I arrived into Tbilisi a little late but I thought I would chance getting a marshrutka to Kazbegi. I had forgotten that I needed a metro card and so I only had enough for the fare but a kind Russian couple loaded my fare onto their card and I was away.
I had found out earlier from Cassiana that the Kazbegi marshrutkas and buses leave from Didube station, which has trains, buses and a huge market. I arrived at the bus station at 5:30pm and it was absolute chaos with hundreds of vehicles and I found out that the last marshrutkas had already left.
As an aside, I think it could be worth heading away from the main area and going to the right (as you face away from the station) – there really are hundreds of vehicles and it’s likely that taxi drivers were telling me the last buses had gone…
So I could either come back in the morning or just jump in a shared taxi for 20 Lari (less than £6). I chose the latter and now I’m speeding north in the fading light to have another look at those mountains.
The Caucasus Mountain Kazbek
Mount Kazbek is a dormant stratovolcano and is the second highest volcanic peak in the Caucasus, after Mount Elbrus. It is Georgia’s third highest peak, and is capped with small glaciers due to its steepness. The mountain lies West of the town of Stepantsminda, which is more commonly known as Kazbegi.
It is linked with Georgian folklore and Christian legends through the story of the Georgian version of Prometheus, Amirani, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mortals. As punishment, he was chained on the mountain. The location of his imprisonment later became an Orthodox Christian hideaway, in a cave called Betlemi (Bethlehem). According to legend, this cave housed sacred relics, including Abraham’s tent and the manger of the baby Jesus.
This area is one of the most touristy in Georgia because of its relative accessibility from Tbilisi and it’s more developed infrastructure.
On the drive, I got talking to the Georgian man sitting in the back with me. His name is George and his English is really good. I told him that I want to buy a Lada or a Russian truck to drive across Europe with and wanted to find out roughly how much it might cost. I don’t know the name of the Russian truck so he is googling and calling friends to try and work it out for me.
We stopped a couple of times for a leg stretch and at one of these stops (around half way) there was the stunning Ananuri castle situated at the top of a long river valley. We arrived at sunset and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful setting.
We arrived in Kazbegi at around 8:30pm and it was FREEZING! I could see my breath and I was immediately shivering in my optimistic shorts and t-shirt.
George and his cousin gave me a lift up the hill to Guesthouse Elli where Cassiana is staying. The place is apparently “really expensive” for Kazbegi as Cassiana chose it for the spectacular views because she wants to study for an orthodentistry exam.
My Georgian SIM card (still) isn’t working, so I asked a couple that were in the guesthouse hallway if they would do me a solid favour and get me the WiFi password so I could message Cassiana. The guesthouse owner was acting strange and confusing me, he kept saying Monica Belucci over and over and then he unlocked the door to one of the guest rooms and kind of pushed me inside. I managed to send Cassiana a photo of the hallway and the door and she confirmed that it was her room. Bizarre.
Anyway, I dropped my things and got changed into every warm thing that I brought. I’m so happy I still had my buff and gloves!
I walked back down into the village using the light of my head torch to avoid falling into the open drains. Cassiana and an American called Peter had ordered dinner in Shorenas Restaurant opposite the bus station.
As an aside, pretty much every restaurant in the village is concentrated around this main square and almost every house in town is a guest house. It’s quite strange when you zoom in on the map.
I wasn’t feeling great after so long on a bus and not having eaten properly for a while so I ordered some grilled mushrooms and fried potatoes and onions. I paid 17 Lari and had totally forgotten the conversation rate; it was almost exactly £5.