As happens in December in Killary everything quietens down and people head of to far flung destinations. Looking at everyone heading off to all these amazing parts of the world I decided that I would myself head off somewhere cold for December. After much careful deliberation (throwing darts at a map of the world) I decided upon a trip to Georgia. Having decided upon a destination I did some research on it and found some very good reports of the people being extremely friendly and the food/wine being very good also. As this was mid November and December was approaching fast I hopped on the Internet and booked flights, squeezing in a stopover in Istanbul en route.
A remarkable place with a huge amount of history on the meeting of East and West. The Byzantine empire was brought alive before my very eyes. Lovely place although every Turkish taxi driver I met was an absolute crook.
On then to Georgia which after arrival in the capital of Tbilisi led me to the first of many interesting day trips to the Stalin Museum in his birthplace of Gori. Interesting trip lead by a very brusque soviet era tour guide who would not hear one bad word about Stalin. Blaming the west for the failure of Communism and extolling the former soviet republic.
Next up was a trip to Mt Kazbegi sitting at 5033 metres a very difficult climb. For this I hooked up with local man Giorgi Kaladze a veteran of many a climb and a font of information on mountaineering. We set off from 1500 meters and headed up on the first day for an '8 hour' climb, however due to fresh snowfall we ended up slogging our way through snow for 11.30 hours to arrive in the darkness at an old Soviet meteorological station at 3700 metres. However after 3 days of headaches and altitude sickness we unfortunately had to turn back. Mission not accomplished but a massive desire to go back and reach the summit. It was an amazing experience as I eventually made it as far as 4500 metres before we had to turn back. Not bad for a first try at altitude, that's only a couple hundred shy of the top of Mount Blanc.
What really struck me about Georgia was the history of the nation and the casual way they talked about buildings or monasteries form the 1st or 2nd century . It's location between the east and west and also its proximity to early Mesopotamia has left it with a huge cultural heritage which it loves to share with any visitors. This picture is of a cave city that used to house upwards of 20,000 people in the early 2nd/3rd century. It has unfortunately fallen down after many earthquakes but what is left is still very impressive.
It was an amazing country and a great place to visit. From all the amazing people I met to the food and wine that lived up to its reputation it is a trip that will live with me for many a year to come. I even made it home on Christmas eve, at 11.50, despite a cancelled flight and Christmas travellers. Home in time for christmas and time to start planning the new adventure , a summer sail and kayak in Greenland.
Best wishes to all in 2013 and let's hope that it's a positive one.