Buneba

Ah, Svaneti.  The famed, mystical, isolated region of high mountains, lush valleys and brave warriors.  We’ve been hearing people rave about it for years and finally were able to see for ourselves.

IMG_4904.jpg

Everyone was right.

IMG_5090.jpg

While the main town in Upper Svaneti – Mestia – has been developed into a tourist playground (truly, we only saw foreigners and Georgians serving the foreigners in the center of town), the natural beauty surrounding Mestia is incredible.

We hiked past a river and scrambled over rocks to a glacier.

IMG_6235.JPG

IMG_6248.JPG

We walked along a mountain ridge and gazed at the Svaneti and Greater Caucusus ranges as the clouds rolled in.

IMG_6295.JPG

IMG_6302.JPG

We visited a Svanetian tower, climbing up rickety ladders to the top.

IMG_4944.jpg

IMG_6317.JPG

IMG_6319.JPG

We bought Svanetian Salt straight from the lady that grew the herbs in the mountain behind her home and mixed the spice blend to her liking.

IMG_5170.jpg

The nature (buneba – ბუნება) in Upper Svaneti is deservedly famous.

IMG_6210.JPG

I’ll end with a quote from a famous Georgian photographer and alpinist, Guram Tikanadze, which we read at the Svaneti Museum in Mestia:

“Alpinists are often asked what they find interesting in mountains.  We leave this question unanswered considering it unreasonable.  Just some emotions can help the explanation.  We don’t talk to the mountains and don’t strengthen our love by conversation.  We know well that here under every stone and snowflake there can be a danger waiting.  Dense clouds disperse thunderstorm and snow on the mountain slopes, while the blazing sun sobers mountain ranges with rock falls and whirlwind of avalanches.  Always novelty, soberness, motion…we have much more in common with mountains and ice than with valleys and sea.”

PS:  If you’d like to try authentic Svanetian Salt, go to kargigogo.com and use Coupon Code SVANETI at checkout to save 20% off this delicious spice blend, found on almost every table in Svaneti, now through June 30th!

Racha

Racha (რაჭა) is a region that you don’t hear much about, comparatively speaking. Kakheti has wine, Samegrelo has spicy food, Adjara has great beaches. But Racha? More off the beaten path.  But I have been intrigued for years, mostly – and I admit this is quite silly of me – because my favorite traditional dance comes from Racha.

Feel free to play this video of the Racha song and dance (with a modern twist, although I will say exposed midriffs are incredibly rare here) as you scroll through some of my favorite scenes from our trip there last week.

One of our first stops, Shaori Lake, was stunning, with the clear blue water, vibrant green trees and bright blue sky.
We walked around the lake for a long time; this was taken from the path circling the lake.
We were so happy here that we wanted to frolic. So we did.
 
The 11th century Nikortsminda Cathderal was covered in frescos, some original! I didn’t feel it was appropriate to take pictures inside so you will have to take my word for it.
We spent more than two hours on a rough road to visit Shovi and drink its naturally bubbly mineral water.
The drive to Shovi was beautiful. The town itself was sadly deserted. While the town does get some summer visitors, it is incredibly hard to reach since the 2008 war. Most people came via South Ossetia, making it a few hours’ trip from Tbilisi. Now that area is controlled by Russian border gaurds and the town – and many would say, Racha as a whole – has suffered.
Since there was literally no food for purchase to and from Shovi, this might have been our favorite sight of the day – shkmeruli, or roasted chicken with milk and lots of garlic – since we were famished by the time we came down the mountain.