This is going to be easier if I just stick the photos for this part in a separate post or two, or three.
First, some establishing shots. The first is taken through the window of the marshrutka, which is why it’s a little washed out and spotty. I was lucky enough to have a seat at this point — I’d started the trip sitting on one of our backpacks, but managed to upgrade when a couple people got off at Zugdidi (and one of the new guys got stuck on the backpack). There was another fellow next to me who spent most of the trip with his right shoulder hunched into the curve of the window.
The second was taken in one of the villages we paused in on the way. Once we got up into mountains, we started shedding passengers. Some got off in one or another village. Others would ge let off apparently just by the side of the road — until we saw the four wheel drive that was waiting to pick them up and take them farther on. We shed baggage as well, as most everyone was bringing stuff up from town — boxes of beer, a carpet bag full of home-made cheeses, sacks of… something. The driver took a short detour into one of the little hamlets, where he stopped to fill up water bottles from a spring by the side of the road. It was tidy little thing, like a square wooden well, only a couple of feet deep, and with a roof over it. The water was clear and cold, with a sandy bottom. I filled one of our bottles out of curiosity. Svaneti is dotted with mineral water springs like this one — there were two or three in Mestia where we stayed. The Svans call them “sour water”, and so they are.
And this one is just of a random door. This sort of wood carving, with the circular solar symbols, is pure Svan.
Here is the party we were invited to. It was just as Stephen described: we were just wandering the streets, looking at the houses, when these people called to us from the porch & sat us down to dinner. The lady just behind Stephen is the school teacher. The gentleman next to her is the tamada (toastmaster). The tamada role will be taken either by the male head of the household, or the man present who has the greatest mana, effectively. I never heard a Georgian use the expression mana, but that’s basically how it works. Just out of shot to the left is the guy who was squashed in next to me in the marshrutka, and the guy in the grey shirt is the one from Novosibirsk.
Here’s Giorgi, leading the way up his tower. These towers are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We need to sit down at some point and tally up how many UNESCO sites we visited on this trip.
And here’s the view from the top:
And I think that about catches me up to the beginning of Stephen’s last post…