As for many things in Georgia, it is impossible to find any information on the Batumi Hill Cross in English language. As to this day it remains somewhat enigmatic to me and I only did this hike, because I saw the cross a day before enlightened on a hill near our hotel.Small Orthodox Church near Mount Kazbek at around 3900 m. elevation, which makes it the highest located Orthodox Church in the world
Christianity in Georgia
It is no surprise for such a symbol to stand on a hill as such religious statues could be found across Christian countries. Georgian people are proud to be one of the first Christian countries in the world. In a matter of fact, the region is famous for that as a neighbouring country, Armenia is officially the first Christian country in the world. 80% of Georgia’s population belongs to Georgian Orthodox Church, which to my surprise is way more modest compared to other Orthodox Churches I've seen. It is believed that Christianity first was preached in the 1st century AD by Apostles Andrew and Simon, but it was Saint Nino, a woman with a mysterious background, who converted the country into Christianity in 327 AD. The Georgian Kingdom of Kartli (Modern central Georgia) is believed to be the second country to be Christianized.
To this day, every religious object remains free to the public as according to a local belief, religion should be accessible to everybody. The notorious hospitality of Georgian people is linked to Christianity as well, it is believed that every guest is a gift from a good. If you want to read more about that, I would suggest you to read this article about how we ended up drinking at our Taxi driver's house with his family.
Getting to the Goal
There are two ways to reach the cross. First one being way more popular because it proved an access by a car. All you need to do is to exit E70 road to an unnamed one toward the South, once you pass a bridge through Chorokhi River.
The second one is the one we took and the one this entry is all about. The starting point in Gonio can be reached by E70 road from Batumi by car, by Bolt(Taxify), a local taxi or by No. 17 local mini bus. You can find more information on local public transport here.
Facilities aourn the hike
Like anywhere else in Georgia, the tourism infrastructure is relatively untouched. Don't expect to find a WC or any food or water on the road, take everything with you.
The hike itself
After lunching, swimming and a small break at our hotel we decided to hike up to a monument 4,3 km away from our hotel which looked like a giant cross. The ascent was 300 m. And the road was really steep or at least at the start.
The depths of Gonio town
From the beach, we could only observe a few bigger villas, but apparently, whole mountains are inhabited with smaller houses. What seemed like a small resort town appeared to be a town filled with locals as well. To our surprise, we passed through all kinds of houses, from collapsing old ones to shinning renovated ones. Even traffic was relatively busy. From place to place we found some local folks gathered and discussing their ever-important business. Somewhere else, children were playing their creative never-get-boring games, even some grandpas were slowly crawling the road with their old-but-strong sticks.
After 2km and 200 m. Ascension we finally left the asphalt and entered a more wild road which led through ancient conifers with some openings to what was next to come. To our surprise, even though the road seemed hard to find, it was clearly cleaned by someone as the grass was obviously cut and taken away.
After some walking we entered a wide green grass field, this where space had finally opened up for us and a hard climb turned into an enjoyable hike.
Wonderful Panorama of Batumi
The view to the seaside provided a glimpse of Gonio town and our final goal – the cross, the view into mainland was full of valleys and mountains. I didn’t expect that, but thanks to that I know at least know something about how lower Caucasus mountains look like.
This part of the hike was relatively easy because we had to traverse from the back of the hill so the road was almost flat and we started to see people again from whom everybody seemed to arrive here by their cars.
Taking pictures at every opening we found we slowly climbed to the top. Apparently, there was another, thinner cross to the side of Batumi. The city panorama was probably the biggest surprise of this hike, it looked like you see all of Batumi and could grab it by a hand. The river delta nearby looked like nothing else, but a spilled water.
The Gonio Cross
Near the main cross, there was a lot of people, we hiked up just in time for the sunset. It seemed like a popular place to say good bays to the Sun as the Earth rotates you out of Its vision. It was easy to understand why there are so many people, it was easy to see the sea and even Gonio town with Kvariati peeking from behind a smaller mountain.
We let Sun set and rushed down to the city for dinner while it was still relatively bright. The steep road was still hard even while descending so we didn’t waste our time breaking and just ran down. After a short walk through the town, we went to a restaurant.
My impressions of visiting Gonio Cross
Though the beginning of the walk is really boring and steep, the second part of the hike is truly awarding. Compared to anything else I've seen in the region, I enjoyed observing the green valleys of Lesser Caucasus Mountains the most. It felt like a true refuge from noisy tourists and locals trying to profit in any way they can.
I recommend doing this hike early in the morning, to observe the rising sun above the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, or in the evening, to see it setting to the Black Sea. Besides that you'll be rewarded with an amazing panorama of Batumi and the little towns nearby. And I'm not even mentioning the big Cross, right?
Nevertheless, this hike has a somewhat sad symbolic meaning to me. This is the last day when I have company, the next day, after my friend leaves to Tbilisi Airport I’ll be the last one left in Georgia.
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