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And Back Again in the Mountains

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Unfortunately Laura’s knee wasn’t well enough to snowboard again. Instead, she enjoyed the mountains, sun and the fresh air while hiking. Noemi’s snowboarding skills improved over time. One day we hiked together to Lomisi monastery up the snowy mountain. We started in the village Kvemo Mleta and reached a big, stony church and a tiny house which has room for up to 5 monks about three hours later. It was impressive how they arranged to live there with that little space – their beds where built like wall closets. This day, only one of the monks and their cat was there. He invited us to sit at the warm oven and have some tea and pastry. Luckily, two other hikers had arrived at the same time as us and were able to translate from Georgian. We had a nice time there and before we left the monk gave us some advice for our lives – concerning motherhood and parenting. In the days and evening we often spent time with Vitia (Viktor) and Sveta (a good friend of his from Ukraine) and we played games or went snowboarding together.

Our time in Gudauri was almost over. Instead of going directly to Tbilisi we spent two nights in Stepantsminda (which is even closer to the Russian border) near one of the highest mountains of Georgia – Kazbeg (5033 m). There we hiked up to a church. The next day we said goodbye to the mountains and arrived in Tbilisi in the evening. Again, we volunteered in hostels as we did before. Laura went back to the same hostel, which was now more crowded than and the rooms therefore seemed to e even smaller than they are. Noemi started at a new hostel in the same evening (which is in 25 minutes walking distance from Lauras hostel). Immediately after she arrived she was in charge of the whole hostel for a couple of days. Luckily, there were just a few guests in these days so she enjoyed being (almost) home alone. Other nights the hostel was booked out so we could stay in a new hostel that the family had just opened a week ago.

Coming back to Tbilisi from the mountains we noticed that the air quality was way worse here. But we also enjoyed the advantages of living in a city again like the great offer of fresh and also cheaper food, being able to explore cafes and new parts of the city and discover some street art. Just a few days after our arrival our hosts and friends from Rize (Turkey) came to visit us! It was great to see Hueseyin, Soezer, Samil, Mustafa and Burak again. As three months ago we often played together in the evenings – one evening we played cards in a cafe with live music, another evening we learned new board games at Fabrika (also Sveta was there that night). Unfortunately the two of us weren’t too fit these days so we didn’t get to spend as much time with them as we had hoped. We are looking forward to seeing you again and are very curious where we will meet next time!
During our time in Tbilisi we got many impressions of the city. There’s a lot of busking here. The musicians usually have a colleague who is approaching passengers with a hat to collect money. In the streets and the metro you encounter lots of people asking for money or selling odds and ends (e.g. flowers or nuts). The traffic in the city clearly prioritizes cars. There are often no traffic lights at busy roads but tunnels for pedestrians in order to cross the street. In the tunnels there are some small stores, music and street art. Looking at the vehicles on the roads and the buildings in the city you can notice striking contrasts. Right next to very posh and expensive buildings in Rustaveli Avenue (one of the fanciest streets in Tbilisi) there are simple and sometimes very old wooden houses. In one of the back roads where Laura lives the baker chops wood for his oven right in front of his bakery. The typical bread here has a very special and bent shape (see the picture below). This shape results from the kind of oven and the technique its baked: The oven is hemispherical and has a hole on top. The dough is put on a kind of pillow and then stuck to the inside wall of the oven (see picture below).
In some parts of Tbilisi you can find areas full of grey Soviet-style buildings. Often you can see some colourful street art there. In the supermarkets a lot of products are sold without packaging, you can just fill as much as you like in a plastic bag. This includes pasta, flour, sugar, fruit and veg, dried fruits and nuts, spices, honey, biscuits and sweets, toilet paper and eggs etc. If it was possible to bring and use your own containers for filling it would save quite some of the plastic waste. When you see in which way fish and meat are sold on markets and in supermarkets it takes quite some getting used to. You could find a whole pig or chicken with still its legs on. On markets the meat is placed just on tables without any packaging or protection and in the supermarkets it’s often put without any wrapping in the freezer. In these moments we felt quite safe being vegetarian. We even found a vegan cafe here!
In the meantime we were busy preparing the future trip by running some errands, getting the bikes ready and taking care of visa issues (e.g. taking passport pictures with a headscarf). It’s still not quite warm so we spontaneously decided to visit Vitia on his day off in the mountains. The night we stayed in a so-called ‚open house‘ with the couchsurfer Taylor. That night ten people slept at his apartment. When we coincidentally met Michael (the owner of the hostel here) he said we were more than welcome to stay at the hostel until the end of the season (that is mid-April)! As Laura was still not completely fit and we therefore wouldn’t depart yet anyway we decided to go back to the mountains. Probably not until April, but at least for a little while. The air and sleeping conditions especially for Laura are much better here. Our bikes and most of the luggage are ready to go and waiting for us in Tbilisi. For now we will enjoy the snow, the fresh air and the mountains 🙂

Laura is exploring gyms in Gudauri.

Tubing for a change.

Hiking up to Lomisi Monastery.

Arrival at Lomisi Monastery. In the back you can see a territory occupied by Russia.

Tea and cookies with the monk.

At dusk we hiked down the mountain.

The town of Stepantsminda next to Mount Kazbeg (5033 m)

On our way to the Gergeti Trinity Church. In the background you can see Mount Kazbeg.

Noemi is enjoying the view.

Gergeti Trinity Church.

Our friends from Rize and Sveta during our last night together.

Late christmas mail from Alex from Berlin.

Laura’s Hostel, her hostelmates and coworkers Che and Sam and Noemi as our favorite guest.

Vitia is grinding old pieces of skateboards to make jewellery.

And this is the result of Vitias work.

Laura is back on the board after a long break.

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