You’re in a mashrutka headed to Stepantsminda crammed against the window with three new friends sitting around you. In Tbilisi it’s hot and the air stays with you stifling the minivan cabin. You long for the crisp fresh air of the mountains and the view Lonely Planet promises from Stepantsminda. Having just spent the past week facilitating an intensive English teacher training program, you’re tired and fall asleep.
Your new friend pokes you. You startle awake and look around.
“Just making sure you’re still alive.” He says.
“Still alive.” You reply.
“Just waiting for Stepantsminda.”
The van is passing through new terrain. The green of the lush mountain vegetation glows as it hangs of the cliffs you drive around. Across the road, you can see the manicured valley hills with stacks of hay that look like gumdrops scattered throughout the countryside.
The mashrutka pulls over for a moment and you buy some Churchkhela (Georgian Snickers). It’s fresh and grape juice melts in your mouth. The hazelnut is soft and delicious. Back in the mashrutka you fall back asleep and miss the gentle slopes of the ski area, Gudauri.
Two hours later you arrive in front of a hotel at the center of Stepantsminda. This is the “bus” station. You will stay in a guesthouse called Ira and Dato’s Guesthouse. As you walk up the streets with your friends searching for the guesthouse you take a look behind you and see:
You don’t want to tear your eyes away. You friend comes over to you.
“Don’t worry, we’ll climb to Kazbegi tomorrow.” He says.
“Really!??! It’s magical. Nothing would make me happier.” You say.
“We’ve found the guesthouse. Let’s go have dinner.” Your stomach rumbles and you realize that you’re hungry. You turn and walk up the mountain road and into the warm light of a Georgian familie’s kitchen crammed full of the most amazing food you’ve ever seen.
Today, you will feast on khinkali, sushlik, salad, and soups. Tomorrow’s feast will be for your soul on the mountain.