After a short bathroom break in Gudauri, we stopped at the Russian Georgian Friendship monument. The views were spectacular.
Mason opted to stay on the warm bus.....
Much greener than in January (remember we came up here on a ski/snow weekend back in January)
The Friendship monument was quite colorful. It was built during a period of Russian occupation of Georgia.
It appears the images get more peaceful as you progressed from the left to the right.
Not sure who the fancy green man is....
Pretending to not be cold....
We all boarded the bus again and continued the rest of the way to Kazbegi. We checked into our hotel room at the Rooms Hotel (5 Stars baby.....these kids are getting spoiled....I grew up on Motel 6s and good ole Tom leaving the light on for us....) and had some lunch.
Our room had an old movie poster (Mason translated it to something like 'She wants love') that warranted a starring contest.
Given the weather forecast was 100% chance of thunderstorms, we opted out of the 2 hour hike up the Church of the Holy Trinity at an altitude of 2000m. Richard and Mason decided to take a Jeep up to the Church. Clarissa was complaining of car sickness (and didn't eat much lunch), so I stayed at the hotel with her and we explored a large field, picked flowers, and climb on rocks.
And used rocks as slides....
Mt. Kazbek, the shy Bride of the Caucasus, is hiding behind the clouds above the Church of the Holy Trinity.
(Richard here - for some reason the Church reminds me of Rohan from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy).
Snap taking pictures.....
We've noticed most Georgian Orthodox churches have fountains. We are not sure of the significance. We don't know if it is holy/blessed water or just a natural spring turned into a water fountain.
Saturday evening, for a few minutes the shy bride began to peak out of the clouds. We got quite excited!
The next morning when we woke up, we were in for quite a treat! Mt. Kazbek, a dormant volcanic mountain (last eruption ~750 BC) and the third highest peak in Georgia, was in clear view.
The sun quickly illuminated the peak with the Church of the Holy Trinity....2000 m suddenly doesn't look so high when it is dwarfed by Mt. Kazbek at 5,047 m (16,558 ft). Legend has it there are a number of sacred relics hidden in caves underneath the glacier (Abraham's tent, Jesus' manger).
(Richard again - the Church being dwarfed by Mt. Kazbek reminds me of the lighting of the warning beacons of Gondor from "The Lord of the Rings". Ok enough of being geeky, carry on Deb....)
Within a few hours, the clouds began to move in and hide the mountain from our view once more.
Sunday morning after breakfast, we headed back on the Georgian Military Highway. We visited the Dariali Gorge....nothing like a 15 km (9.3 mile) deep gash in the Earth to make you feel tiny. Unfortunately it was pretty bumpy on the road and we didn't get a good picture. At the end of the gorge is the border between Georgia and Russia. Our guide said where the Georgian flag is marks the end of Georgia, there is 10 km of neutral territory, followed by a flag marking the beginning of Russia.
In 2011, a new monastery complex was opened in the gorge right at the Georgian border and named after the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. After seeing so many old churches over the last two years, it was interesting to see a brand new one. The walls were all white and it seemed there were more windows letting in a lot more natural light.
Having made it to the end of Georgia, we turned around and headed back to Tbilisi. We passed (and the science dork in me really would have liked to stop and check it out) some springs coming out of the mountain that have a very high iron oxide content (I don't know if it is Iron (II) or Iron (III)...told you I was a science dork!). There are several areas with these white/orange deposits on the side of the mountain. Here are some screen captures I grabbed of a video I took as we sped by of the largest deposit along the highway.
Some mountain scenery along our drive.
After our lunch stop, we made one final stop at the Ananuri complex overlooking Zhinvali reservoir (which feeds the hydroelectric dam powering Tbilisi, as well as, providing Tbilisi its drinking water).
Ananuri consists of two fortress. The lower citadel is not well preserved and only portions of the fortress wall and a small church remain.
Within the upper fortress, a 16th century church, watch towers, water cisterns and a 17th century bell tower.
We climb down and we climb up
And we gave Richard a couple grey hairs (but you can't really tell in this picture we are walking along a tiny ledge about 2 stories up).
Here is the other side of the wall we eventually climbed up to and were walking along.....we could of totally taken you out with our arrows if you were trying to invade our fortress!
We enjoyed our little weekend mountain getaway. We were glad to not be driving. There were several long stretches of
road rock car trails that were under construction that were pretty rough. As always, the Caucasus mountain vistas were spectacular and did not disappoint!