Live Rural NL Blog has now reached 600 posts and more than 795,000 views! I primarily write about the Great Northern Peninsula, but for this post I opted to share a recent travel experience of a rural Newfoundlander:
During Easter holiday I travelled to Georgia, which is at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe and nestled just south of the Russian border. This was one of the most memorable trips taken, imagine to leave Canada on holiday to go to a mountain country that had lots of snow. I even stopped to visit the Town of SNO!
Georgia offered the perfect mix of natural beauty, historic charm with traditional food and culture to compliment their ever expanding tourism industry. However, you would just have to go there to truly experience it.
I flew in Tbilisi and toured the capital for a day, while waiting for clearance that the road would be open. Apparently, there was lots of snow on the mountain roads and crews were working hard to ensure it would be clear to allow travel, however, with the Easter holiday no one could give assurance that it would be open for travel. I would have been deeply disappointed if I had not gotten to Kazbegi, which borders south of Russia.
Tbilisi has a cobblestoned old town which has markings of Persian and Russian rule. The architecture is quite diverse when taking the cable car to the top of the hill as you can see all the surroundings. One will pass Orthodox churches, art nouveau buildings with ornate balconies, a reconstructed 4th-century citadel and the iconic statue of Mother Georgia to name a few.
It was remarkable to visit the museums, galleries and visit the small shops as local entrepreneurs sold their wares – carpets, honey and local fruit and nut treats were commonplace. It was a treat to sample some of the homemade cheeses and talk with owners. Georgia was a peaceful place to travel, as no one tried to get you to buy their product or lure you into their shop. It was an extremely welcoming place to truly experience and enjoy. The city boasted some impressive architecture, only enhanced from aerial views which included the bridge of peace. Many of the churches were filled with local people as they celebrated their Easter holiday.
Since the roads had taken longer to open than expected, the option to visit neighbouring churches and monstaries were added to the vacation including the Mtskheta from Church of Jvari. One could see candles being lit, prayers sent and artwork on display. There were livestock, beautiful views and wares to be purchased in the adjacent town.
After dinner, clearance was given to travel to Kazbegi. This meant no mini-bus option and that a driver had to be hired but the cost of a 4 hour drive was not much more than a taxi from Toronto airport to a downtown hotel. Arriving to a moonlit view of the mountains was just too perfect!
After a nice breakfast, mountain hiking to the Gergeti Trinity Church, which sits below 16,500-foot Mt. Kazbek in the Caucasus Mountains of Kazbegi was in order. The 14th-century monastery, at 7,100 feet, was the goal. The 1,400-foot climb provided unforgettable experience as at the Church, it provided a true snapshot of rural Georgian life. Hours of hiking and a little sunburn was certainly worth it!
If you need a place of the ultimate rest and relaxation, than Kazbegi is that perfect rural town that offers horseback riding in the mountains, delicious foods and local authentic encounters.
After a swim, reading and adoring the mountains, this special place offered an easy place to rest. An early morning would mean a visit to a partially frozen waterfall where I brought my Downhome Magazine, more monasteries, Sno village and of course road closures while the snow was cleared on the mountain roads. Delays were no bother, as this holiday was just perfect. Georgia well exceeded my travel expectations and I do hope to return in the future to this amazing place.
One of the best moments, was the stop at this viewing area, the art, the view and memories…it all came full circle.
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)