Sunday, September 22nd 2019

The towers of Svaneti, Georgia

After shaving fast through the Black coast we decided to go to the mountains of Svaneti. We chose Kutaisi as a base. Two days later and 6 hours of roller coaster ride from Kutaisi on a marshrutka(minibus) we safely arrived to Mestia, Svaneti. The ride is very scenic and views around will take your breath away. The biggest town in Svaneti is Mestia and it serves as a base and a starting point for hikes and treks around Svaneti.

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Surrounded by 3,000–5,000 meter peaks, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus.The typical landscape of Upper Svaneti is formed by small villages situated on mountain slopes, with gorges and alpine valleys and snow-covered peaks all year round.

towers mestia svaneti georgia 01

The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers, especially in Mestia and the frontier villages, such as Ushguli and Latali. These towers usually have from three to five storeys and the thickness of the walls decreases closer to the top. Nowhere in the world is there an analogue of these unique defensive structures of the early Middle Ages epoch.

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Historically the existence of the towers is explained by the necessity of protection against enemy and natural disasters. Therefore each house had a similar tower which served for the families as a refuge in case of war. Alarm signalization was the other function of Svan towers. They were used as sentry posts. In case of approaching danger a fire was lit on the main tower. As soon as this flame was noticed on the nearest tower they lit a fire there as well. This process was repeated on and on until the entire gorge was instantly ready to fight.

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The houses themselves are usually two-storeyed; the ground floor is a single hall with an open hearth and accommodation for both people and domestic animals. The biggest number of Svan towers (few dozens) have survived in Mestia and Ushguli. The youngest one is at least two hundred years. Many of the tower-houses have disappeared or are collapsing into ruins nowadays.

mestia svaneti georgia

We walked around Mestia in search of towers to explore, to get inside or to climb. There are several in Mestia you can climb to the roof. Most of them are inaccessible though. Locals told us that some of the towers are being converted into guest houses, and it will be possible to spend a night in one of them.

While walking on outskirts of the village we knocked on a gate of house to ask for some water. A man opened and invited us in. He offered us tea and chocolate. He told us that Svaneti used to be visited by hundred of tourists during Soviet times. They all stay at tourist camps, called touristic bases. And when there were not enough places local families used to take visitors to their homes. Very much like today, but at that time visitors stayed for free. Svaneti used to be very popular, especially among rock climbers. For example, Mt. Tetnuldi is one of the most difficult climbing tracks in all the Caucasus.

local painter mestia svaneti 01

The Svans, the indigenous population of Svaneti, are ethnic subgroup of the Georgians. The Svans have retained many of their old traditions, including blood revenge. Their families are small, and the husband is the head of his family. The Svans really respect the older women in families.

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This man lives alone which is not very typical for this area where severe conditions can be a matter of life and death. He is a painter and continues making his living by painting and metal work.

local painter mestia svaneti

The Svaneti region is a unique place both historically and naturally. The daily lıfe is tough especıally ın winter. Even druing summer the weather may change from sunny and hot to dark and ıcy rains.

İf you plan to visit Georgia Svaneti ıs A MUST. One of the best thıngs is to hıke from a vıllage to a village across the Upper Svaneti. You can fınd the same towers all over the area with the hıghest concentration of them in Ushguli and Mestia.

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