Excursions from Kazbegi
The village of Gergeti is just across the river from Kazbegi on the slope of Mt. Mkinvari (Kazbek). Farther up the mountain at 2,170 meters is the Church of Tsminda Sameba (The Holy Trinity). This 14th-cenlury church is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi. The belltower dates from the same period. Visible only in clear weather, both church and belltower are revered landmarks of the region.
Springing almost autochthonously from their rocky outcrop they stand in that great natural vastness as a symbol of the tenacity of faith. A jeep with an excellent driver could get you there in half an hour. The walk, though rigorous, is more gratifying and takes between three and four hours.
Of the places along the Military Highway mentioned above, walks to Sioni and Pansheti, from Arsha to Sno, and through portions of the Darial Gorge are all rewarding.
A spectacular day trip into the eastern valleys and mountains of Khevi is to Juta, the only Khevsur village on Khevi territory. The village is, in fact, very near the border between Khevi and Khevsureti, a border that is defined by the massifs Rochka and Jaoki. If you're looking to get away from it all, the pleasure of this trip is guaranteed. If you're searching for the untampered-with spirit of the Caucasus, for the rhythms of a pastoral way of life, and expanses of nature as unsullied as on the day God created the Earth, then by all means make your way to Juta. Take food for a picnic as nothing is available for sale in the village.
In good weather this trip can be made in a car, although a jeep is advisable. Take the A301 south out of Kazbegi for 4.5 kmto the village of Arshkhoti. Make a left onto an asphalt road and follow it for 2.5 km to the village of Sno. You'll pass some monumental stone sculptures in a field. They are contemporary, the work of a local sculptor Merab Piranishvili. When your odometer shows eight km, bear right off the asphalt and continue two km across the Artckhmo River. (From Sno to Juta, you're traveling due east.) The road branches after another one km (0.6 miles). Bear right through the village into the Jutistskali canyon for another 1.5 km (one mile) or until you've found a good place to drive across the river of the same name. There isn't any bridge. This canyon is home to masses of vultures that line the cliff face or circle hideously above the river. Continue east along the opposite bank to the 16-km point, where you will see a shrine at the confluence of two rivers. From there, continue bearing left for another four km to reach Juta.
Juta is a village of 20 Khevsur families living in terraced houses on a hillside. Each house has its own small vegetable plot, haystack (depending on the season), and brick walls of dried excrement for burning as fuel in winter. While it is unlikely that you'll see the traditional Khevsur dress worn except during a holiday or wed-ding, families might be willing to show you their folk attire if the matter is handled with discretion. The clothes are made of thick wool naturally dyed, ornamented with beads, coins-some minted in Tsarist days-and elaborate handstitched embroidery. The women's headdress is called satauro. The scarf around the head-dress is the mandili. The main dress is the kaba. The coat on top of the dress is the katibi. The men's shirt is the perangi. Walks above the village into the mountains are delightful and the ideal place to spread out your picnic.