Friday was a Georgian holiday, the Day of the Virgin. It seems to be a feast day. In any event, Parliament is not working so I have a three-day weekend. Bakuriani was Georgiaís first ski area. Many of the Soviet Olympic skiers came here to train. There are many dormitories and "sports camps" but few hotels. The Gudauri ski area gets more business now because the mountain is higher, it is closer to Tbilisi and it has a fancier hotel, built by Austrians late in the 1980ís.
I started Friday morning by putting my mountain bike in the back of the car and driving to Borjomi. Throughout the former Soviet Union Borjomi is famed for its mineral water. I am told that you can even buy Borjomi mineral water in New York. The big problem in Russia is counterfeit Borjomi. The town of Borjomi is nothing special, but they have a fine park. The park has several springs where you can get all the free mineral water you like, vendors selling ice cream and other food, a very cold stream for boys to swim in and a swimming pool. I relaxed and had lunch in the park.
Next I headed toward Bakuriani and the Timotesubani church. I got to a small village and wasnít sure which way to the church so I stopped and asked an old woman who had a small kiosk selling soda and cigarettes. She pointed the way and then somehow conveyed the message that her grandson would like a ride to the church. I agreed and we headed on our way. When we got to the church I was amazed to see hundreds of people there. Extended families were cooking big picnics and dancing on the lawn. It turned out that they all came here for the holiday. It was a big church with some nice frescoes.
Then I headed for Bakuriani. I had paid a travel agent in Tbilisi to make hotel reservations for me. I asked for directions but they said that the only way to find the place was to stop and ask someone where the hotel keeper lived. Sure enough, I asked and people all seemed to know and they pointed me up a side street until I arrived. He was turning his house into a real hotel, complete with at least a half dozen guest rooms with bath rooms (no outhouse here) and a real dining room. They served me a fine dinner.
On Saturday I drove for a while on a dirt road heading for a mountain pass until I decided to ride my bike instead. I rode up the hill for an hour or two until I got to the pass. Like most Georgian mountains, it is treeless here. We are probably not above a tree line, but the sheep graze on the grass and keep anything large from growing. The soil probably isnít much good so I donít know if trees would grow, but it is nice to be able to walk along the ridge and admire the view in both directions.
On Sunday the inn-keeper told me of a bicycle path that was nearby Ė the first I had heard of in Georgia. It turned out to be a nice paved path winding through the woods for a couple of miles. I didnít see anyone else on bicycle that week-end, so I guess that it was built for tourists. Maybe for training?