Monday, September 3, 2012


  We invite you to the event that connects the European volunteers that work in Rustavi in SIQA Organisation, with the local community and offers the opportunity to have an insight of what volunteering means and what kind of activities are developed during their stage.

  Participants will also have the chance to find out what steps should be followed in order to gain an amazing experience abroad within Youth Exchange Programme.

  Citizens can also use their chance to write their ideas of raising community awareness regarding Rustavi’s heritage and how this should be exploited efficiently to develop the local community.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beautiful Svaneti

Every single Kartulian that I’ve met in Georgia suggested me to go to Svaneti. If you would like to see wild places, great landscapes, beautiful peaks (5000 m), Svaneti is the right place.
          So, without hesitation I decided with Razvan to hit the road for that memorable place. First, we went to discover Batumi and after few days we followed our path to Svaneti.
For our adventure we chose to travel in a ,,hitchhiking manner”. It's a real adventure to hitchhike here in Georgia but it works very well. If you go hitchhiking in a team with a girl you won't be waiting for more than few minutes,  someone will stop to ask you if you need help. But with Razvan things were a little bit different: sometimes we expected more than usually.

            It is very interesting how we understood with the local drivers because of our poor language skills, speaking a few words in Georgian, Russian or English. The point is that we passed the language barrier and more than that they were very nice with us and they made us feel very comfortable.
            First stop was at Mazeri, a village near Ushba mountain (4700m). It was a really wonderful view; I started to thank those who guided us to come here.
We decided to go up on the valley to see the glacier, it was so beautiful and so easy to climb that I could go up by sandals the entire track. I heard about Ushba long before I came here in Georgia but I could not believe that we were in front of it. If I were Aurel Salajan (one of my best friends) and if I had the right equipment with me, I am sure we could organize a successful climb. It is very dangerous indeed but we certainly could have done it if the weather would had been good.

 It was the first time for Razvan to climb a 3000 meters mountain. We enjoyed the beautiful mountain landscape together; the valley was full of flowers, rivers with crystal water and we walked with patience, we were in a good mood. At some point we got lost but finally we managed to find the right route.

    We finally arrived at the Ushba glacier. I honestly expected to find it much bigger; unfortunately it seems that global warming has left its mark. We ate salami which was heated by the sun, honey, butter and some slices of bread that we had with us. It was the best food in the world!
Everything was nice and pleasant. But in the same time I just wanted to share my joy with my friends from home.
While we were having “siesta” in the sun, a helicopter was flying around the glacier. We understood that something was wrong.  A tragedy happened. When we were in the village again we found out that two Ukrainians died in the mountains; we also saw reportage on the news about the accident. I had such a bad feeling. In this time I was wondering why people risk their lives.
 From my experience I can tell you what a great feeling overwhelms you when you are surrounded by wonderful nature and in the same time you are with your buddies. Maybe I cannot be understood by everyone, just by those who love adventure and adrenaline.
Anyway a successful ascent depends on many factors that you have to keep in mind: you have to be in a very good physic condition, you need a good teammate and equipment. I could say it is more dangerous to be a driver than a climber in these days.
After Ushaba, we visited Mestia and Ushguli, these two villages in the heart of the mountains. We were wondering how these people manage to live here, but we already know the answer. By working their own land and by raising animals.
           I admire their simplicity, even if for nowadays it is quite complicate to imagine that some of them don’t even have T.V. or radio.

In Mestia we met so many nice people that invited us to their home. Without hesitation, an old woman invited us to her house. We received a place to sleep and good food. She had such a beautiful family with many children and for that I felt like home in their house. But we were a little bit embarrassed because we couldn’t give more than one candy for every child, but their smiling faces showed us that they were happy even without more, with only our presence as foreigner guests.

On departure we received their contact information and they said to us that we are always welcome to return here.
    Unfortunately the days are flying and we have to go back in Rustavi. We are not sad, but we miss chatting with our friends who expect us to come back home and tell them our experience.

Some Facts about the Svaneti region of the Republic of Georgia: 

    Svaneti is a historic province in Georgia, in the northwestern part of the country. Located on the southern slopes of the central Greater Caucasus, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in Europe. Since 1996 the Upper Svaneti region has been included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List "considering that the region of Upper Svaneti is of outstanding universal value being an exceptional landscape that has preserved to a remarkable degree its original medieval appearance, notable for the distribution, form, and architecture of its human settlements." "The Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses preserved by its long isolation. The characteristic landscape of Upper Svaneti is formed by small villages, dominated by their church towers and situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains." 
"The wealth of monumental and minor art (metal work, manuscript illustrations, textiles and embroidery, wood-carving, icon painting, ancient forms of musical and oral folklore, vernacular architecture) are of paramount importance for the study of Georgia and the Caucasus. The monumental mural painting of Svaneti is of great importance in the study of the origins and development of Georgian and eastern Christian art." UNESCO World HeritageCentre. 
    Mt. Ushba ( 4710 meters from the sea level), described as "the Queen of Caucasus", is the most spectaculous and rough mountain of Caucasus. Ushba is known as the "Matterhorn of the Caucasus" for its spire-shaped double summit. From the point of view of mountain climbing Ushba is considered to be the most dramatic to ascend and is considered as one of the most difficult peak in the world.

Written by: Alin Stana.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Signaghi, the city of love

Some of the volunteers from Siqa had the opportunity to go to Signaghi, one of the most beautiful cities from Georgia, for their arrival trainings of the European Voluntary Service, organized by Salto.

In the first day of the training we had the chance to meet with others volunteers from Georgia and from Armenia and to accommodate with the city. 
Sighnaghi is known as the city of love because it is said that it's extremely easy to fall in love here and also to get married. The city is also famous for his wine, the traditional carpets and the Georgian traditional food, Mcvadi.
The town is surrounded by fortress with 23 towers which in the past was used to protect the inhabitants and the people from surrounding villages.
In Signaghi and near the city can be found several Christian - orthodox churches. Saint Nino Covent in Bodbe is one the most important sanctuaries in Georgia and shouldn’t be missed once you are anyway in Signaghi.

At the trainings we learned many things about volunteering, about the Georgian and Armenian culture as well, specific Caucasus issues and we improved some skills. Good chance to talk about our projects as EVS volunteers and to establish new connections.

We participated at supra, this traditional Georgian feast and an important part of Georgian social culture.  This celebratory feast - with tons of good food and wine are led by a Tamada or toastmaster, with great rhetorical skills. 
Our Tamada was Isra who started the toasts by making everyone to stand on their chairs and to toast for peace. We also toasted for love, for friends, for family, for those who are no longer here with us, for Georgia and for Armenia. During the toasting, we tasted special dishes from this area, the shashlik (Georgian bar-b-q), salads, khatchapuri, hinkali (dumplings with minced beef or pork), pkhali ( spinach or beetroot paste with garlic and walnuts).

We had such a good time, and if you are going to be in Georgia for any length of time, you don’t have to miss out one of the most important essentials Georgian experiences, the supra.

We all can agree it was an AMAAAAZING week, with nice people in a special place!

Written by: Ionela Munteanu

Monday, July 30, 2012

Being a volunteer in Georgia

I left my country, family and friends behind to live the experience of being an EVS volunteer in Georgia for three months. Impressed by this old culture, I came here to discover it in details, to leave something behind me when I will return to Romania and to take with me wonderful memories.
So, on 6th of June my journey started. Overwhelming emotions and beyond expectations. I was passing on an ex-communist territory with many crooked thoughts precisely because I heard so many stereotypes about Sakartvelo. But I left aside preconceived ideas; I wanted to find Georgia through my eyes, mind and soul.
First contact with Georgia: very friendly and hospitable people. From the airport you are welcomed with this message, written with big letters: TBILISI, the city that loves you! And also, like nowhere else they use 3 words for saying YES (Ki, Ho, Diah), and just one for NO (Ara).

As a first impression, Georgians are not as different as I thought they are, compared with the Romanians, we have a lot of things in common one reason being our common Russian period, but you will discover this from my stories.

The bridge between cultures - Episode 1

First steps. Music and dance is what define this nation. Special costumes, rhythm, passion, precision moves and joy of life.
This is the first thing that really impressed me when I was searching information about Georgia. I had the opportunity to see their traditional dances live many times and for some minutes it was like I was living in other times.

For example, Kartuli dance is such a romantic dance performed in couple. It looks like even in dance, men uphold their respect and manners by not touching the woman and keeping a certain distance from her. And the woman, on the other hand, maintains a downward gaze at all times whilst seeming to float effortlessly over the stage. To perform this dance its needed to practice technical precision and that is the reason why it  has earned it the reputation as one of the most difficult Georgian dances in existence.(Video: Kartuli12)
          Acharuli – Colorful costumes and playful mood that define this Georgian dance. Acharuli instills the sense of happiness in both the dancer and the audience.(Video:  AcharuliTraditional MusicOsuri Dance)
Kazbeguri - From the Northen Mountains of Georgia, the dance transmits the toughness  and endurance of the people living there.(Video: Kazbeguri)
Khevsuruli - This mountain dance it is said to be the best representative of the Georgian spirit. It unites love, courage, and respect for women, toughness, competition, skill, beauty, and colorfulness into one amazing performance. (Video: Khevsuruli)

In each dance women preserves their main role. But it’s a reciprocity that barely can be noticed. They have their own mystic values which can lead you to their original time being.

All you really have to do is to open your heart in front of this free sharing stage of Caucasus beauties.

Written by: Ionela Munteanu 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kazbegi Area

          Tourist and volunteer... a mix that has to be tried in full life time and further you have the related experience...enjoy it!
Georgia is one of the best places for travelling. To get to Kazbegi area you can start from Tbilisi on the Military Highway. It is a spectacularly located town just few kilometers south of Russian border, with snowy peak of Mt. Kazbek in the west, just behind the famous hill - of Tsminda Sameba Church at 2200 m.
Kazbegi Town       Foto : Stana Alin
Kazbegi is the main town of Kheki, the north region of Jvari Pass. It is named also Stepaatsminda and it is a town at 1750 m altitude with lots of Soviet time buildings.
Kazbegi Town       Foto : Stana Alin
How you get there?
You can take Marshutka directly from Tiblisi, from Didube metro station. It will cost you just 10 Lari. Marshutka leaves at 9 a.m.,10 a.m.,11a.m., 1.30 p.m., 3p.m., and 5 p.m. You can also take a taxi, but it costs about 100 lari.
What you can see around Kazbegi?
-Tsminda Church. It is a 14th century Holy Trinity Church above Kazbegi at 2200 m height, and it became a symbol of Georgia. In 1988 the Soviet authorities built a cable line to the church, with one station in Kazbegi and the other at the church. After that, people of Kazbegi, feeling that the church is a very sacred place, decided to destroy the cable line station. You can still see the base of it in the village near the museum Alexander Kazbegi.
Tsminda Church   Foto : Stana Alin
If you have a good physical condition and good weather, you can reach till the weather station, by following the path till near the Glacier. From the Glacier you can go directly up on it and then slowly crossing the glacier. You can still see the path made before. It is important to go with an experienced person if you are a beginner in this kind of adventure.
Tsminda Church      foto Stana Alin
 Museum Alexander Kazbegi
Alexander Kazbegi (1848-93) made the unusual decision to become a shepherd after studying in Tbilisi, St Petersburg and Moscow. Later he worked as a journalist and wrote the novels and plays that made him famous. Towards the end of his life he suffered from insanity. He died in Tbilisi, but his coffin was carried back to Kazbegi. His museum is a five-minute walk north from the main square.
On the way to the museum, you first come to a church, dated 1809-1811, with a striking relief of two lions with a chain above its door. To its east and west there are two structures that look like bell towers but are actually the tombs of Alexander's parents. The writer's own grave lies under a large stone sculpture near the fence. He asked to be buried where he could see Mt. Kazbek. The museum, in Kazbegi's house, contains photos, documents and some clothes and original furniture.
Church near museum in Kazbegyi   foto Stana Alin
- Betleemi Glacier - From the church you can hike more through Kazbek mountain and in about 2 hours you can rich a beautiful ridge of the mountains, from where you can see Betleemi Glacier, what is left from it, and the big , great peak with snow, Kazbek.
Mount Kazbek of 5047m is one of the highest and the most beautiful peaks of the Caucasus.
Betleemi Glacier   foto Stana Alin
Mount Kazbek Ascent
Mount Kazbek, 5047m, is one of the highest and the most beautiful peaks of the Caucasus.

From the small town of Kazbegi, 1700m, mountain paths lead across alpine pastures full of flowers, passing a perfect viewpoint of Gergeti Chapel. Crossing the grassy Sabertse Pass, 3150m, we get to the Gergeti Glacier. On the Gergeti Glacier you can find the Betlemi high mountain refuge situated on the southern slopes of Mount Kazbek.
It is better to spend a day for acclimatization and exploring the area. If the weather is good it is possible to climb Mount Ortsveri, 4365m. An alternative is to visit Betlemi, a hermit's refuge at over 4000m in a carved cave of a short way up a cliff (easy roped climb).
Mount Kazbek    foto: Stana Alin
For the ascent of Mount Kazbek we set off in the early hours. Despite of the lack of technical problems on this mountain, one should always remember the great height of this peak with its propensity for dangerous changes of the weather. The route leads us to the Maili Plateau 4500m, where we will use crampons to climb NW snow icy slopes to the saddle at 4900 m. The summit provides fantastic views of the Caucasian peaks stretching westwards to Elbrus for 200 km. We descend to the refuge in the evening hours. Our expedition finishes by walking down to Kazbegi and hitchhiking to Tbilisi and then Rustavi.
Grade, Difficulty of the route
In spite of its technical ease, Kazbek is a serious mountain. On a scale of 1-6, the grading of Mt. Kazbek equals to 2. Although no advance mountaineering experience is required for the ascent of Kazbek, you will need to be familiar with the basic use of crampons and ice axes and you should be in good physical condition. We have only a few days for acclimatization before we ascent the summit. We do not make any rock climbing, although the final sections of the mountain will be climbed on icy slopes with some rocky sections of about 35-40 degrees..
Weather, equipment and clothes
The best season for climbing of Kazbek is between late June and late September. Anyway mountain weather is variable. The temperature can change from +20°C (afternoon) to 20°C below zero at night. Storms and snowfall could be encountered at any time.
- 60 l backpack ideal
- Mountain equipment for sleeping (tent, mattress insulation, sleeping bag, gas tank, utensils for cooking)
- Equipment for covering trail leading to water considering that from 3500 -3700 meters climbing ice snow peak water pan. The route can travel and one for the inexperienced but definitely need: Boots thicker than, the preferred winter but might well treated with anti damp boots 3 seasons, thick wool socks, waterproof jacket and pants waterproof, snow fences, cap, crampons, ice ax, a rope(for a team of 2, maximum 3), helmet, harness
Food to take with you:
On the track we provide dried and canned food as well as cheese, milk, meat.
We use lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, porridge, muesli, eggs, bread, butter, jam/cheese, tea/coffee, chocolate, dried fruit, sausage, bacon, soups, nuts, etc. .. peanuts ... with a concentrated caloric products as high

Plan to climb the mountain
The days for ascension:
- For round-trip it would take six days
1. First day of Kazbegi - village on a path through the forest about one half hour to 2200m Church, where overnight stay
2. The second day of the camp at 3600m to the Weather station.
3. The third day acclimatization weather station for a short ride up to a small monastery over 4000m or differences in level walks around with a return to the weather station
4. Summit Day
From the weather station we tied rope, we put brackets and I started going on a smooth slope traverse and continue where I put up camp. That smooth continuous slope and peak day, but after the first two hours it was getting increasingly steeper then get into her. From there you can see the final part, which is quite steep and deep snow. It is there another quarter of an hour to climb slowly up to reach the summit. You climb slowly and reach the top, where you can see a splendid panorama of the Caucasus Mountains, the highest Elbrus in the Caucasus, Donguz Orun among the most famous and dangerous, huge glaciers crevices armored etc. .., may even catch good luck and long see and the Caspian Sea. In the same day you can reach Weather Station, 6 A sixth day descend all the way back up to Kazbegi.

5. Last day - Returning in Rustavi
Alin’s journey in Kazbegi proves to be one of the most interesting experiences that he could get in the Caucasus Mountains, but still his best wish is to reach Mt. Kazbegi’s highest peak of 5047 m.
Written by: Alin Stana


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