I started my trip to Kazbegi just after sunrise. I want to return to Tbilisi on the same day. One-way trip takes about 2 and a half hour, plus I have to take into account the time for climbing to the famous Holy Trinity Church. I shouldn’t have problems to manage it. After getting off at Didube Metro station I went straight to the bus station. There are two ways to get to Kazbegi. Cheaper option is a marshrutka, the cost of singe tickect is 10 GEL – 3€. However, I took a little bit more expensive option – private bus for 15 GEL – 4,3 € one way (supposedly it’s currently 20 lari – data from 2019), as in the price are included two sightseeing stops. You don’t have to look for drivers, they find me, like everywhere in Georgia.
We’re leaving Tbilisi to E117 road called – Georgian Military Highway. It used to be a trade route connecting the North Caucasus with the South. The name Georgian Military Highway, was intoroduced in 19th century, when it was expanded and strengthened by the Russians to transport the army to the area of Caucasus. Those times are over, no war activities are being carried out here now, while the moods remain warlike. I’m mainly talking about drivers who carry out blood-freezing maneuvers on this road.
Georgian Military Road is one of the most beautiful routes in Eurasia. On the 200 km section, it crosses the Great Caucasus from Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz. What’s more interesting, this is the only way we can get to Russia. The only legal border crossing is located just 12 km from my destination – the village of Kazbegi.
Georgian War Road is famous for its breathtaking views and rises to a height of over 2300 meters. However, regardless of the landscape outside the window, I’m still ot of breath watching the show on the road from the back seat. The driver has preapared a lot of attraction: overtaking on bridges and sharp corners, I won’t mention exceeding speed limits. I don’t know if you feel the gavity of the situation? If not? I’ve just forgotten to mention that the steering wheel is on the right side. Each overtaking maneuver is preceded by a special ritual. It starts with a making a sign of the cross, then he takes a look at the passenger sitting on the left, at first glance it may seem that the driver expects confirmation that he can overtake, but as a matter of fact the decision has already been made. The worst is that all users on this road just seem to belive in destiny.
I’ve survived half of the way, first stop, what a relief… I can see crystal clear Żinval lake, located fabulously between the mountains with Ananuri fortress at the top. It can be seen on many marketing materials, advertising tourism in Georgia.
After a short stop to take pictures and see the fortress, I’m getting into the viehicle with my heart in my mouth. This time it’s worse, the road is getting narrower, winding and higher and higher. This is not a game anymore, the driver is making the sign of the cross all the time. After another 60 kilometers, just behind the famous Gudauri ski resort, safe and sound we are reaching the monument of Russian-Georgian Friendship, it’s not a joke….
It was erected in 1983 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the friendship treaty between Georgia and Russia. It’s worth stopping here not so much for a monument but for amazing views.
Short stop for photos and I have to face Mr. Final Destinantion again. Fortunately, this time we have only 30 kilometers to cover to get to Kazbegi, actually Stepancminda. Kazbegi’s name comes from Soviet times, it was given in 1925 to commemorate Gabriel Kazbegi, who helped suppress the anti-Russian revolution in Georgia. Therefore, in 2006 the authorities decided to restore the town’s original name Stepancminda, given in honor of St. Stephen.
The town itself isn’t special, but it’s a starting point to Georgia’s most popular attractions: the Holy Trinity Church also known as Cminda Sameba or Gergeti Trinity Church and famous Mount Kazbek.
You can get to the church by 4WD car from a parking lot in the city centre, this pleasure costs 10 lari. I decided to take a walk. Trekking is not demanding, the road leads through the forest, there are sharp approaches, but you can easily go without special footwear. The entire route takes around 2,5 to 3 hours.
The marvelous church from the 14th century is located at a height of 2170 m. This is where sacred relics were hidden in unstable times. If you want to visit the church, remember to wear modest clothes: long skirt or pants, head scarf and covered arms are mandatory.
For sure the most impressive is the location of the church between the high peaks, with magnificent Kazbek in the background. It is one of the highest peaks of the Caucasus and it reaches over 5000 m. This is a dormant volcano, although it didn’t look like dormant during my visit 😉
It is the amazing landscape that makes this place unique. It’s best to spend in Kazbegi more than just one day, because there you can find a lot of more attractions. However, being in Tbilisi, even one day here will be unforgettable experience.