When I see a mountain, I’m not gripped by the desire to conquer it. I hope instead, that the mountain will conquer me. That walking on its slopes, I’ll hear my own heartbeat. That in its open meadows, my thoughts will flow. That in its magnanimity, I’ll realize just how tiny a place I occupy. That it will reveal myself, honest and unmasked, to me.
And so it was with the Caucasus mountains of Kazbegi in northeast Georgia.
Among the wildflowers of summer and mist-laden valleys I wandered, not knowing what I was searching for, yet finding it in the raw beauty that encompassed me.
I found comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one drawn by the inexplicable notion of solitude. 700 years ago, a monk seeking solitude in these very mountains, built the Gergeti Trinity Church in the daunting backdrop of Mount Kazbeg, and it is in his conviction that I found mine.
We walked in the rain, through the clouds, up steep paths, balancing on small rocks, seeking shelter under stray bushes; we walked till the church of Gergeti appeared in all its glory. For a few minutes, the skies cleared out and the sun shined upon us, as though the mountains themselves wanted to throw us a warm welcome.
But it wasn’t the church, beautiful and mysterious though it was, that called out to me. It was the wilderness, raw and pristine, surrendering itself to the snow-capped ranges. It was being here, wild and free, among all things wild and free, that let me feel like me.
Living for a week in the little village of Stepantsminda was like tearing into a postcard and awkwardly inserting myself in. Old stone houses, little windows peeking from above, elderly women dressed all in black (the traditional color of orthodox christianity) going about their chores, the men gathered with other men, life went on in the village as though the immense beauty surrounding them wasn’t distracting at all. But who am I to comment? Just an outsider trying to peek in.
And peek in I did. I found the shy warmth of the locals and a fascinating disinterest in the world, yet abundant joy for the little things in life and good food.
They say that when “god” was distributing land to the people of the world, Georgians were busy having a feast and forgot to put in an appearance. By the time they arrived, there was no land left, so they decided to invite god to join their feast. God had such a merry time that he gave them the land he had kept for himself – and so Georgia came to be.
Also read: If You’re Looking for the “Shire”, Come to Georgia!
I got invited for my own feast one morning, when I shyly peeped through the little door of the bakery in my neighborhood. The aroma of puri aka Georgian bread being baked in an ancient stone oven can still leave me feeling heady.
We cycled to Sno Valley, and I had to pinch myself to believe it was real.
Then an Orthodox monk invited us to his church in the mountains, and put all reality into perspective. To be fair, he spoke in Georgian and I don’t understand it, but some conversations are best without the burden of words.
Reminders of Georgia’s Soviet past and complicated relationship with Russia are everywhere. Like these goods trucks lining the roads all the way to the Russian border.
But despite the past and the uncertainty that looms ahead, the people of the Caucasus choose to live a blissful life, far from civilization like we know it. Why shouldn’t they?
And on my part, I continue to wander (all the way to the Russian border!), greedy for more beauty, more solitude, more answers and more perspective. For my soul is free and that’s all I ever need.
If you find yourself in Georgia, do yourself a favor and go to Kazbegi aka Stepantsminda. A martshrutka (mini bus) takes 3-4 hours from Tbilisi and leaves frequently from Didube station. Stay at Gogi Alibegashvili, a family-run guesthouse with comfortable rooms, private bathrooms and a balcony with uninterrupted views of Mount Kazbeg; 30 lari (12$) per person per night. Splurge at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, for an indulgent stay in a stunning boutique hotel (or atleast go for a meal on their terrace). Rent bicycles and warm jackets for hiking in the town centre.
[Update 2018] Georgia E-visa is now available for Indian passport holders, but unfortunately several Indians are being deported from Tbilisi airport. Read about the Georgia E-visa hassle and whether going to Georgia is still worth the risk.
Are the Caucasus mountains calling out to you?
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
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“When I see a mountain, I’m not gripped by the desire to conquer it. I hope instead, that the mountain will conquer me.” — very well said. The same I feel in my each visit to the hills specially Himalayas
Really nice. Where did you stay? And how cheap/expensive is it? Is it comparable to places like Estonia and Slovakia in terms of expenses? Thinking of visiting next March, sorry about the interrogation:)
Just read your other post. I’m thinking of spending a month somewhere cheap with mountains and lakes and lots of cycling and looks like Georgia fits the bill. Thank you for all the details and the inspiration
Beautiful 🙂 Thanks for sharing your adventures.
After a long time read your story about Georgia and it remains same, as good as explanative. I wish I can wear your shoes to explore the land of God ;).. Keep traveling and be safe :)..
you are blessed to live a life like this…..God bless! 🙂
Such a beautiful and lovely post Shivya 🙂 Your words for georgia are as beautiful as place itself 🙂
Very Beautiful post Shivya! Your words for Georgia are as beautiful as the place 🙂 Loved your writing!
What awesome pictures!! I wish to see this world some day 🙂
Oh my god which nature, so beautiful landscapes, i wish i can fly right now to this place.
The Caucasus are high on my list, even before this post, but now I really want to go! Those are some beautiful photos, and the one of the trucks is really intense. Thanks for sharing.
Truly Awesome photos
This was really beautiful. Prose, photos, and spirit. Not an area that was on my travel radar, but this makes me want to go there! Thanks for sharing.
Beautifully described! Loved the bit about God and Georgia… how wonderful…
this place has to be explored. your feelings and emotions were absolutely described so well. It makes me yearn.
These are mesmerizing pictures. You write beautifully and take amazaing pictures. Pictures tell the stories themselves. I have been following your blog for some time now but this is my first comment.
“When I see a mountain, I’m not gripped by the desire to conquer it. I hope instead, that the mountain will conquer me.” – this is brilliant. Don’t know if you came up with this or somebody else…but either ways shows that you are a true traveller in spirit.
The pics are also amazing. The fact that you travel slow…I guess that allows you time and insight for the kind of prose you wrote. Your words are brilliant…and I felt as if I walked the distance with you.
Do check out my blog as well: http://thebettervacation.com
Lovely …lovely images Shivya…you took me out there in Georgia for some moments. 🙂 Very beautiful, informative and inspirational post… I eagerly wish to visit East Europe (including Georgia of course) someday. Thank you for the inspiration. Travel safe and keep sharing.
the photos are awesome so it the writing.
Sheer poetry. <3 This post is overwhelming.
Lovely! Thanks for sharing your stories from Georgia!
I’m only 22 and on the verge of getting a job, but i ll take some time off and start traveling solo in 2016, and this inspires me… I will surely visit Georgia at some point
I’m only 22 and on the verge of getting a job, but I wanna take some time off and start traveling solo in 2016. This inspires me and I will surely be visiting Georgia at some point. By the way, the images are lovely
Amazing view! Luv the greenery, wish to visit such places. Thanks for this wonderful post.
The Caucasus is really calling me!!! 🙂 🙂
Awesome blog! The pictures are very beautiful. What an amazing place Georgia is!
Its been a long time since I read something so nice. Loved it. Hope you have many more such journeys,
So beautiful scenery, i never dare to travel alone, admire u courage and I will keep follow your update.
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“Living for a week in the little village of Stepantsminda was like tearing into a postcard and awkwardly inserting myself in. ” Beautiful words💓 Heart felt. Soberity of the village people reflects in their shyness and the one witnessing it is blessed.
Nicely explained the meaning of God’s place Georgia, I liked very much your photography & writining ,it’s a inspiring .
I have to say … this was a beautiful post. I, myself wrote a blog after traveling to Kazbegi earlier this year. And now, when I read yours, I feel like taking mine down.
Your construction of sentences have such power and beauty, almost like painting a picture with words. Job well-done.