The Road of Friendship
The way ahead needs mental preparation. The Georgian Military Highway has been the main artery through the High Caucasus for centuries, connecting Russia with Georgia, Armenia and beyond. Until the late Soviet period, it was the only route. This drastic series of switchbacks, avalanche defenses, hair-raising drops, and medieval watch-towers sent Tolstoy, Chekhov, Lermontov, Tchaikovsky, Pushkin into raptures. All set major works in the area. To them it represented the rugged, eternally unstable link between Europe and Asia.
To our jeep, bumping and swerving across its surface, it hasn't changed a bit. Above us the sky condenses with heavy, moody vapours. 'Perhaps we will see nothing,' says Soso gloomily, glancing at zebra-striped mountains disappearing into thick cloud. Indeed when Pushkin first came through in similar mists, he described Kazbegi the road's most spectacular town as 'dismal.'