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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