Monastery Tour Impressions, June 2006
Pilgrimage to Qazbegi
The art of storytelling is prominent in Georgian culture, recalling the historical achievements of ancient rulers and legendary myths. From Queen Tamar, who was such an impressive ruler that the people actually called her King Tamar, to Prometheus who discovered fire atop Mount Kazbegi, Georgia is a nation filled with a desire for dramatic license and grandiose tales.
The ascent into the Caucasus to reach the mythical location of Prometheus’ achievement is something of legend itself. On a clear day, the ride seems to climb higher and higher towards the sky with only the clouds to prevent an escape into outer space as the awe-inspiring natural beauty of waterfalls and rock formations create a scene right out of an epic adventure. However, on a cloudy day, the trek becomes one of mystery and apprehension, with narrow roads hanging in the balance between cliffs and mountain ledges.
In both instances, the ride is worth it, because the destination of Gergeti Monastery of the Holy Trinity sits beneath Mt. Kazbegi’s towering 18,000 feet and can literally take your breath away at first sighting. The gentle sloping walk from the quaint town to the monastery is clearly meant to burn up any excess adrenaline, and prepare pilgrims for the divine encounter they will experience at the top of the ridge.
Closed by the Soviets and only recently returned to the Church, the Gergeti monastery is a respite from the world in every sense of the word. Sitting along the edge of a mountain ridge at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, a trek to the monastery very quickly reminds pilgrims of the necessity to focus not on worldly cares, but on the things in life that really matter. And like the rest of their fellow-countrymen, the three monks who reside in the monastery make sure that every guest who visits is treated with the utmost respect and hospitality.
That hospitality is what characterizes every day of a tour to Georgia. It’s what makes the trip so memorable and worthwhile, and the welcoming spirit and generosity makes it all the more likely that your first trip to Georgia will not be your last.
David Lucs is a member of the chancery staff for the Orthodox Church of America's national headquarters and has been to Georgia three times. He was able to introduce his wife Alexandra to Georgia on the 2006 Monastery Tour, and enjoyed being a tourist for the first time. David and Alexandra are from Long Island, New York.