Journey to Georgia: Ancient Monasteries, Wild Bears, and Unprecedented Hospitality

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On horse through the deserts and the rivers of Morocco, trips to Argentina and India, and now a journey in a powerful SUV through the mountains and cities of picturesque Georgia. In this issue of the newspaper, traveler Hryhoriy Prystai once again tells our readers about his adventures, this time from Sakartvelo, the Georgian name for their country.


Chasing a Dream in an SUV


I did not fly to Georgia alone, but with three friends. We traveled to Tbilisi by plane, and there we rented an SUV. It came out a bit more expensive than an ordinary car. But we knew that we would be driving through remote places, so we went for the more powerful car. At first, we weren’t sure where to go from the capital, but later agreed to go to Gudauri. This is a mountain village on the slopes of the Great Caucasus Range.


Along the way, we stopped at old monasteries. I will tell you frankly – they are very impressive. Almost all of them were built in ancient times, in the ninth and tenth centuries, have beautiful frescoes and architecture. It is really something incredible!



Radio against Bears


One time when we stopped for a night in the mountains, we could not sleep the whole night due to some shouting in an incomprehensible to us language. We thought that some evil enemies could not sleep, but in the morning we discovered that the locals simply did not turn off the radio. In this way, they protect themselves from bears who roam around and attack cattle.


No Such Thing as Too Much Hospitality


Georgians are truly incredibly hospitable. The first night in this country we thought of staying at a hotel, but I persuaded my friends to go to someone’s home. At dusk we found a farm. We introduced ourselves to the owner and asked whether it was possible to spend the night. He replied: “Of course, come in.” When we went in the house, we immediately sang our favorite song about wine. After that, the man immediately brought us wine and chacha. And this is how it was every day – we went to someone’s home, sang, and were offered a place to sleep and dinner. Moreover, we never said that we were hungry. On the contrary, we always said that we only needed a place to sleep. But the Georgians prepared grand meals for us anyhow. For this we sang our songs for hosts until late at night. And it was evident that they liked them, because they sat as if hypnotized.


What else was memorable? Where we stopped for the first night, the host had a daughter who looked like Monica Bellucci. She was so beautiful that I cannot even describe her, because I understand that there are just not enough words to do this…



Georgian Cuisine


I realized that Georgian shish kebab is nothing more than a beautiful myth. A few times I ordered lamb or pork kebab, but it was no better than what I prepare at home. Maybe for themselves Georgians prepare meat better, but for tourists any old way, I don’t know. Other travelers told us that for a good shish kebab you need to go to neighboring Armenia.


We constantly ate khachapuri – bread stuffed with cheese. Well, they are, of course, delicious, but when you eat them every day, then at some point you grow tired of them. And there weren’t many culinary options…


The same can be said about khinkali. They were also not bad, but personally I like varenyky or pelmeni better.

We tried some traditional soups – kharcho and chikhirtma, which is cooked with chicken. As for the soups, I also think that ours, including borshch, are no worse, and perhaps better. Maybe I had too high of expectations, and so I was disappointed. For example, Hungarian cuisine, their bograch and everything else, I liked much more.


Trinity Monastery: When the Clouds are Underfoot


We decided to visit the mountain Kazbegi. At its foot, at an altitude of more than two thousand meters, is the ancient Trinity Church. We drove directly there by car. Apparently, we were the only tourists who managed to drive this difficult road on our own. Of course, tourists are driven there, but by local experienced drivers who do it in more appropriate vehicles.


In general, the Trinity Monastery is one of the main attractions of Georgia. It can be found on postcards, travel guides, etc. When you sit at the walls of the monastery, the clouds float under you, and far away in the distance you can see snow on the neighboring peaks.



The Lost World of Svaneti


We also visited Svaneti. This is a mountain valley, located in the upper reaches of the river Inguri. This territory is called “The Lost World” and even the majority of Georgians have never been there. A very steep and beautiful mountain road leads to Svaneti. Moreover, the peaks are covered with glaciers, half of which have a pink color. It turns out that it is due to algae that grows so high…


Another highlight in this province is the stone defensive towers that adjoin directly to residential buildings. These old stone walls remain from an era when the times were not so peaceful. Near the towers you can often find local men sitting with a bottle of chacha, chatting away and sharing the latest news.


Hryhoriy Prystai

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