Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
Once, while in Khevsureti, my friend Ia, who is Svan, told me there was no region in Georgia as beautiful as Svaneti. So I didn’t miss the chance and had the pleasure to visit Svaneti last summer.
It was a tour with friends but responsible, as two Spanish tourists were visiting Svaneti with us. We were seven altogether. So another adventure started…
Svaneti is situated in the north-western part of Georgia. It is nearly 456 km from Tbilis to Mestia. So despite nine hour-journey you won’t be bored on the way. You can enjoy with breathtaking views of Kartli valleys, proud monuments of culture of Imereti and Zugdidi, Samegrelo region.
Svaneti is best reached from Zugdidi. The road is quite good. The road, strewn with rock falls, follows the side of the valley high above the reservoir. We stopped our car and enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of Inguri Reservoir. It was a bit rainy but the reservoir hasn’t lost its haughtiness.
Our way proceeds and at last we noticed the first tower of Svaneti. We are in the village Lenjeri. We got out of the car… The air was so fresh… Soon we reach Mestia.
Our destination of the day was Mestia. Our host family was the Khergianis, whose brother was a well-known mountain climber. The family greeted us warmly. The table was already set for us. Despite being tired we didn’t want to waste our time and decided to walk around Mestia. We visited the centre of Mestia and saw a newly built statue of Queen Tamar. To be frank, I wasn’t admired of the statue and neither Svans themselves, as we found out later.
After then we visited Mikhail Khergiani House Museum. The museum was founded in 1983. Mikhail Khergiani became famous in Georgia and abroad by participating in many mountain expeditions and climbing competitions. Khergiani was distinguished by his exquisite rock climbing abilities; he saved many people during mountain rescue missions. Khergiani died tragically in Italy, in the Dolomites Mountains in 1969. The exposition in the museum documents episodes from his life. The materials exhibited in the museum belong to him. The daughter of Nazo Khergiani guided us and told many interesting details about her uncle.
There are many churches in Svaneti. In the entrance of the town there is the church of St. George, built in 19th century to replace an 11th century ruin. The church is famous for a good metal icon of St. George killing Diocletian and old painted icons of Christ and the Virgin and the Child. Outside, there is the grandest grave of the climber Mikhail Khergiani (1932-1969), who died in the Italian Dolomites.
We didn’t want to go home so walked around the town. Mestia was being redecorated and we watched how fast workers work. It was already dark when we got home. A hot tea was waiting for us with a warm talk to Mr. Nugzar Niguriani. He told us many interesting things about his experience in the mountains.
To be continued….