Svaneti 2

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September 11th 2016
Published: September 14th 2016
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Mestia is an important hub for back packers, climbers and trekkers --also for skiers in the winter from December to April. It's a continental climate with big contrasts. Very hot summer days, but cool nights and very cold winters. The mountains of the Caucasus are all around us here and the centre of the town is full of marshrutkas(minibuses) which will take you to any further villages and starting points for walks and treks. Yet the rural life goes on with cows, pigs and horses in evidence everywhere and allotment type gardens with beans, tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes, sweet corn. We are staying in Marina's Guest house and as you come through the heavy wooden gate you enter a patch of deep purple-pink phlox, then beds of nasturtiums, herbs, fennel, tomatoes, cabbages and plum trees. Incidentally one of the hazards as you walk through the streets, apart from cow pat chains, is a plum-dropping on your head.

Today we wandered around back streets, partly looking for the museums, and partly just to get to know life away from the main drag. The back roads are baked mud and stones in the main, though there are some cobbled areas going up to the posher houses on the hill. We wanted to find out more about the Svaneti towers so we climbed a cobbled street first arriving at the Khergiani tower. There were a group of 3 or 4 rather unsober men sitting on a bench beside it. (We have noticed this common feature of life in Mestia: men sitting on benches in the shade having a good chinwag; any women sitting around are nearly always attached to a stall or piles of nuts and spices for sale...hmmm). The men welcomed us to enter the tower for 3 lari each. That proved quite an experience as to get into the tower rooms you had to climb definitely rickety home made ladders various. I only made it to the first floor, but the intrepid Ken went all the way to the top floor. Basically there was nothing really to see except the Construction of the tower: 4mx4m rooms , one on top of another. However we climbed on up the cobbled ways and finally arrived at the Marchiani ethnographic house. This was quite a different experience. There we were guided by Larisa who said that she was one of the Marchiani family, a rich family in the past who owned 8 Svan towers. She showed us a furnished living area with beautiful carved wood furniture and stalls for the cows, a central fire and 'fridge' storage, plus carved wood chest, table and chairs. We also saw the cellar with storage for grain, meat etc. she explained that the kitchen living are was on the ground floor with stalls for the cows in winter, the bedrooms onthe floor above and hay was stored in the top floor, being let down for the cows through a special chute. She also talked about the blood feuds between families owning the Svaneti towers and how they would communicate within their own set by firing guns from the towers. She said that a family of 25 lived in the tower she was showing us and that it was last inhabited at the end of the 19th century. Ken then climbed up another tower, but I sat in the sunshine.

That was enough education for the day. We found quiet spots and did a little painting.

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