Be the 8th Comrade on our Trip to the Kazbegi Mountains

6.20   Yes, a.m., nope, you can’t snooze, we have a long way to go  to Kazbegi at 7 in our private Marshrutka

Marshrutka

9.30 First stop: Out of the lullingly warm car and out in the unexpected ‘winds of change’…of course you are wearing shorts and expected the usual 35 degrees…but the view definitely compensates for the cold you caught during the 2-minute stop.

10.30 Arrival in Stepantsminda (1740m) and always great to know someone who knows the place like the back of his hand: after a short break one of our colleague’s friends and his co-worker and friend come for us to take us around on ‘their territory’

11.00 Following the bumpy let’s say road we arrive at the waterfall after an adventurous hike through the beautiful nature of Kazbegi. And I know they say don’t look back but in this case you really should!

12.15 We start climbing up the serpentine road to Gergeti Trinity Chuch, still by car which is great given the faces of people who do it by foot. Cars coming down and the road condition are small legistical obstacles but our driver manages to overcome them successfully. Probably too small on the map, but even Google maps calculates 29 minutes for 5.7 km by  car 😀

13.00 Slightly slower than half an hour our road adventure is finished and we arrive at beautiful Gergeti Trinity Church (2170m). You just want to walk in? No, no, head and legs have to be covered but don’t worry, they offer cloths and scarfs at the door.

14.30 As beautiful as it is, we are starving and start our Georgian Barbecue. 

Georgian Barbecue, what does it mean? Meat with onions, a bitter sauce made of plums, cherries or apples (for the attentive readers among you, yes I have already mentioned the sauce in my first post), bread, salad (it seems like tomato and cucumber salad is everywhere, with and without oil), different types of cheese, a Georgian lemonade with cream flavor and of course Georgian wine!

17.00 We start our last trip of the day: ca. half an hour away from Stepantsminda we enter a formerly Ossetian-inhabited territory. In the war with Georgia, Ossetians left behind their houses and farms and moved further into Ossetian territory. What is left are abandoned buildings, some are inhabited by shepherds working in the region during the warmer seasons, more holes than road and ancient forts with the typical Ossetian towers. 45 minutes away from the main road (again the side ‘roads’ are quite challenging and cause some desperation among my colleagues) we find a monastery and a convent. Out here in the nowhere the latter generates electricity from solar batteries.

In 1990, the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast declared its independence from Georgia. The Georgian government abolished South Ossetia’s autonomy and tried to gain back control over the region. The result was the South Ossetia War from 1991 to 1992. South Ossetia relies heavily on military, political and financial aid from Russia. Georgia’s fight against the controlling forces of South Ossetia continued in 2004 and 2008. The conflict in 2008 led to the Russian-Georgian War. Ossetian and Russian forces established full control of the South Ossetian territory.

Only very few countries, namely Russia, Nicaragua Venezuela and Nauru recognise South Ossetia’s independence. Georgia and most parts of the international community regard South Ossetia as occupied by the Russian military. As my colleagues told me, Georgia witnesses a ‘creeping occupation’. Russian forces controlling the border keep on moving border fences further into Georgian territory. In February of this year, 51km of illegally erected barbed wire fences around South Ossetia were on Georgian soil (see http://agenda.ge/news/52406/eng).

And to finish on a little jolly note: farm animals like cattle, horses, pigs, lots of sheep and chickens are running around freely on the huge territory. Contrary to what I know from Germany people have the confidence that their animals will always find their way back home.

It’s 21.00 o’clock, time for the way home


The End

“Georgia, the state in the US or the country in Europe?”

georgia_country-copyGeorgia_in_United_StatesThat was the first thing my friend asked when I broke the matter of
interning in Georgia. While I was still in Budapest my Georgian roommate used to picture Georgia as Europe’s most Eastern country (and not Asia!) and a country working on its future membership in the Union. So, my first reaction to this question: “Man, naturally mentioning Georgia and Europe in one sentence, you just made a whole nation very happy.”

 

What I knew about Georgia before my arrival:

  • khatGeorgians are very hospital
  • there are about 4 mio of them
  • they like being called Europeans
  • they eat Khachapuri and Khinkali
  • they have a language not similar to any other
  • they successfully reformed their country during the last 15 years
  • they have frozen conflicts with two regions, Ossetia and Abkhazia, who claimed independence
  • they are out of sorts with Russia after a war in 2008 and Russia’s continuing attempts to broaden its influence in the region

What I know now, exactly one week after my arrival:

  • khinkGeorgians are very hospital
  • there are about 4 mio of them
  • they are Europeans and at supermarkets etc. many of them speak English
  • they drive on the right side of the road and some cars also have the steering wheel there
  • I eat Khachapuri and Khinkali, fruits and vegetables are incredibly tasty and they are eaten in various combinations, they have a kefir-like yoghurt called Matsoni and a bitter plum-sauce that I put on everything… and luckily they love coriander. Even though everybody told and keeps on telling me that Georgia is a meat country I keep on treating myself with vegetarian delicacies
  • they have a language not similar to any other and I am still trying to figure out similarities…or sounds
  • Tbilisi has extremely friendly street dogs and cats
  • they (Georgians of course and not the street animals) successfully reformed their country during the last 15 years but still have to catch up in some spheres, e.g. LGBT rights
  • they have frozen conflicts with/in two regions, Ossetia and Abkhazia, who claimed independence and are under Russian influence
  • they are out of sorts with Russia after a war in 2008 and Russia’s continuing attempts to broaden its influence in the region