From the townlet of Stepanzminda, we climbed up to the famous Gergeti Trinity Church, lying on a hill in front of Mount Kazbegi. There is a road leading up and taxi drivers wait at the main square to drive you, but we wanted the experience of hiking up. We chose a longer but not so steep route to hike up, down we took the shorter track, which gave us some great views.
Mount Kazbegi with 5054 its metres is the second-highest volcanic summit in the Caucasus after Mount Elbrus in Russia. Kazbegi is a potentially active volcano, built up of trachyte and sheathed with lava, and has the shape of a double cone. The peak of the church at 2170 metres was the closest we got to the mighty Kazbegi, leaving the challenging hike to a base camp and further to the summit to the real mountaineers.
Built in the 14th century, the Gergeti Trinity Church is the only cross-cupola church in this province. The separate bell tower dates from the same period. During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination. Today it is an active church again.
We had a great day, hiking up to the church, and were lucky to have Mount Kazbegi free of clouds. Every other day we came to Stepanzminda, there were clouds hanging around the peak. The hike took only about 3 hours, but we were exhausted enough. Maybe still the aftermath of our food poisoning or just lack of fitness?
Tomorrow we will do another hike to some waterfalls not far from Stepanzminda. More on our next post!