 1740m in the Greater Caucasus mountains. Getting off the bus we were greeted by a few local women offering accommodation so we accepted and followed a lady back to her home come B&B. Spacious, separate bathroom, mountain views, dinner, breakfast, nice lady. What more could we ask for. She was even listed in the Lonely Planet.

Not wanting the sun to dip and have shadows cast across the very reason for us being there, we dumped our stuff and headed straight back into town to grab some food before setting off towards what most, if not all, tourists go to Kazbegi for - the Gergeti Trinity Church. Located at an altitude of 2170m it is reached by various hiking trails and/or by dirt road and car. As much as the little voice inside my head was trying to convince me that "just get a taxi, walkings boring" I suppressed it and marched off up that hill.

Not bothering to get a map cause "nah, you can see it just up there, how hard can it be?" we wondered aimlessly through the village, in the general direction of up, before bumping into two more hikers coming down. Thinking it best to ask for directions we did so "that's a direct route up but steep. That ones long but easy". So of course being the fitness freaks we are we decided on the steep short route.

It wasn't so bad and we had the company of a couple of local kids throwing pine cones at us whilst yelling "hey, what your name? What your name?" followed by Sam's "stop throwing things you little shits". They soon got bored and disappeared back to their father chopping wood or something of the like.

The hike, or rather our hike, took us through pine forrest, past cows, cars and across the dirt road. A twist here, a turn there. Oh and I forgot to mention that we completely forgot to bring any water. See, told you we were professional hikers. After one last ditched steep clamber we emerge in a clearing to see other people merrily following the yellow dirt road up to the prised church. Boring! Our walk was much more fun.

The church itself was.... well a church built in the 14th century. Not being that fussed on religion I can kinda take them or leave them. This one however just happened to be sat in the palm of a beautiful snow capped mountain range headed up by Mt Kazbegi itself. Wow, stunning! No matter which direction you looked the scenery was breathtaking. Similar to Switzerland but more harsh. Less of the rolling green hills and more rock and scrubland. Ruggedly beautiful.

The hoards of slackers who drove up thankfully buggered off when we arrived so we were left to wonder the surrounds undisturbed bar a few others, two of whom were the people we were squished in between on the bus. A French Canadian guy and Japanese girl. I love Japanese always so polite and friendly. Not that I have anything against French Canadians, he was polite and friendly too. So we strolled with them for a bit, talked about where they were coming from and going to, then departed and went our separate ways.

We chose a snaking path on the opposite side of the church to descend on. Met a couple of cows along the way. Chatted, complained about my toe pushing through the front of my shoe, had near slip and falls on pine needles and thought about the thirst quenching beer waiting for us at the end. There was a water fountain outside the church but all we could see was a cascading stream of Giardia so stayed well away.

Back in town it was great to look up and see the church sat high up on that hill. It was a lovely hike and only took 2 1/2 hours in total, walk in the park really. On our way to get our reward we walked past quite possibly the fattest cow ever. She was so huge her little legs looked like they were struggling to hold her up. Quite hilarious to watch her waddle across the street.

On the edge of the square we found a nice place with wifi and friendly staff so settled in there for one... two.... three... four..... a couple of free shots of chacha's (grape vodka) thrown in by the staff for good measure... five.... six. All I know is by the end of the evening we were all the best of friends listening to some god awful music and having a great time. I vaguely remember having to get up in the morning to catch a three hour bus back to Tbilisi but at the time that didn't matter in the slightest.

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