After some lazy days in Tbilisi, the mountains called again and we headed north to the Caucasus. On the way we found a gas refilling station, before we turned to the georgian military road. This century-old pass leads from Tbilisi about 200 km to the Russian border and peaks at 2379m over sealevel. As winters are very hard and long in the Caucasus and the border to Russia was closed since 2008, the road is in a relatively poor condition and we were again very glad and thankful for Kalimero's new suspension.
|Gas refilling service|
|Car cemetery along the Georgian Military Road|
|Fellow Volkswagen "driver"|
Stepantsminda (also known as Kazbegi) lies only a few kilometers away from the Russian border and is the second most touristic atraction of Georgia after Tbilisi. We had some food at a restaurant with a nice view of trekkers getting off Mashrutkas and packing ice pikles and ropes. The town is semi nice but there is one place everybody knows from fotos taken by offroad drivers – a church on a hill in front of Mount Kazbeg. As we have a weakness for scenic overnight locations we decided to drive up to the church. We chose a spot with a respectful distance to the church and looked around a bit. The Gergeti pilgrimage church and its belltower were errected in the 14th century and are still used for services.
|Traffic on the georgian military road|
|Gudauri ski resort|
|Soviet hero destroying the Germans, illustrated on the Georgian - Russian Friendship Memorial|
|Kazbeg showing off his beauty (competing with Kalimero)|
As we visited the church, we spotted a German landcruiser parking on the wide fields near Kalimero. We talked to the owners a bit and as it started to rain we invited them under our marquee. They had a inexaustable repertoir of anecdotes collected over almost 400'000 km of traveling mostly in Africa and we had a very inspiring evening. The night was bitterly cold and in the morning we could only get a short glimps of shy Mount Kazbeg before it disapeared in thick clouds. However, we started walking up in the direction we assumed the 5047m hulk. The trek to the summit is usually done in 2 days and leads over a huge glacier. We passed by quite a number of trekkers carrying tents, ice pickles, crampons and ropes obviously heading for the peak. As we did not bring all this equipment with us and Katha has no experience in climbing glaciers at this altitude, a hike to the summit was not an option for us and we turned around exactly were the fun part starts. Unfortunatly, the mountain was covered in clouds and we could not see anything above us, so we decided to come back the next morning before the clouds start gathering. ....And we saw! In the instant we returned to Kalimero, a thunderstorm with finger thick hail came down on our roof while we turned up the heating and prepared our "candlelight dinner" (an excellent tomato soup kindly provided by Michis colleques).
|Lada niva stuck in thick mudd|
|Icy road to the church|
|Kazbeg the next morning|
|View from Kazbeg halfway up|
|"Hier ruhen Kriegsgefangene Opfer des zweiten Weltkriegs"|