Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To the Mountains!

This weekend I headed off to Mestia in Svaneti. It's considered a "must see" in Georgia, and though we were very late in the season to be going, I decided it was not something I could miss.

Mestia, with their famous, ancient defensive towers!

Hikers come from all over during the summer, but it being so late,
 we practically had the town to ourselves! 

Nobody likes those travel blogs of "this happened, then this happened" unless it's a really hilarious story. While there were some hilarious times, I don't have any stories worthy of a paragraph, so instead, I've broken down the highlights of weekend into categories. They aren't very strict categories since a vast majority of traveling in Georgia would fall into both the "Amusing" and "Terrifying" section. We'll start out with the picture perfect moments...

Happy/Cuddly Highlights

- In the midst of our hike, in the shadow of a glacier, we stopped for tea and biscuits.

Warming the biscuits 

- I use the term biscuits because I was with a Brit, New Zealander and Canadian (and a fellow American), and the term "biscuits" won over "cookies" since the New Zealander brought them. The weekend was full of "so in your country..." and "do you use the word....?" as we had a happy little Anglosphere party, complete with lots of tea drinking and cake.

- Mestia was so cold that we spent our evenings piled onto two beds pushed together in the one warm bedroom, under multiple blankets, swapping stories. Yes, we are all in our twenties, and yes, we are adorable.

We could have also sat in the tiny kitchen by this stove, but we hardly fit in the room...

Exciting/Adventurous Highlights

- We hiked through the rain, across flooded rivers, through a landscape that looked like the slightly-less-barren edge of Mordor and finally came to an ice cave, which we conquered.

- I saw my first glacier!

This bridge spells ADVENTURE


Feeling powerful outside of the ice cave. Notice the rocks poised to slide down and crush me.
 Not this time, nature!

Amusing/Slightly Terrifying Highlight

- We were (very kindly) picked up by the police as we dragged ourself on the very last leg home. We piled into their truck and found ourselves literally sitting on a rifle.  Luckily, the sweet sounds of Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" came on the radio, and to thank the policemen for their kindness, we serenaded them with the chorus.

- I got to be tamada, and sit on a throne, which was great. But I also had to lead the drinking out of an actual real ram's horn with a bit more wine than I was comfortable with that threatened to spill all over me.

Actually (sometimes) Terrifying

- We had the typical marshutka ride up to Mestia - meaning careening around mountain curves in dense fog. There were often guard rails, which was great (and unexpected!) but the driver also stopped to drink some chacha (moonshine) which wasn't so great (but expected). At some point, the best way to cope was to close the curtain, put in the iPod and pretend you were in some strange, simulator ride.

We and cold and sad after nearly 8 hours in a marshutka,
 following an uncomfortable night train ride. 

- On the way home we had an incredibly aggressive driver that enjoyed playing chicken with the other cars. However, the fact that an Orthodox priest was behind me quietly chanting went a long way to keeping me calm.

I would agree with all the guide books that Svaneti is a must see, though I wish we could have gone further afield than Mestia. Svaneti is one of the places in Georgia where you feel the ancient history, the  brutal, wild lives that people once lived there, fighting off invaders from all sides.

A Svan (someone from Svaneti) that I met in Kakheti (my region) told me this joke: "A messenger ran up to some fellow Svans and said 'the Russians are invading! Ten thousand of them!' and the Svans jumped up in terror and said 'where shall we put all the bodies!?'"

I often get so wrapped up in my day-to-day life of teaching, that I forget to appreciate how fascinating and unique this country is. Mestia was a good reminder.

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