Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Few weeks after booking the tickets to Georgia, I saw this CNN commercial, which is pretty cool and fairly, though promotionally, realistic. The only objections I have is the fact that the infrastructure outside of the main urban areas is far from modern, which is not how they portray it. But otherwise it's all true, old culture, the sea, the mountains, amazing food and wine, friendly, exciting, different.
It felt good being in Georgia. One of the major benefit is the fact that it's largely unspoiled. No mass tourism whatsoever, and hopefully it will never happen. Tbilisi is a bit like what Prague and Budapest used to be before the stag party tourism. The city is old and beautiful, fairly big, but small enough to be able to walk pretty much anywhere. We stayed in a small private hotel with good reviews, and as always, that meant also good recommendations for restaurants and things to do. I enjoyed Tbilisi a lot, but I don't have the urge to return to Georgia for city tourism.
The Caucuses though, well that's a totally different story.
We booked a private transportation from a travel agency, which was inexpensive and included small SUV,  the driver and a guide with decent English. I just couldn't imagine sitting in the marshrutka (public transport) for 4 hours and not being able to stop and enjoy the views. And the views were unbelievable. This was by far the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen. It's intensely green, scary steep, crystal clear air, perfectly white snow, the people amazingly friendly and very few tourists once again. We didn't reserve a place to stay, but end up lucky. Brand new "hostel" type of place with very decent food, as there are no restaurants that high in the mountain. Hiking was so great that I am hooked for real climbing next. As referred to before, my enthusiasm is too big for my own good:) But seriously thinking of undertaking a "beginners" mountain climb in the next year.
This photo is taken below Mt. Kazbegi, which is right next to the South Ossetia region, still disputed with Russia and a bit unstable. I felt safe in the country. No post-war signs either. I was amazed that me speaking Russian did not provoke any negative reactions amongst the locals. The only place we were reminded about the war was in the National Museum in Tbilisi where they have a historical exhibition about it, which was moving, but did not give me the chills as other, similar ones. Maybe the Georgians are more forgiving, who knows. When you stop people on the street to ask for directions, they sometimes call friends to make sure they can direct the best possible way. I have never seen that before. And smiles... oh, the smiles.
Landing in Moscow made me realize what I miss the most which living in Russia. As a Russian friend described it: "People that smile on the street are either crazy, foreigners or fools". That says it all.
I haven't run in two weeks since contracted a very persistent cold while sailing in Greece, so yesterday, after a good 16K I felt like me again. Soon I will be running even more, after kiddies. Very close to walking i.e. running these days. Oh joy:)

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