October 9th: We woke up early and headed to the bus stop in Sheki. Unfortunately, I’m not great with time management and we missed the 8am bus by 5 minutes. The next bus wouldn’t leave until 10am. This was especially frustrating because we needed to make a bus connection an hour down the road in Qax. Les’s frustration was palpable. I somewhat redeemed myself by getting us a taxi to Qax where we were able to catch the connecting bus to Tbilisi. We were back on track! We arrived in Tbilisi early that evening, tired and hungry. Our hosts at the Green House Hostel were amazing and recommended a nice walk to a restaurant – perfect!
October 10th: We spent the day walking around Old Town and up the main shopping street – Rustaveli Street. We got SIM cards to make life easy (Google Maps!) It was so cheap. It cost 13GEL ($6.30CAD) for a SIM card with 4GB of data!
We stopped back at our hostel for some mid-afternoon tea and got to talking to one of our hosts, Maia. She mentioned that her husband, Alex, gave good advice on hiking in Georgia because he used to be a geologist in the area. I told her that I am a geologist and she smiled and yelled downstairs to her husband. When we went downstairs, Alex was excited. He wanted to know what kind of geology. His English isn’t great but he is good at communicating. I said “minerals, mining, gold”. He said “Oh! Come, let’s test” and we followed him to the kitchen. I thought it would be a rock identification test or something. No. It was a big shot glass of homemade chacha. Chacha is a liquor made from the grape residue after wine making. He made it clear that if I was truly a geologist, I could handle this shot. Les got to be an honorary geologist. I think we passed but it must have been 50-60%.
So with an instant happy glow, we went out for dinner to another restaurant they recommended.
October 11th: My birthday! We did another self-guided walking tour. Our first stop was the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
From there we walked to a restaurant that Tina and Jonny (in Ireland) had recommended for it’s lobio (stewed beans).
With bellies full, we took the funicular up to Mtatsminda Park. There are rides, games, and a petting zoo up there! We walked through it all and took in the view.
For my birthday dinner, we ordered a bottle of wine (along with food of course). We’ve never ordered a bottle of wine with dinner. We felt like adults. It was $12.
October 12th: We took a bus out to Davit Gareja, a Georgian Orthodox rock monastery in southeast Georgia along the border with Azerbaijan.
October 13th: We walked around again! We have a preferred way to see a city it seems. We wandered around the old city and made our way up to the Narikala Fortress.
October 14th: We spent the afternoon exploring the Tbilisi Botanical Garden. It isn’t known for sure how old it is; it’s thought to be from the early 1600s.
October 15th: We took a marshrutky (mini-bus) up to Stepantsminda/Kazbegi in northern Georgia along the Georgian Military Road to Russia. We arrived mid-afternoon and after checking in to Nunu’s Guesthouse, we walked uphill for sunset.
October 16th: We hiked up to Gergeti Trinity Church (1 hour) and then to a viewpoint of Mount Kazbek and the Gergeti Glacier (3 hours.) It was steep – about 1300m elevation gain to the view point – and we hadn’t hiked in a couple months. It was a beautiful day with beautiful views so it was easy to find the motivation 🙂
October 17th: Our legs were pretty sore. Not as sore as we expected though! We could still walk! We still decided to take a rest day. We had tea and read on the deck at Nunu’s. We went out for lunch to a place with a nice patio.
We had dinner at the Rooms Hotel. The Rooms Hotel is a Soviet group holiday residence that has been converted into a beautiful hotel. It has a large terrace that looks across the valley at the Gergeti Trinity Church and Mount Kazbek.
October 18th and 19th: We bused back to Tbilisi and stayed at the Green House Hostel again. We did things like laundry, go out for lobio, drink tea, read, etc. We played backgammon with Maia while Alex tried to get us drunk on chacha so that we’d lose. I still won one game! We spent these days taking it easy and getting ready to head south to Armenia.
Next stop, Armenia!