Insufficient time to enjoy our mountain view

1041 Reviews

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Date of travel

June, 2023

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Rooms Hotel Kazbegi

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Stepantsminda, formerly known as Kazbegi, is remotely located in north east Georgia, 10km from the Russian border. Our one-night stay at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi was memorable for many reasons.

Firstly the journey – from Tbilisi it was a 150km drive up the Georgian Military Highway, stopping at Mtskheta for sightseeing, Guramishvili’s Marani for lunch and wine tasting, and Gadauri ski resort for snacks.

The highway which links Russia not only with Georgia, but Turkey and Armenia, is used extensively by heavy lorries and the state of the road was poor, particularly when passing through a long Soviet era tunnel: as the road is one lane in each direction, it’s virtually impossible to close for repairs. We also passed alongside other tunnels used only when the road is block through landslides or snowfall. However, under the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese are building a bypass, including a 9km tunnel under the Gadauri mountain, which when completed in 2024 will cut journey times dramatically. Well before reaching Stepantsminda we began to see a queue of lorries lining the roadside waiting to cross the Russian border, and were told that this can be up to 20km long.

Having arrived at 5pm in Stepantsminda, we turned off the main road for the 6.5km drive up a winding road to the picturesque 14th century Tsminda Sameba Church which at 2220m, can be seen for miles around. It was then a hike up a steep incline to the church in light drizzle, where despite wearing trousers, I had to don a wraparound skirt to look inside at several icons.

By the time we arrived at Rooms Hotel, it was 6pm, pouring with rain, and we had less than an hour to change before dinner and dumpling making.

The long, narrow hotel, with 156 rooms over 3 floors, looked austere and utilitarian from the outside: it formerly belonged to Intourist, the Russian tour operator, and functioned as a Soviet resort.

Check in was efficient and we were left to take our own bags to room 247 with the all-important mountain view. The large room had a bed with a dangerous wooden edge to it, with old chests converted into bedside tables with nearby lights and plug points. The ‘wardrobe’ was three hangers on a hook and the rustic furniture comprised of two long wooden shelving units, one which acted as the desk. Safes were available at reception, but the mini bar was fully stocked, and complimentary water was provided along with tea and coffee making facilities.

The bathroom was small, and as the shower didn’t have a mixer tap, it took a while to adjust the temperature, and as it wasn’t fully enclosed, water splashed all over the floor. However, there was plenty of space for our toiletries, a good hairdryer mirror combination and bath robes and slippers were available.

After a surprisingly wine-less dinner out, we returned to the ground floor bar for a much needed bottle to mark the end of an eventful day. It was delightful, full of squashy sofas with the long room divided by bookcases stocked with Russian and English novels.

We set our alarm early to enjoy sunrise from our balcony which had chairs and tables overlooking Mount Kazbegi, an extinct volcano. Breakfast service didn’t start until 8am and as most people appeared to be in groups wanting to leave at 9am, everyone milled around waiting for the rope to be removed. We bagged a table for two, and divided responsibilities: I loaded up a sharing platter with smoked salmon, cold meats, hummus, crudites, cheese and bread, whilst Roy sought out juice, coffee and pastries. This was a good move as whilst the food was delicious and varied, it was a total scrum down and we decided ordering eggs was too much bother.

As we left at 9am, we were unable to enjoy the expansive decked terrace with loungers and jacuzzi overlooking the mountains, the basement spa and 30-foot heated swimming pool.

All in all, lovely, but with a second night, and possibly better weather, we would have truly been able to appreciate the facilities.

Helen Jackson

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