Monday, May 6, 2013

Embracing Georgia Tour, Georgia

Dan flew home early yesterday morning while Heidi and I joined in on Envoy Hostel's Embracing Georgia tour.  This 11-hour tour highlighted the Georgian Military Highway, Ananuri, Kazbegi, Gudauri and the Gergeti Trinity church. 

The Georgian Military Highway, საქართველოს სამხედრო გზა, is a mountain route connecting Russia's Northern Caucasus and the Southern Caucasus countries.  Since ancient times, the route has been a key link between Europe and Asia.  After Russia annexed east Georgia in the 19th century, and made road improvements for troop movements, it became known as the "military highway".  It's a very rough ride but the scenic views along the war are awesome.

Our first visit was to Ananuri, ანანური, a 17th century castle complex on the Aragvi River, about 72 km (45 miles) from Tbilisi

In 2007, it was put on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zhinvali, ჟინვალი, is a town on the Aragvi River.  It is home to one of the country's largest hydroelectric power plants.

The highest point along the highway is at the Javi Pass which is 2,395 meters (7,858 feet) high.  Mount Kazbegi, ყაზბეგი, is 5,033 meters (16,512 feet) high, is the 3rd highest mountain in Georgia and straddles the continental divide.

There are two legends associated with Kazbegi.  The first one is that Prometheus was chained to the mountain as punishment for stealing fire from the Greek Gods and giving it to mortals.  The second one is that Christ's manger was brought here and hidden somewhere in the area.

The Russian-Georgian Friendship monument is located near Gudauri, გუდაური, a popular ski resort area close to the Russian border.  


It's said that the first tile which fell out was Mother Russia's brain.

Our next stop was in Stepantsminda, სტეფანწმინდა, a small village about 157 km (98 miles) north of Tbilisi.  We had lunch at a Russian guesthouse and the food was amazing!  

After lunch, we had a seriously steep hike up a mountain to see the Gergeti Trinity Church, წმინდა სამება.  It was built in the 14th century.  During Soviet times all religious services were outlawed but the church is now an active Georgian Orthodox church.

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