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On the Road "The purpose of life lies at the intersection of the heart's deepest desires, the mind's keenest talents, and the world's greatest needs."

The Great White North (of Georgia)

GEORGIA | Friday, 29 May 2009 | Views [739]

April 13

I don't know why, but Georgians have a way of building churches in the most ridiculously gorgeous settings. After recharging my batteries from the all-night Orthodox Palm Sunday service, I hiked up to one of the country's most famous churches. Built in the 14th century, the Gergeti Holy Trinity Church allegedly hid ancient treasures and religious artifacts such as St. Nino's cross during times of invasion. Priests still live in the monastery and do so for 2 months at a time; the hike up to the church takes 1-2 hours (depending on weather conditions and fitness level), which by default ensures that the priests live in relative solitude in one of the most stunning vistas I've ever seen.

Thanks to the seasonal timing, the steep trail was completely covered in deep snow - the kind with the crunchy layer on top and the slushy mud or ice at the bottom that takes a significantly larger effort to navigate than your average flower-lined grassy knoll. Thankfully the Dutch ski-mountaineers had begun their trek up Mt Kazbegi the previous day, so I had their tracks to follow in the snow (the church is on the way to the summit). It was wonderful to be outside in the sun, but the hiking conditions were a little on the painful side...

When I reached the plateau that the church is built upon and took in the views of the surrounding mountains, I admitted to my throbbing knees that I would have done the hike ten times over just for that sight. My spirits were buoyed by the entire landscape, from the jagged peaks soaring majestically into the sapphire sky, all the way down to a delicate little flower somehow poking its head through the snow.

I kept on hiking for a while past the church, spotting a ridge here and a rock pile there that I would set my sights on, trudge up to, and then marvel at the slightly different views of the 360 mountains and snow drifts. I didn't want to leave, but with the afternoon sun sliding down its westerly trajectory, I eventually resigned myself to turning around and heading home...


April 14

 

With that familiar old feeling of a winter wonderland at my fingertips, I took the ski-mountaineers' initial advice and hit the slopes for the day at nearby Gedauri. The lifts were real Doppelmayr's and the runs and snow quality were surprisingly good for the late-winter timing. I acquired a nice sunburn on the few parts of my face that I forgot to lather with sunscreen, but otherwise had a wicked day finding my feet on the snowboard again!

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