During our stay in the municipality of Kazbegi we were told about a mysterious village called Tsdo – place, where only 5 families live, and in which an old pagan ritual of slaughtering the lambs takes place once a year. As if we would need even more encouragement to visit it, location of this place is quite unique. Settled up on the hill, it’s last village on the scenic Georgian Military Road (that would need another post itself) before the Russian border in Dariali. Sounding like a real rural and authentic area we had to experience it, see it with our own eyes.
It was quite a hike from the main road to the centre of Tsdo from where we continued to climb up to the top of the hill. Gorgeous mountains surrounded us and at the same time we could take a look down at the unique half-abandoned old settlement, its stone houses, ruins and beautiful green meadows full of flowers. The slope we were on was very special, on the rocky wall there was a ram statue carved in a single rock and an altar where (as we learned later) every year the sheep are sacrificed in order to guarantee the peace and prosperity of the village. On the ram’s head the skull of real animal was attached with wire. When we looked deep into the empty holes where eyes once it felt like the whole place got sorrounded by cryptic and creepy vibrations. The rocks seemed to be more reddish than normally and we could imagine how the blood is flowing down from the hillside like a river. The rusty metal “bed” near the statue seemed to give away the cold air flows. Even though the area was perfect for the tent with its soft ground, it didn’t seem right to sleep there and so we decided to search for another spot.
In the village we met some friendly locals, mostly old people, had a chat with them and one drunken man told us that “the statue used to be golden but Soviets stole it”. The other man, appearing out of nowhere, responded to him “if the ram was ever golden you stole it.” The weather was getting more stormy and that guy invited us to sleep in his home. We still hesitated, but, as every caucaus men, he insisted strongly, so in the end we happily accepted the offer.
A small wooden house where Kobe lives was very homey with wooden floors and walls. Again we felt like we would be in a museum! Unlike our previous visits, this time inside things looked well taken care off. It was a relief to finally use a normal, working toilet after camping in the forests and using more dirty squat lavatories. Here it’s rare to have indoor toilets and most of the people are making their needs on the streets. Most of inhabitants are poor and have problems with alcohol, which we could notice after meeting some locals. Kobe told us: “I’m a visitor here too”, he is taking care of the house after his father passed and he wanted to build there the bathroom to make life more comfortable for himself. After a short time we noticed that his unique name somehow fit well to him: tall and strong guy with huge intelligence and a big heart. No wonder, as we later learned, that he is working as a border patrol in Tusheti region.. From the window, next to Kobe’s home, he pointed us more bigger and richer looking buildings which belong to his brother and his cousin (who also has a guesthouse in Tsdo). “I stayed in Georgia, they went for work in Europe, you can see the difference” he joked and laughed.
There were some vodka shots and lots of food before we went to bed. We learned more about people’s life in Tsdo, about Kobe’s work and his life and had a chance to watch old photos. One picture was truly surprising: Kobe’s father hugging a Polish ambassador! This beautiful picture led us to deeper conversations how we all are the same and it doesn’t matter from where we are.
Next morning, after a deep sleep, we woke up and could smell a fresh coffee. Kobe was already awake serving us breakfast “you need energy for your day!” We again couldn’t refuse and we left the house with full stomachs. Only one evening with this golden hearted man and we were well rested and gained lots of energy to continue our road.
After the goodbyes, with a help of his local knowledge, we headed to the shortcut road that was supposed to take us easily back to the main road. We walked through fields that soon changed more and more wild. Soon it was clear that the route that was told to us was optimal maybe 10 years ago…we didn’t give up and it led us to another adventure. But that’s material for another post.