I hope taking so long to write this post has built the suspense up for my dear 30-ish readers, so without further ado, here is an account of my adventures in Kazbegi, Georgia.
|Kazbegi from above|
We found the marshrutka in Didube (see my previous Georgia post for a detailed description), Tbilisi's transportation hub, in the morning and came back in the evening for the journey. When we first scoped it out in the a.m. we met a man who gave us a business card for a guesthouse in Kazbegi run by his brother. I politely pocketed the card and forgot about it, since we already had a Lonely Planet-advised game plan for finding a guesthouse. When we returned to Didube later, the man found us again and said his brother would meet us off the marshrutka. This time we had to forcefully decline. I finally conceded to call him if we had any trouble finding our planned guesthouse, that he would be our backup plan. Turns out his persistence led to one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
When we arrived in Kazbegi, we hopped off the marshrutka into a light drizzle and much colder air than in the lowlands of the capital. Waiting for us there was, of course, the brother whom we had told not to come. I am certain my Russian had been clear and firm on the point that this hostel was not our first choice, but these guys didn't let up! We managed to bargain the cost down to 15 lari (about $9- which we later learned was the lowest price they had ever taken in travelers for!) a night including breakfast. The weather was getting worse, he had a new, clean Jeep standing by, and the Belarussian girl intimated that we wouldn't find a better price in town, so we finally agreed and let ourselves be swept off to the guesthouse. I will spare you the details of the house and the people, honestly, it kills me not to describe you ever blade of grass as is embedded in my memory, but I know my reader better than that and I doubt half of you even made it this far, so I'll get to the juicy bits.
The reason this was such a stunning experience is two fold: firstly, the backdrop was straight out of a fairytale. Warm days, cool nights, an idyllic town full of horses, goats, sheep, and herding dogs nestled in the cradle of the mighty Caucasus the way a cracked egg sits in the nest of gooey bread and cheese in an Adjarian khachapuri. Secondly, the people were and are phenomenal. Every person we met, without exception, opened their homes and hearts to us. Everyone wanted to feed us and talk to us and just communicate. In such a small, insulated town there is not much to do other than "guesting" and having foreigners, especially outside the tourist season as we were, was an exciting event. This was proven on the first night when a steady stream of neighbors, cousins (they all seemed to be related somehow), and friends dropped in to either talk to us if they knew some Russian or more likely just sit on the couch across from us and stare with a nervous smile as Kaley and I scarfed down a delicious dinner. Our hosts, Nata and Mito, treated us not like hotel guests but like family staying from out of town. We had our own section of the three-building complex with our rooms and a bathroom, but the living room and kitchen were shared with the family. They have two sons and several other children who frequent the house, the most adorable puppy in the world, Nagaz, 40-ish sheep, and a horse. Nata makes fresh bread and gets butter from her neighbor, she wishes they would buy a cow because a cow is a sign of a good household, she teaches Georgian at the local school as well as running the guesthouse. She was so patient with Kaley and I as we stuttered out Georgian phrases, and we were able to converse comfortably in Russian. The people in that community were overflowing with warmth and light and kindness. They interest in us was genuine, not just surface curiosity, and made us feel so welcomed and wanted I can still feel the imprint of their love on me.
We had 3 days packed with adventure, so here's a breakdown of the events:
Day 1: Arrive to Kazbegi, eat bread and butter and cheese and tomatoes and cucumbers until we're sick, get to know Nata, watch Georgian television, practice English with David (Nata's oldest son), and get carefully inspected by about 10 neighbors.
|Yard of the Guesthouse|
Day 2: Hike to Gergeti Monastery (meet a gang of motorcyclists who are traveling around the world- of course the Georgian of the group invites us to travel a bit with them and we politely decline), make the 2.5 hour hike up the long way through foot-deep mud, pastures, and a graveyard. This trip also saw the birth of our slogan "If cows can do it, we can do it!" because as we huffed and puffed up the mountain we saw cows grazing nonchalantly and their patties marked even the steepest sections of trail, so those mountain cows became our inspiration. In the afternoon, discover Nagaz and love him silly, then convince David and his cousin David to give us a ride on their horses. Unfortunately, our David's horse was grazing somewhere in the mountains unknown to him at the time, so we rented another horse from another friend/cousin (I forget exactly how much, but really cheap), and the two David's took us up to a recently built quaint church called Ilya where most locals go to worship. We laid in the open, grassy fields for a while, before galloping back down the mountain!
|Cows doing it|
|Mito wanted a "fotki-motki" before the Sno Valley hike|
|Ice cascade |
(I was at the bottom of it, but it's kind of an optical illusion, looks like it goes up and down, doesn't it?)
|I was not impressed by the sudden hail storm|
|That's the Russian border station|
|Nagaz being adorable|
PS- Don't forget to check my Facebook in the album "If Cows Can Do It, We Can Do It" (now the title makes sense, right?) for all my Georgia pictures!