Green scenery in the Caucus Mountains

An old guard tower and Trinity Church on the hill

Tomb and Trinity Church in the background

Dog resting with Trinity Church in the background

Trinity Church, Kazbegi

Carvings on the church wall

The villages of Gergeti and Kazbegi far below

Entrance tower to the church

Trinity Church


Caucus Mountain scenery

Ruins of Bebris Tsikhe in the background, Mtskheta

Jvari Church past the walls of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral walls, Mtskheta

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta

Mural above the entrance to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta

Inside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Stone carvings inside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta

Wall paintings inside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta

Light beams coming in through the ceiling, Mtskheta

Georgian tombstone, Mtskheta

Jvari Church on the hilltop, Mtskheta

The view from Jvari Church of Mtskheta

Inside Jvari Church, Mtskheta

Jvari Church, Mtskheta

Jvari Church, Mtskheta

Kazbegi, Georgia

The Caucus Mountains

June 20, 2012

Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams

Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems

- Led Zeppelin

The Georgia Military Highway heads north from Tbilisi, winding through river and mountain valleys all the way to the Russian border. Just north of Tbilisi is the town of Mtskheta, at the junction of the Mtkvari and Agavari Rivers. The town is famous for the Jvari Church, perched high atop a nearby mountain. The church has commanding views of the entire valley and in the absence of large tour groups is very peaceful with the sound of the wind drowning out the noise of passing cars on the four lane highway below. While most of buildings in the center of Mtskheta have been extensively renovated, they at least look somewhat classical but cannot dispel the extensive touristic aura of the village. At the heart of that is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a giant walled compound and an interesting church filled with Georgian tombs, faded wall murals, and impressive stone carvings. The most authentic building is on the north end of the town, the ruins of Bebris Tsikhe, a medieval castle that is now cordoned off due to risk of collapse.

The road continues its climb into the Caucus Mountains north of there, passing a winter ski resort at Gudauri, and the Jvari mountain pass at 2379 meters, before descending to Kazbegi, the last Georgian village before the Russian border. Kazbegi is famous for the Holy Trinity Church, high in the mountains above the town. The church has a truly remote and isolated setting at the foot of snow covered peaks and glaciers and is reached either by foot or a long winding road up the hillside. In the Soviet era a cable car was constructed to the church but the local residents promptly tore it down thinking that it defiled the piety of their church. As is often the case in the mountains, there was thick cloud cover for most of my visit so the higher mountain peaks were never visible but I was at least able to get a break from the rain to hike up to the church. While the rain may not be nice for outdoor activities it does color the hills a bright and luscious shade of green. The church itself, setting aside, was not overly impressive save for some interesting carvings on the outside walls.

The trip to the church was also a chance to experience life outside of Tbilisi. Things were simple here with only a few stores and cafes and nothing else to do. All the rain and the waiting made me imagine what it must be like to grow up there, a dull existence to say the least. Even in June it was cool but the cold mountain air was a nice break from the hot weather in and around Tbilisi. In the winter time it must be a particularly forbidding place but for now this quiet respite from the pace of the city and the heat was much welcomed.