WE WERE THERE: GUDAURI
Today, Gudauri is a fashionable ski resort with a network of modern hotels, small restaurants, taxi services, guides with international permits, bank branches, spas, pharmacies, and other infrastructure. In addition, it is close enough to the capital of Georgia - Tbilisi. The season in Gudauri is open from December to May. Most of the slopes is for amateurs. Professionals can also satiate their adrenaline yearnings. Gudauri nestled over the precipice stretching for more than one kilometre. If you come up to the edge of the run-in area, you can look into the hell, so joke local residents. The upper chairlifts are at an altitude of more than three thousand kilometres and, by the way, can be reached by helicopters.
However, Gudauri became a snow resort quite recently, when investors from Austria saw relatively safe area rich in potential ski slopes. Today, the government pays special attention to the development of the ski resort. Every year they add new cableways, improve water supply system and expands power transmission lines. However, mainly the climate attracts tourists here. After all, most of the days in Gudauri are sunny. The temperature, even in the most severe winter, rarely falls below ten degrees.
Many poets and writers from the time of imperial-era admired the beauty of local landscapes. They are famous by dramatic peaks of proud and legendary Kazbek, the military-Georgian road along which many soldiers are buried, who did not overcome the high mountain pass, well-known mineral springs flow here red due to high copper content, and large birds of prey fly high vigilantly looking for small rodents or even lambs that have strayed from the herd.
Cows feel confident and regal on the mountain roads of Gudauri. Slowly they cross the road in front of cars and tourist buses without even turning to beeps. To some extent, they perform the role of speed control bumps and do not allow to accelerate the traffic flow to dangerous speed. Shepherds often drive their herds near Gudauri. There is clean air and more juicy grass, they say. It is almost impossible to take your eyes from the local cows. Shaggy and even curly, short cows from far away look more like bears, and in close up they amaze with their headdresses. Here, almost every animal has ribbons on its horns. Although this decoration has quite a practical side - so the villagers recognize their cows, in general such a bright splendour causes surprise and delight. You can even stroke and pat thick wool of those kind, lazy artiodactyls. The main thing is not to get confused and not to embrace a bull, which is only slightly larger than its female friends.
Long, twisting descents and uplifts of this area only at first sight seem to be deserted, stone boulders and elevations just look like accidental conglomeration. Revelation can be found in a dilapidated church. A bit farther from the main road that leads to the famous modern resort, there anchored a stone temple of the seventeenth century, the size of a small room. Its rusty little fence and a neglected graveyard only seem to be lost in the centuries. From time to time, local people come here to sacrifice lambs on the threshold of a once functioning temple. The Gudaurians say that their ancestors did the same before introduction of Christianity and so they preserved this tradition due before the big holidays, in order to appease the gods.
To get a little closer to the gods, and hear their whispers, one can on the observation deck, at height of almost two and a half thousand meters above sea level. Here, on the Cross pass, the sculptor Tsereteli, inspired by the legends of Georgia, erected the Arch of Friendship. It is almost impossible to miss it. A bright mosaic panel and a provocative location over the abyss, is a magnet for everyone. Stepping on one of its balconies, you can see how the Aragvi River flows calmly two thousand meters under your toes, and the turquoise lake gleams in the gorge. Daredevils move on. Walking around the Arch, you can see a narrow path that leads to the precipice. Here everything depends on your courage. Guides advise not to approach the edge in bad weather, as it is very easy to fall down here.
Along the narrow stony roads that lie around the Gudauri surroundings, there are numerous small stalls with endless souvenirs. Older Georgians, who, it seems, are more than a hundred years old, knit socks, stockings, mittens. They also sell papakhas (traditional hat) of lamb's wool. Children are pleased with the local sweet - churchela (hazelnuts in grape juice). Adults are treated with khinkali. The main khinkali destination is Pasanauri - a small town, located a little further Gudauri. The peculiarity of the local dish is that the dough is filled with finely chopped meat, not minced meat, as in the rest of the country. You can visit Pasanauri not only for food. There are many untouched mountains and gorges not trampled by tourists. In the town, there is a monument to two deer with an observation deck next to it. It is often crowded with onlookers, fascinated by watching how two rivers merge into one channel - Black and White Aragvi. Speaking about such an unusual phenomenon, the Georgians remember the old legend about two sisters who jumped from the rocks because of love. Experts say about different chemical composition of two streams. The surroundings are known for their mineral springs. You can drink special water here directly on the roadside, by attaching your mug to one of the many reddish streamlets. It has a lot of iron and it is not stored for a long time, in a while brown flakes fall on the bottom of your glass.
Nevertheless, the most striking in Gudauri is its night. It comes gradually. The mountains get filled with the rumble of rivers. In black silence, it resembles a whisper of giants. Thousands of stars shine bright up in the sky, like a carpet woven from precious stones.
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