Above Kazbegi, and the village Gergeti, at an altitude of 2170 metres, Tsaminda Sameba stands on a hilltop. The silhouette of the church against the sky looks really nice.
From Kazbegi it takes about one and a half hour to walk up to the church. I was there in the end of June and the meadows were in full bloom. It is a beautiful walk with the meadows, the birch forest and the mountains (the highest of them Mt Kazbeg) around.
The church was built in the 14th century, but the tower added later. It is locked so if you want to have a look inside you should pick up the key from the caretaker in Gergeti village on your way up.
I just enjoy walking and meeting people or find nice places; just randomly; in Stepansminda, walking in the narrow streets you come across nice houses and nice people like this little girl who wanted to pose for me (picture 1); I wonder if in many years she will wear black clothes like this lady alone in the street (picture 2).
Nice streets, stones, simple houses in the other pictures.
Well, if you've made it this far, you may as explore the church. Frankly, after the grueling (ok, to out of shape, smoking me) 1.5 hour trek to the church, the exterior and the interior of the chuch wasn't the draw. The draw, of course, was the spectacular view. Please don't think it isn't a lovely church. It is. But, somehow, it would have to be amazingly magnificent to compete with the landscape.
As an aside: My favorite church can be found on the ride from Kazbegi to Tbilisi, in Ananuri, but that's for another tip....
Tsminda Sameba, the holy trinity church is of course, with the mountains, the place to visit in Kazbegi.
The setting of this church on top of a hill, isolated, far above the village is beautifully impressive, but the church itself has also a few little artistic things worth the walk.
Tsminda Sameba has been built in the 14th century and some of the décor, low reliefs, sculptures of that time are still there; more décor has been added during the centuries.
Look how the main door is framed with a frieze, and at the sculptures near by.
The brown-orange lichen on the green grey stones underline best the old sculptures (pictures 2, 3, 4), a bit altered with time, but clearly recognisable.
At the back, the window is decorated in the same style as the main door (picture 5).
There are lots of small sculptures on the church walls, and it is fun to discover them when walking around.
The Holy Trinity church, built on a hill far above the Terek Valley dominates the village of Kazbegui (renamed Stepansminda in 2006) since the 14th century. One of the characteristics (besides being in a beautiful setting) of this church is that it has a separate bell tower (picture 2), which is not common in Georgia. This tower ahs also been built in the 14th century.
This separate bell tower gives a bit of “lightness” to the church, as it appears overall rather massive when looking from close range.
There are a few wall paints inside the church, and if, in the past, there were Christian art treasures (specially during wars, as treasures from the churches from the plains were brought to safety in the mountains), nowadays, this active church has just a few strange artworks (picture 5) inside.
Walking up to Mt Kazbeg takes three-four hours one way, and that makes a very nice day hike; I mean walking to the feet of Mt Kazbeg, reach the glacier or the base camp from where alpinists climb on the summit.
During the walk you will enjoy various perspectives over the village and the church downward and, upwards, try to spot the summit of this old volcano hidden in the clouds the greatest part of the day.
Along the way, you will see a number of flowers, butterflies, birds. . .
Mt Kazbeg culminates at 5047m and according to legends is home of Prometheus who has been chained there by the gods after he stole them their fire; according to local legends, Abraham’s tent and Jesus’ cradle are also hidden somewhere on the mountain and that may explain why the local mountain guides were reluctant to climb on it in the 19th century.
Mt Kazbeg has officially first been “conquered” by English alpinists from the British Alpine club, but in fact it was a Swiss guide who walked first on this summit; Jakob Müller and many Swiss or French from Savoy alpinists worked as guides for the rich British when it was “fashion” to be explore the summits of the planet.
Nowadays, the locals tell Prometeus is still trying to escape when you hear the impressive noise of the cracking glacier. . .
I did not hear that noise and just made a day trip to the mountain, and enjoyed the thin air at the pass above the glacier and enjoyed even more just walking with the wind playing with my hair. Few pictures from that day hike.
More pictures in the travelogue.
You cannot miss Tsminda Sameba Church appearing on your left when you arrive by road from the south, or when you walk in the village of Kazbeg, and only the sight may lead you to want to pay a visit to that church.
You can find a taxi or some car owner who will propose to drive you up to the church, but of course, the best is to walk up to the church, a walk through forest and meadows, which will give nice views over the Terek valley, the village (picture 2) and at the end let you discover the church from beneath, “deserving” her (the church) in some way.
The walk up takes a bit more than one hour, on easy paths, locally a bit steep, so, sandals are not recommended (picture 4), and it is better to wear good walking shoes. It is a very pleasant feeling to see the church, coming out from the woods (picture 5), and walk the last part of the trip on the grass.
Those who know my VT pages know that I like cemeteries, and here in Kazbegi , on the slopes above the village you find some resting places which give their occupants nice views over the places where they lived (picture 1); the recent resting places are very “private”, surrounded by a fence (picture 2), but there are older ones, very modest ones, marked just by a stone in the grass, with view on the church above (picture 3), or the village below (picture 4).
It seems there are no “formal” cemeteries, a dedicated place where the dead of the village have their resting place; the graves are more or less grouped in several places above the village, but no fence or limit for a cemetery, these are not real cemeteries.
You noticed that the graves are on meadows, and these meadows have to be scythed, and the locals make hay near their ancestors (picture 5).
There are great domestic animals just running around the town, and as you trek up the trail. And, while there's not photo, there is a little dog that'll probably follow you up and down. Very friendly, although he does jump on you with his very muddy paws!
It is worth to see believe me! I'm from Georgia and am used to our natures beauty, but in spite of this the mountain Gergeti and the church standing on the top of it impressed me very much! The view is unforgettable (please see the photo attached and you will believe me immediately)
It’s told by our orthodox ancestors that if you’ll go to visit it on foot three times in your life than you’ll be blessed!
Only thing that I can suggest is to go there in summer cause in other period of the year it’s quit freezing there.
Arriving to Kazbegi from Tbilisi the shared taxi stopped at the main square. The town is not big at all, but only have 4000 inhabitants. Around the square are a few buildings, a hotel, a bakery and a restaurant and some kiosks.
Kazbegi is nothing more than a village so make sure you can entertain yourself at night by either drinking beer and watching Russian TV or reading a good book. Other than talking to your hosts or travellers there is not much to do but it is a great place to unwind and relax while waiting for the amazing morning views.
The Holy Trinity (aka Tsminda Sameba) church was built in the 14th century at a height of 2170m above sea level, in fairy-tale mythical scenery resembling to a “Lord of the Rings” landscape.
I believe the place was chosen specifically to be seen from far away, to mark “an entrance” and to testify over the centuries about the strong Christian faith of the Georgians.
You can imagine that at this height, and considering its age, the church building could not be neither large nor bear exquisite decorations. It is a rather simple but elegant construction, with primitive drawings over the grey stone walls outside and austere interiors.
The church up in the mountains you can see from down in the valley.
You can climb up to this church.
It takes about one hour to get up and one to get down.
From the church you will have a lovely view to mount Kazbek and to Russia and Kazbegi.
It is also possible to take a car.
But thats not necessary!
Kazbegi or Stepantsminda as it has been renamed recently is one of the top destinations when visiting Georgia. Beauty of nature is amazing and this part of the country is connected to Russia through Dariali Gorge (though it has bee closed by Russians under a pretect of planned repair works that continues the third or second year already)....