The second day begins with a series of successes. First – we find a bakery and buy delicious, still hot bread. Second – we catch an instant ride. At first it seems that the driver doesn’t go in our direction and can give us a 5 km drive to the main road towards Tbilisi. After a short conversation, however, it turns out that the guy goes to Russia to Vladikavkaz, and he will pass through Stepancminda, which is our goal. Perfectly. The road passes quickly because we usually travel at a speed about 1.5 times greater than allowed, even on winding mountain roads. In Georgia, it’s rather a standard, the only calm rides we were getting with other tourists. Our driver is half-Georgian – half-Russian, and we learn from him various curiosities, for instance that in Russia for a thousand dollars you can buy yourself a passport 🙂
Stepancminda – a small mountain village at the foot of Kazbek – is the starting point for reaching this five-thousander, but also for trekking to the Gergeti glacier, or other mountain trails. Settled for beautiful views, we get out of the car on… cold and rain. We run to the nearest pub to change into warmer clothes and we start to search for accommodation.
We find accommodation at the house of an elderly lady, a room with a small gas heater, which turns out to be very valuable later. The rain probably took a break for coffee, so we’re going for a walk. We buy a khachapuri ajaruli (international spelling) – Georgian bread baked with cheese and – in the version of ajaruli – with an egg. Georgians joke that it’s a Georgian pizza 🙂 Maybe from the description it doesn’t sound like something delicious, but it’s super tasty. We go to the mountain with the church of Cminda Sameba – a picture from most postcards from Georgia.
In the tourist information, which is run by friendly Poles, we learn that a trip to the glacier in the current weather conditions is not possible – the trail is covered with deep snow and without special equipment, which of course we don’t possess (and probably wouldn’t be capable of using) we won’t get anywhere. Ok, change of plans. The next day, instead of going to the glacier, we’re going to the Truso valley. Quoting the guide: „The valley abounds in magnificent views – defensive towers rise against the background of steep slopes. In many places you can find mineral springs colouring the rocks. „ And that’s all true! Provided there is no fog, no mud, and no rain all day…
Having walked 3 hours in a full downpour, we don’t reach the end of the trail – a small village at the end of the valley and the fortress. We manage to stop the off-road car – Russians who visit the valley, and – fortunately – pity on us and take us to Stepancminda. We eat a delicious home dinner at the quarters, for only 15 GEL. Our host arranges a table with various delicacies, and to drink we get a huge jar of home-made wine. We wanted to buy some from her, but she said that it’s not for sale, only to offer guests. But she offers us to take this jug into our room and drink it afterwards, since we couldn’t drink everything during the dinner. We don’t have to be persuaded for a long time 🙂 After a short nap, warmed up and full of energy, we use the next rainless window and go for a walk on the hills on the opposide side of village than Cminda Sameba. And although there are no postcardish pictures there, the views are also quite pleasant:
The heater bravely warms our room and works all night to dry soaked clothes. The next day we run away from the mountains, there is no sense in getting wet in the fog, since you can’t see anything. For our next goal we choose Sighnaghi – a picturesque town east of Tbilisi. Along the way, we want to stay in a few obligatory points on the Georgian War Road. The first of them is a viewpoint on the Cross Pass. We stop there for a moment with a pair of Russians who took us from Stepancminda. For the first time in Georgia, we can speak English. It’s great to be able to just talk freely without much effort and waving hands 🙂 Next, we stop at the Ananuri fortress, another symbol of Georgia. Our Russians are going further to Tbilisi, but we stop to enjoy the fortress. It is beautifully situated above the reservoir. Of course, the weather is poor, but maybe even this lake will save the situation… Well. Below are photos: left from the Internet, right is ours
Another stop: the town of Mtskheta, a picturesque town about 20 km north of Tbilisi. Another Russian tourists take us there. We have the impression that all tourists in Georgia are from Russia or from Poland. We haven’t met others. The Jvari monastery is towering on the hill above Mtskheta, from where there is a very nice view of the city.