Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trip to Svaneti, part 2

A double rainbow greeted us when we arrived in Mestia just in time for dinner (a huge one, that I neglected to photograph, provided by our guesthouse).  You may have noticed the rainbow we photographed on the road from Zugdidi, in my last post - that was a different rainbow.  

I think I have seen more rainbows during my last two years in Georgia than in the entire rest of my life - both at home in Tbilisi and around the rest of the country.  The Georgians believe that this land is under the protection of the Mother of God.  Maybe the rainbows are related to that.

The next morning we had breakfast at the guesthouse.  On the menu was khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread), cucumbers and tomatoes, cheese, bread, boiled eggs and cake.  The cake, by the way, was a swirled chocolate-and-vanilla affair that tasted identical to a cake my mother used to bake in a Bundt pan.  I do not know what recipe she used but when I get home I will go through all her cookbooks to see if I can find it.  It's the little things like this that I imagine will continue to be tough as time marches on after her death.

After breakfast we set off exploring.

Staring at the rusty playground mean old Mama wouldn't let them play on.

In downtown Mestia - that peculiar building in the background is the police station.

The guidebook counseled us that the best thing to do in Mestia was to turn off into the dirt alleyways and explore.  So that's what we did.

The girls were dying to go into a tower (since, clearly, Rapunzel must have lived in one of them).  As they are all privately owned, we weren't sure how to make that happen.  We ended up walking until we saw a woman standing in the courtyard of this house and tower, and we asked if we could come in and check it out.

She graciously agreed.  She didn't speak any English or Russian so I was unable to ask her about the history of her house and tower.  Jeremy and the girls climbed the ladder to the first floor of the tower, but I stayed below with Gabriel.

This was the inside of her house.  The ladder to the right leads to the entry to the tower.  The part in front of the stone wall, to the left, is traditionally where the livestock would live.  The living space is on the other side of the stone wall.

We headed back into town for lunch, and were delighted to find the square set up for a folk dance performance.  Georgian folk dancing is wonderful and we have caught several professional performances by the two main troupes that come through Tbilisi each year.  The performance in Mestia was put on my school children from throughout the Svaneti region and it.was.awesome.  I think I enjoyed it more than the professional performances.  The girls were enthralled.

The kid leaping in the below picture was awesome.  He could totally dance professionally.  We saw him later on at the museum and I don't think he was much older than 12.

Check out the faces of the kids below performing the highlanders' dance.  You can see video of a similar dance by professionals here.

We tried to delay nap time in order to stay for the whole performance, but were unsuccessful.  After naps, we headed to the Ethnographic Museum, which was happily open even though the guidebook said it was usually closed Sundays.  Svaneti was historically a hiding place for cultural artifacts due to its isolation and the fact that invaders rarely made it all the way into the mountains, so the museum's collection is wonderful.  There are a number of ancient icons - the following photos show icons of St. George and the Archangel Gabriel. Georgian iconography has a distinct style that I like very much.

This pulpit dates from 1100, and just hangs out in the middle of the room with only a single rope to guard it from prying hands.  It seems to be holding up pretty well, despite that.  Seeing stuff like this abroad always makes me think that Americans make things needlessly complicated.

Thousand-year-old Bibles.

The Armory.

Before dinner we took another walk behind our guesthouse, where we found more of that fantastic honeysuckle.

The scent was not quite as nice there, though, mingled as it was with cow dung.

The next morning we got up, ate another hearty breakfast and headed back for Tbilisi.  Though long, it was a great trip and I am glad we were able to fit it in.  With just a week left in Georgia, we won't get to see anything else.  I hope that we will make it back here sometime, but you never know.


  1. Oh, Masha, such beautiful pictures! I enjoy looking through them and reading about your adventures. You never know, maybe we'll go there someday.

  2. Hi Masha, these are some amazing trip and some amazing images of your trip. I am also travelling to Georgia and wanted to know the name of guesthouse you stayed in at Svaniti. Also if you could give some contact details. Also if you would be kind enough to suggest places other than Tbilisi and Svaniti.

    1. I'm sorry, I could not find the name of the place! There are tons of places to stay in Mestia, though. As far as other places to travel, I can recommend Mtskheta (next to Tbilisi; be sure to go to the Jvari church for a gorgeous view of Mtskheta), Batumi, Gori and Stepantsminda. Enjoy your trip; Georgia is wonderful!


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