We left Tbilisi in much the same way as we started by having crepes for breakfast. Then we were picked up by our driver Emil and headed north along the Georgian Military highway. The first stop on the way was the Ananuri Castle. A fortified church may be a more apt description of it. It sits near a river and the church is intact, while the walls are crumbling away.
There were some markets here because of the tourist numbers and we bought some churchkhela to snack on for the drive. Churchkhela is nuts covered in a caramel made from the sugars in grapes. I had hazelnuts in red grape, while Claire went for the walnuts in honey. Pretty tasty snack and the caramel has the consistency of licorice, so its easy to eat.
We set off along the highway and we started to see the snowcapped peaks in the distance followed by the road heading upwards via numerous hairpin bends to the ski resort town of Gadauri. Not enough snow for skiing and the season is well and truly over in Georgia. We stopped at a lookout with views across the valley occasionally interrupted by a parasailing daredevil riding the thermal currents. It certainly looked like they could glide forever in this valley as many were much higher in the sky than the takeoff point.
We chose to not stay and eat the BBQ sheep that was the only thing on the menu and headed the short distance to our guesthouse in Stepantsminda, except everyone still calls the town by its old name Kazbegi. We found a cozy restaurant and had our favourite Georgian dish of freshly baked Khachapuri. The rain then set in delaying any plans for horseriding in the afternoon. However just at dusk the sky started to clear and we had views of the 5047m high My Kazbeg (or Kazbek). The Gergeti church was also easily visible and that’s on the schedule for tomorrows hike.
We found a nice place for dinner and it was still clearly too cold for al fresco dining up here and head inside. We both ordered local soups along with some mains. Partway through the soup, song, and dance ensued through the restaurant to a song called Susanna by some Italian guy called Adriano Celentano. Yep, I’ve never heard of him either, it appears he was a big hit in Russia. Either that or the vodka shots they were having were starting to take effect. The staff was also really getting into it also, both the vodka and the dancing. Then they played a song by the russian Justin Beiber and fearful of another Chicken and dancing night that had me feeling worse for wear, we retreated back to our guesthouse for hopefully a warm nights sleep. Chicken and dancing is forever immortalised in this post Chicken, Dancing and Vodka