So after going to bed at 10 the previous evening, everybody got up early to climb the next destination, the TV tower. For the day we hired a guide, Merab and told him to be there at nine although he asked us to come a bit later. We refused and were super curageous to start in time. Merab showed up at nine and – what else – we weren’t ready. Sorry again Merab.
We grabbed some bread, two sausages from the store and a few minutes later another sausage as we failed to get cheese somewhere. Merab proposed us to do a different tour this day and to leave the TV tower for good, as it would be very muddy. We voted against the TV tower to save the sneaker-wearing guys amongst us from what Raughley experienced the other day – fortunately wearing boots.
A good one hour later then nine we started our trip to “the cross”, a from the valley visible cross on the what seemed to be peak of a mountain. After we walked for a couple of minutes and were slowly leaving the town behind us we guys leading the group heard surprised yelling behind us. Turning around, we saw our marshutka driver catching up with our group – already heavily gasping. He was going to entertain us another day solely by being there and himself. To prove his strong will to come with us he brought an umbrella, a plastic bag with his jacket and a bottle of water (could also have been Chacha, who knows) and – as a reaction of rumors that there would be bears in the caucasus – an axe. Showing how strong in mind and strength he was, he hit the axe into a wooden fence (and had trouble getting it out again afterwards). It was hilarious. Even the tour guide had to supress his laughter, hiding it behind smiling mildly.
After taking frequent breaks with stunning picturesque views of the surrounding mountains, drizzle, sunshine, upcoming fog, eating pears from the tree and drinking water from the springs, scaring away a cow by taking a photo with flash enabled which let the coward end up running after the cow into the woods, letting horse riders pass by (what else would you do in this beautiful environment on a free saturday?) and watch max petting a cow, we finally reached the peak.
To say the least, it was stunning. Here is a short 360° (probably more) video taken from the cross and again the panoramic photo.
As you can see, behind us was another hill to climb, backed by snow covered mountains. Ian and I decided to not just lay around but to climb that hill for another awesome view. We did not expect to see what we then actually saw: There were more hills coming up, blocking the full view on the bigger mountains but at the same time, there an awesome farm showed up, at an altitude of around 2300m. Isn’t this amazing?
Getting back down again, we layed in the sun for another good 30 after we – not before taking the obligatory group picture – went downhill again.
After the trip, we decided ealier, we would go to the Svanetian museum in Mestia, but beforehand Merab invited us to see one of those characteristic towers from the inside. There are all kinds of myths around those towers. Merab told us, that they were built as defense towers. As soon as the enemy would be coming, everybody could hide in those towers, lock the doors and then… Yeah, the means of defending these things remain unclear. Some people (including Merab) say, that they threw glowing ash and coles down the windows to keep the enemy on distance. Others say that they also threw other things down there. The tower, at least when we entered it, had no toilets… I think you know where this is going.
Ian states, that people were simply locking the doors and would wait until the enemy would become too freezing cold and fell back. I like that one.
My host dad told me those towers were also good for another thing: As the winters are strong in Svaneti, there are many avalanches coming down. More or less often the amounts of snow coming from the mountains would destroy everything in the settlements, beside the towers which were stable enought. That’s why every family had his own tower to survive the winter. And if you have 6 meters of snow, you can also simply use the window of the first floor as a door. Not too bad.
The museum was closed for 10 minutes already when we got there, unfortunately. When we went back we passed the house of our tour guide who saw that we were back earlier then expected. Friendly as he is, he invited us to his and his family’s house. He brought chairs, bread, apples, Matsoni yoghurt, bread, bread and Chacha made by his father. Altogether we finished the bottle, he taught us how we should breathe before drinking so it doesn’t get to intense and synchronously he chased away the “I am interested in Chacha, too” calf.
So we went back to the hotel, Stephanie made pasta the Mexican way, Merab joined us with another bottle of Chacha and afterwards we played games, drank beer and talked about weird topics until 2.30 in the night.
With a slight hangover at my side we hopped in the marshutka the next day at 8.30 (it would be a 12 hour tour to Batumi, didn’t expect that coming) and I took a few more photos on the way back.
By the way, a small anectode from the previous day happening to Raughley but here told from a different perspective: Imagine you are a Georgian woman, hosting an American who then goes to Svaneti with people you do not know for a weekend. Then two days after he left, you call him, asking him where he was and he responded: “Hi Manana, I am in Svaneti. In a dumptruck.” It must sound terrible, yet hilarious. 🙂