We drive away from the low lying wine country and take the main highway to Russia. It was constructed shortly after the Russian conquered Caucasus and wanted better access to area for military reason. The road is still called the military highway – but we don’t see any military vehicles driving along the road for the moment so hopefully more peaceful times has come to this corner of the world.
We head north pretty late in the day and it is dark. In the beginning of the drive we see a constant flow of big trucks heading north towards the Russian border since this is the main crossing for any trucks going between Russia on the one end and Georgia, Armenia and Iran down to the south. We also spot a lot of trucks with plates from Kazakhstan and other central Asia countries so I guess even these countries drive through Russia instead of taking the ferry across the Caspian sea to Azerbaijan and then on to Georgia.
The road is hilly and at one section we clearly drive up a fairly steep hill. It is dark so we can’t see much but the trucks are driving really slowly up the hill so we are sure the hill is steep. There are a few hotels on the top of the hill which apparently is the heart of the Georgian ski area during the winter time but this is off season – it might be colder up here but there is still no snow in sight.
We cross the highest hill of the area and then start driving down a bit towards our destination just before the Russian border. As we drive we see a couple of trucks turning out to the side of the road – I guess the drivers want to spend the night here before they cross back to Russia in the morning. We drive a bit further and suddenly there are more trucks at the side of the road. This time around it isn’t just one or two trucks – it is mile long line of truck taking up a good part of the lane we are driving on so we have to drive in the middle of the road facing the oncoming traffic. Fortunately the traffic is light at night time. Finally we pass the long line of trucks and can go to the right side of the road again which seems like the safer option.
The lane doesn’t stay clear for long. Suddenly there is another truck blocking the lane – and this truck has no lights on at all it is dark. I see it at the last minute when my headlights shine their lights on the reflex on the back of the truck. I manage to get to the middle of the road at last minute and continue the drive in the suicidal middle of the road.
Fortunately the traffic is fairly light at this time of the night and we finally manage to get to the last major city before the Russian border where we will spend the night. We find our guesthouse and spend the night getting some rest after the late drive of the evening.
We wake up the next morning and it is a nice sunny day. We are pretty high in the hills and from our window we can see the mountains in the distance. This is the highest mountain in Georgia called Kazbegi – the area around it is called the Kazbegi region as well after this dominating mountain.
The main attraction here is a church on the top of a hill – it is the Tsminda Sameba church which is one of the most famous churches in all of Georgia. During time of unrest around Georgia they would take the most important relics from other churches around the country to here for safe keeping in case the Persians or other enemies would conquer parts of the country.
We ask at the hotel how to get to the church and the manager tells us we can see the church high on a hill in the distance. Today there is a road leading up the church – but I can’t help wonder how people used to get up there in the old days. The hill is pretty high and it is several miles hike from the village below to get to the top of the church.
We drive up to the top of the hill and even fairly early in the day the parking lot at the top is pretty full. I guess later in the day more people will get here they can park on the overflow parking lot a bit further down the hill.
We get out and enjoy the view from the top of the hill. It is a pretty amazing view from up here of the village below and the high mountains to all side. We can also see the famous Kazbegi Mountain which is the highest of the area.
We go inside the famous church – but honestly the inside of the church is hardly the most interesting sight on the hill. The view is the best and the view of the isolated church on the top of the hill is fascinating as well. We don’t spend long inside the church and then just walk out and around the area to enjoy the view.