Megi in Kazbegi

All photos by Amy Yu Mao, or Khvicha.

“MEGI!”

So begins every conversation with Khvicha, the taxi driver with whom I’d trust my life.  “Meghan” seems to be tough for many Georgians to grasp, so I usually introduce myself as “Meg,” which turns into the Georgian name “Megi.”  Thus, I am now Megi.

While Amy was visiting last week, Khvicha designed and implemented the perfect three-day tour of Georgia.  We covered most of the country, with the exception of the Black Sea coast.  After a drive through beautiful Kakheti in the east, Khvicha took us north to the mountains of Kazbegi.

Kazbegi, Georgia

We drove several hours on roads that seemed to be used more by cattle than cars, winding through mountains and forests and construction sites repairing the usual winter damage that four meters of snow will impart on concrete.

When we arrived in Kazbegi, now called Stepantsminda, we left behind Khvicha’s Mercedes for a well-worn Jeep, manned by a fearless local named Mamuka.  Amy and I sat in the back, clutching anything we thought might keep us from ejecting through the window at a sudden stop, while Khvicha and Mamuka shouted (i.e. conversed) in Georgian in the front seats.  We rocked and rolled and bounced up a mountainside to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church.

The views from the mountaintop soothed our motion sickness and fear of imminent death.

Jumping in Stepantsminda, Kazbegi Stepantsminda OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After jumping around like children and getting kicked out of the church for wearing pants, we put our faith in Mamuka when he offered to take us to the most beautiful spots in Kazbegi for an additional 30 Lari.  And boy, were we glad we did.

Hidden spots of Kazbegi Kazbegi flower child

A creek in Kazbegi Old friends in Kazbegi Beautiful Amy Kazbegi Waterfall Kazbegi Waterfall Amy and KhvichaAmerican girls in Kazbegi

Georgia is a hiker’s paradise.  I felt like a child scrambling up the rocky trails, squealing at the sight of camouflaged lizards and gawking at the eagles overhead.  The spray from the waterfall felt heavenly in the heat of Georgian summer (which I’m told will peak in August… God help me).  I couldn’t stop thanking Mamuka and Khvicha in an infantile combination of Georgian and Russian for introducing us to this small Eden.

As has happened so many times in my travels, I found myself wondering, “What did I do to deserve this?”  What divine sources conspired to gift me with this exceptional life?  I thought back to a home video I recently re-watched, circa 2003 at the Jersey Shore, in which my 16 year-old self glared into the camera and delivered a command to my present self:  “Please, Meghan, whenever you are watching this in the future, I hope you are living somewhere outside of New Jersey.  Far, far away.”  Well, young self, I am most certainly far from New Jersey.

On the drive home, Khvicha pulled over to offer us some “vino” for the ride home.  I accepted, Amy declined.  He pulled out a bottle of homemade red wine from his trunk and poured me a small paper cup.  Wine in hand, I enjoyed the view from our casual road stop.

Georgia Georgia

Next stop with Amy: Alkhalsikhe, Borjomi, Vardzia.

60 comments

  1. The Georgians may be exaggerating when they say that God gave them the land they reserved for himself, but they aren’t that far from the truth. I see these photos and realize that Georgia deserved more of my time. One day, I will make up for it.

        • Charming until they tell you you are inferior, a “bad girl”, or try to rape you. Sorry, I’m not normally so negative, but I had some truly traumatizing experiences in Georgia, some of them at supras.

          • Utterly speechless! So sorry that you experienced such scarring events! I really do lose sight of how much easier it is to be male in those countries. I apologize for romanticizing it too much.

            • No, I’m sorry for bringing down the whole tone. I’m just still struggling to regain my optimism after some things that happened there. I don’t mean to pin it on Georgia as a whole, and certainly don’t want to diminish your liking of the country. Sometimes my temper/pride gets the best of me. It is a different experience for foreign women who live there, absolutely, but I definitely think the best of Georgia is worth taking a trip there to experience. Hope I didn’t scare you off my blog haha.

            • No. You would have to verbally accost me to scare me off your blog. I truly understand where you are coming from. I have had bad experiences traveling and living places and I continue to have a negative opinion of those places because of those associations. Your bad memories are more horrifying than mine, so you are justified in your feelings. I’m just glad you’re brave enough to talk about them!

  2. Rob Moss

    Hi Megi!

    I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Georgia this very minute – did you visit in June? I am thinking of April – do you think the weather would be friendly enough by then?

    • Hi Rob, glad to hear you will soon discover Georgia! I think the weather here in April is lovely, if a little hard to predict. It can be windy and cool some days, but generally it’s not bad. May would really be ideal (especially because the produce starts to get really good the further we move into the summer).

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Meg

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  4. I’ve heard from more than a few people that Georgia is spectacular. With the mountains and old buildings, it’s certainly my kind of place. It’s on my ‘list.’ Problem is, my list is HUGE. So I’ll live there vicariously through you for a while.

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  8. There is a book coming out that I have been waiting for about a year and a half and the author decided to move the story to Georgia for the book. I love all these pictures because it’s giving me scenery for the book (since I have no remote idea what Georgia landscape is like apart from the pictures on this blog!). Great pics as usual. 🙂

      • It hasn’t come out yet, it comes out July 31st. It’s the 6th book in an urban fantasy series so I don’t know if that’s really your cup of tea. So far it’s the only UF series I’ve read and enjoyed (Kate Daniels series). I think the writing is great and that the characters are awesome. It’s called Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews. It’s actually a husband-wife team that writes the books and the wife Ilona is Russian and likes to incorporate a lot of mythology from all kinds of different countries. I’m assuming there will be some Georgian mythology as well? I was pretty skeptical when I saw the cover of the first book (a friend recommended the series to me) but I got hooked pretty fast.

  9. These photos are absolutely breathtaking. I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again – Every post I read of yours makes me want to go to Georgia more and more.

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