Military road to Russia...
Stalin’s museum opens at 9:00 a.m. so waking up was in an easy way, getting ready and enjoyed our tea that our hotelier Marina (every woman is a Marina in this country) prepared for us. We parked our motorcycles outside of Marina’s restaurant where the polite waiter was willing to watch our belongings. Marina was also there and we continued for a long time our yesterdays conversation.
With great effort we moved from there and we walked towards the museum. The fees we paid were 15 Lari/person which is considered quite high if taking care the cost of living in this country. Included in the price was also an english language tour of the museum. A cold and laugh less lady was our guide. We couldn’t understand her fully so Wikipedia was our option to gather all necessary info about Stalin’s museum.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin which was known as Joseph Stalin, was born in Gori in 1878. The museum was build in 1952 next to his family house who grew up, initially the museum was called «Revolution Museum» and after Stalin’s death, 5th of March 1953, took his name. The museum is divided in 6 exhibition halls and it includes items and belongings of Stalin, among others were exhibited his office furniture, gifts from other leaders during his regime and many others. The whole collection of Stalin’s personal items is fulfilled with many photos, paintings of him and newspapers articles. In the last hall are exhibited 12 portraits of Stalin’s as dead, they were taken just after his death.
In the yard of the museum is his armed wagon. With this wagon Stalin travelled to the well known Tehran convection (28th of December 1943). The wagon moved to Gori in 1979 from Rostof on his 100th year anniversary of Stalin’s birth. Also, in the yard – in front of the museum – is his original childhood house of Stalin, exactly on the same spot that was build. An outer structure was placed to protect Stalin’s house as the guide mentioned to us. On the perimeter were – originally – other buildings which were demolished so the big square to be build, as it is now days.
During our museum visit, Marina came to find us so she can give us a bottle of wine that her family made. We thank her warmly and we greet her as we depart heading east.
We entered the only highway in the country, 2 lanes each side with a separation protection bar which we took it until Tbilisi. From there we headed north to take a visit at the famous road of Georgia, «Military road». This road was used from many invaders in the past – thats why the name military – and it connects Tbilisi with Vladikavkaz in south Ossetia of Russia. 208 km of pure enjoyment crossing canyons and mountain peaks... Initially the road had some traffic and a broken Lada in a blind turn almost stopped our course. Half of us passed him from his right and the others from his left. Further up we stopped to the picturesque monastery of Ananuri on the manmade lake of Zhinvali.
The monastery is surrounded by walls and was build in the 13th century in a strategic location at the edge of a rock, the view face the lake which was created by the dam of river Aragvi. The church inside the monastery who is dedicated to Mary (Ghvtismshobeli) is very crowded, this particular day is her anniversary. Most probably celebration of her anniversary is today (13 days after our anniversary) as the Georgians are following the old testament calendar of the Orthodox church. The heat of the day leads to a quick look around, photos and then on the rod again. Thankfully shortly the road started to climb the mountains and the temperature dropped significant letting us enjoy the majestic landscape....
Traffic was almost zero which made us wondered because this particular road is the only link between countries of south-west Asia and Russia. We said that most probably is because of the embargo that these countries declare towards Russia but as we found later on, sliddings near the borders had stopped the traffic for many days. For us is no issue because will not enter Russia. After the village of Kvesheti, the road started to climb to the highest elevation. The winding route is amazing and the alpine kind of view were giving us an unforgettable scenery.
Just after the winter resort of Gudauri, we meet an imposingly monument dedicated for the 200th anniversary of Russia-Georgian friendship agreement. This monument is a rounded structure with arches without a roof and in the inner side posses a mosaic of St. George (country’s shelterer) and scenes of the Russian revolution. If you think that 20 years ago that this monument was build, the Ossetian war began so the reason of this monument is just oxymoron. We continued our route towards north. In a few kilometers further on we reached the highest point, Jvari pass at 2379 meters, which is marked with a stone inscription mentioning the height, a cross and a small cemetery.
Further on is just a descent. Along the route we met tunnels which the road passes parallel and not through them. We guessed that they are used during winter time when snow close the roads. Maybe this particular road spots cannot be cleaned by snow blowers so the existence of the tunnels. The descending road ends in a big plateau at 2000 meters appr which river Tegri is running. At the entrance of Stepantsminda village a police block stopped us to warn us that the road is closed. Trying to explain them that we only wanted to reach the borders which are only 12 km distance from here but they couldn’t understand a thing what we were saying.
On a hill, west of the village, lies the most important church of Georgia, church Gergeti Trinity. Build in the 14th century on stiff hill at an altitude of 2170 meters and its the only church with a crossed dome in the region. Its accessed only via a difficult path (appr 3 hours walking) or a very bad condition dirt road of 6 kilometers. Finally we admired the church from a distance.
Returned back via the same routing, no other option or road here. We left behind a landmark to visit on our return. Its about some spa waters full of minerals running on a brownish-reddish lee side of a mountain close to Jvari pass. The place is very nice so we decided to have lunch here and coffee. Soon some Russian guys approached us staring – what else – our motorcycles. One of them started chatting, in the sign language of course. He asked for something but we couldn’t understand what is that. Finally we got it, he wanted a ride which we pleased his request. Stratos takes the role of the guide and rider and the Russian guy got really happy. After they came from the small ride, his friends are offering us a local sweet in a shape of a sausage (Churchkhela). We saw this sweet hanging in small sell shops but the flies on them were so many that made us reject the thought of trying one. The one that they offered us it resembles with a local sweet back home made of wine.
After the small break we set heading for the capital. The route is the exactly the same but no same route is the same if you do it backwards.... Reaching the capital, traffic increased rapidly and the crazy driving of the locals was as well. Our eyes were wide open to avoid any accident and at the end we reached the accommodation place (Verahouse) in good health.
We called the owners and they were expecting us with their daughter who was able to speak engish. We parked the motorcycles in their private parking space and we went up to our spacious rooms. 3 rooms, living area like a football stadium, 2 bathrooms, sauna and all these in a price of a hostel. Until we were settled it was already dark outside, tomorrow was a free day in Tbilisi to have a sightseeing tour so we decide to stay in our place and eat here.
Opposite our accommodation, in 100 meters, there is a supermarket but in between lies an avenue. The owners warned us many times.... «don’t dare to cross the avenue and walk until the zebra crossing at 500 meters further». Despite the warnings, we did it... if we cross a formula 1 track would be in less danger.... With the help of employees in the supermarket we managed to buy our things for dinner. Prices were so cheap, we bought a 5liter beer can at a price of a soft drink.
Vegetables we didn’t find in the supermarket. Just outside of the store, 2 women, one young and one old, were selling their stock. Some tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers etc. We picked some vegetables there which cost us 0.5 Lari (20 cents). Natasa and Stratos tried to pay but the old woman in an obvious way, takes the money from the man and neglects the woman. When Natasa tries to take the nylon bag with our vegetables, then again the old lady pulls back her hand with the nylon bag and gave it to the man, smiling at the same time meaning that this is a mans job!
Back to our accommodation where master chef Stratos with his deputy Natasa preparing our lovely gourmet. Fork and knifes are in full progress and afterwards chatting about today’s route to the military road is keeping us until late in the evening...