This day started exactly as the previous one with water being cut off at our hostel. This time we were hopeful that it will start around the same time, so we headed down for breakfast and what d’you know, the water came back on around 8 a.m. We showered, brushed our teeth and headed again to the Freedom Square for Embracing Georgia Tour with Envoy. This tour cost 270 GEL (approx. 85€) for two people and once again I found it to be a very good value. The guide today was a young man, whose English skills were also quite good.
This tour was longer than the previous day’s tour and headed toward Georgian mountains, which was perfect because the day was very hot and it is a bit chillier in the mountains.
Our first stop was at Zhinvali Reservoir, which was so beautiful and serene that it was difficult to imagine that it was created by people. Unfortunately what is not shown in the picture is the litter along the side of the road, which reminds you that people are never too far away.
After this, we headed to Ananuri castle, which was a seat of a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from 13th century. It was a nicely restored place, but when we climbed to the top of the tower, it was quite tight and not super safe. Also the guide decided to climb on top of the wall of the tower, so he could take good pictures for tourists in our group. I’m not a big fan of climbing or touching historical artifacts and in addition to this it prompted several other men from other parties to climb the wall I guess just to prove to others that they can. Argh!
After the castle we continued to drive along the Georgian Military Highway with the windows open, which was heavenly as the air was perfectly cool. The road is a major route through Caucasus from Russia to Georgia and is approximately 200km long. The road itself is in quite a good condition, but there are a lot of trucks and other cars using it and it also has plenty of animals pasturing either right by the road or right on the road, so the driving is pretty interesting to say the least. 🙂 Bt the views are quite amazing! We stopped a few times to enjoy the cool wind and the awesome scenery.
After quite a long ride we stopped for lunch at a local family’s house in a village I believe was called Stepantsminda. The lunch was very similar to the one we had the day before except this time we were taught how to make khinkalis and everybody got to make one.
After lunch there was an optional hike to the Gergeti Trinity Church. Yes, the one you see on top of the mountain on the picture below. Apparently it’s about an hour’s hike up the mountain.
When we asked what was the optional part, the guide told us that if we don’t want to hike, we could always take a car. Not being big hikers and not really wanting to climb the steep mountain in +35°C heat, we and one other couple said we would like to take the car (it didn’t cost anything extra) and the rest decided to hike. What happened next is that we were led to a very old Georgian man in a very shiny Mitsubishi off-road vehicle and he started driving us up the hill. The drive was supposed to take 30 min vs. the 1h climb, so I was wondering why it would take so long. The thing was that there was virtually no road up the mountain! I mean, there was a kind of road, but any regular car would’ve broken on in after a five-minute drive! There were such big potholes that I swear at times I though we would topple over! And of course there was no barriers between the “road” and the steep cliff. The road was also tiny, just for one vehicle, but somehow it managed to have traffic both ways and cars were backing up and being tilted just to have other cars pass by. It was horrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I think of this as the best amusement park ride I’ve ever had! 😀
We managed to spend maybe 20 min on top of the mountain before the hiking group got there. Everyone was soaked and apparently they did quite a good time climbing the mountain, but I wouldn’t change the car experience for the world! 🙂
We spent some time visiting the Gergeti and just staring at the magnificent scenery. After that we headed back to the car and despite our excitement about the cool car ride, nobody from the hiking group wanted to join us on the way down.
After this there was only a long ride home the same way we came.
We reached our hostel quite late and were in no mood to go out looking for something to eat, so we decided to try one of the places right at Fabrika Tbilisi. We ended up choosing a hamburger place called Pipes Burger Joint, which served ok hamburgers, but had kind of weird service. We didn’t quite get whether it was them or us who misunderstood our order, but we finally got something to eat, which was what we were looking for. Not super amazing, but worked for us on that night.