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Trip Start Aug 20, 2006
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Flag of Georgia  ,
Sunday, October 26, 2008

          Yesterday I went to a village called Kazbegi. The Caucusus are even more beautiful than I have dreamed them to be. The bus ride itself was worth it (even after the driver stuffed bags of potatoes in every extra inch of space in the minibus, including where our feet should have been). The road is the Georgian Military Highway, and it basically heads straight up from Tbilisi to the border with Russia (and beyond, if the border was open). As the ride started, we could see the smaller hills surrounding Tbilisi (think Appalachia-size) and then moved on through the many ruins of forts/churches/monastaries/etc. A man-made lake and its dam passed us by, and then we continued moving up into the mountains along the path of a river. After about two hours, the minibus cranked its gears and began moving in a vertical direction. We could see snow on the distant mountains. The gears cranked some more, we kept climbing. Then the minibus turned off, and we could only see a wall of white coming our way. Sheep. A big, friggin', herd of sheep. The minibus driver rolled down his window, shook one of the shepherds hands and started chatting as the wave of stinky, wet wool passed the window. After the wave passed, we began to climb again- until the next wave. Between intermittent climbing and exciting sheep photo opportunities, the bus finally climbed to the top of the hill where the temperature suddenly plunged. The windows fogged up, but between putting on my hat and mittens and wiping off the condensation, I could see the white snow covering the ground all around us. Snow-capped ridges surrounded the road. The bus followed along the top of the mountain we were on, then began its way through the Jvari Pass (at 2379  meters) and finally reached the village of Kazbegi (1750m up). The village and famous mountain (Mt. Kazbeg) are named for a Georgian author/intellectual. The mountain is one of the highest in the Caucusus. I'm sure it would have been lovely, if only we could have seen it through the rain... The village is on a mountain, and is surrounded by even higher mountains. The fresh air, the beautiful scenery, the sheeps skins drying on the line...ah, heavenly. The electricity wasn't working when we were there. I think it's a pretty common problem, since the cafe we visited had gas lights and gas heating in addition to the electric lightbulbs. It was hard getting our bearings in the town, since everything listed in the guidebook as an option for lunch was closed. I finally whipped out my super cool Russian skills (and hand gestures, and pictures...) when the minibus driver asked why we looked lost, and asked for a cafe. He told us of a place with shashlyk down the road, or offered to go rustle up whoever was supposed to be working at the cafe whose shut door we were standing in front of and make them fix us something. We took a walk. The place he told us to go to was lovely, even though there wasn't a shashlyk (meat on a stick) for miles around, but the cheese bread there was very tasty and the pit toilet clean. After that we went to a museum and church in honor of Kazbegi (closed, but the construction crew had left the door open so we still took a little "unorganized" tour...) and then wandered up in the direction of the church (yes, another old one) that overlooks the village. The fellow-hostelian and I decided it wasn't worth the effort long before we even really got started on the trail, but we got far enough to get some excellent pictures of the village and it's theoretical surrounding mountains...in the rain. After that we headed back (us and the potatoes) but it was overall a productive day (okay, so I didn't make any money. Productive in the "woman of leisure" sense.)

          Today I learned that they will soon be changing the Stalin museum in Gori into a museum of "Russian Occupation." Now, I'm sure this will make an interesting musuem. But what do you visit Gori for? Yes, that's right, an old Soviet museum on the city's son. Maybe that's just me...
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