By Tika Bujiashvili
Today’s theme is about the place, that is not really known among tourists. I found it very difficult to write about the region. Yes, it is the Pankisi gorge. You can’t find a word about this place in any of the travel guides, but I think, it is one of the must see places with its unspoilt nature any time of the year, unforgettable hospitality and of course the traditions…I decided to give general information about the region at first, then about the sightseeing.
The pankisi gorge is a valley region in Georgia, just south of Georgia’s historic region of Tusheti between Mt. Borbalo and the ruined 17 century fortress of Bakhtrioni. Administratively, it is included in the Akhmeta municipality of the Kakheti region. An ethnic group living there is called Kists of Chechen roots, who form the majority in the area. There are six Kist villages in Pankisi: Duisi, Dzibakhevi, Jokholo, Khalatsani, Omalo (different from the village of Omalo inTusheti) and Birkiani. The river which runs in the region is the Alazani.It’s about 3 hours drive from Tbilisi to Pankisi gorge. The first village is Matani, where national hero named Kakutsa Cholokashvili was born.There’s a stronghold, old churches and a palace of Kakutsa Cholokashvili, though Matani, as it is said, isn’t a Kist village. Duisi, which is the biggest village of the region, is a central Kist village. You can find christian church ruins except Duisi. There is an old mosque there and the christian church in Jokholo.The Kists are very hospitable and kind people, quite friendly to strangers. We just asked the way to the fortress to one of the 22 years old local, but he became our guide, spent the whole day with us and patiently answered lots of questions given by us sometimes more than twice. He told us about their lifestyle, which is quite different from other parts of Georgian customs. That is maybe what makes the place more exciting for tourists.
An inseparable element of the Kist hospitality is feasting together, according to the following Georgian saying: “a guest is God’s messenger”. One of the greatest Georgian poets Vazha Pshavela dedicated his epics Aluda Ketelauri and The Host and the Guest to the story of Kist-Khevsur conflict which occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. Based on religious and cultural difference, both Caucasian nations were engaged in fierce fighting. Vazha-Pshavela celebrates heroism of both nations and underlines the senselessness of their conflict.The information is scarce. Better visit the place and see and hear everything yourself. As one of the locals said to us, the region had more tourists in the past than today…
photos are taken by Gvantsa Dadalauri