Every time you get a receipt in Georgia, you can dial #200* plus a few numbers, and play the lottery. There are commercials for it everywhere, and there was even a sketch on Comedy Show about it (wasn’t funny). I have not yet won.

I’m sitting in the internet cafe in Chokhatauri on the way back from a long, long weekend of travel. We had Wednesday off this week, so a few friends and I decided to take the rest of the week off as well to travel to Mestia. Svaneti.

What is Svaneti? you all ask. Allow me. Do you like knife-throwing dances? The mighty Caucasus mountain range? Goat sacrifice? A people who have remained unconquered for millenia, people who are crazy enough to build multiple defensive towers in the mountains and sacrifice goats? People who speak a dialect of Georgian so obscure that few people alive can still understand it?

It’s nearly impossible to get to, though. We loaded out from Kutaisi on Tuesday afternoon for Zugdidi (“Big Hill,” and also the city with the worst reputation in all of Georgia), then woke up at five in the morning to take a second marshukta into the mountains. The drive was amazing: waterfalls, towering mountains, and of course, ambient livestock.

Mestia’s the capital of the region. It’s tiny. The muddy streets were littered with fresh lumber and rebar. Our driver left us downtown to locate our guesthouse so we walked for about ten minutes outside until we found it. It was pink.

The next day we climbed the mountain immediately behind the city. You can see a giant cross on top. “To the cross!” we cried. It was a really, really long hike. Some of us turned back. Me and this Irish guy Cillian led the herd and spoke of our love for climbing, and the adrenaline rush. As we climbed higher, our panorama of the Caucasus improved.

“I could climb to that one!” Cillian said.

“Yeah! Me too!” There was no stopping us. At the top of the mountain, next to the cross, we got a view. Snowy mountain peaks cut into the air, every way you looked.

The next day we hiked to a glacier and got followed by a dog with massive teats. Her name was patches.

This is what it looks like. All of it. Why would you build towers? Not because anybody wants to invade. No, because your neighbors attack you, and so you take them prisoner, stash them in your tower’s dungeon, and then trade them back for livestock or crops.

Anyways, I’m going to go home now and write about two successive weekends in Batumi.

  1. Sab said:

    Hi! is the place in the photo Mestia or the village of Ushguli? We are planning to visit that area by motorcycle, maybe you can give me some idea how long it takes from Mestia to Ushguli? Thanks!!!

    • This is Mestia…I actually didn’t go to Ushguli when I was there, but I hear that the road is long and unpaved, perhaps a 2 hour drive over rocks. If you’re on facebook, ask to join the group “Georgian Wanderers” and you should find way more useful information than I can provide. Good luck!

  2. Sab said:

    Great suggestion thanks!!! So do you think it would be worth it to just go to Mestia one day and then go back the next day? We have a short time in Georgia but Svaneti looks so interesting! Thanks!

    • Svaneti is beautiful. If you’ve got the time, go. You’ve got your own transportation, so it’ll be easier to get in and out.

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