RFERL’s Caucasus Report tells us that “Russia, Georgia Move To Restore Transport Links” at the Verkhny Lars/Zemo Larsi border crossing and via direct flights. Zemo Larsi, on the Georgia side, is in the beautiful Kazbegi region of Georgia, a few hours drive up the Georgian Military Highway from the capitol, Tbilisi.
Across the border in Russia lies North Ossetia, whose capital Vladikavkaz is maybe twenty five miles (40 k) on down a road that will get you to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya in about another fifty miles (80 k). Or take a left after Vladikavkaz and it’s a short drive to Beslan, home of the September 2004 schoolhouse siege that killed over 300.
It’s a daunting neighborhood. And it’s all less than 300 miles (482 k) from the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi. Get your tickets early. (We’re keeping an eye on Sochi in our Sochi Olympics Watch.)
At least until the summer war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, the Georgia side of the border was lovely and peaceful, and I imagine it is again. If you ever visit Georgia, a drive up from Tbilisi to the community of Kazbegi, near the border, will make you feel like a real adventurer.
The border crossing that’s reopening is spectacularly located, too, along a narrow pass in the high Caucasus through which the River Terek rushes as if out of control. On our trip to Kazbegi in 2006 we visited the border as guests of an Army Corps of Engineers contractor who was then on the job of constructing the Georgian side of the border crossing. Here’s what it looked like in June, 2006:
Note the sheer vertical canyon walls and the tiny gap where the road continues, up ahead in the photo past the buildings under construction.