I’ve safely returned from Svaneti, despite many Georgians’ belief that it’s a dangerous, terrifying place. Let me open by sharing yet another photo of my host brother Luka, the most random and hilarious ten year-old I know:
As I mentioned previously, it was a hard road to Zugdidi, but I made it. Thank goodness I decided to leave the night before rather than the day of–That would have been cutting it close.
After getting trapped in Marissa’s apartment all day (everyone left and took all the keys. Since I could not lock the door, I could not leave), which wasn’t terrible, I met up with Marissa and Stephanie Bradley and we walked over to the Resource Center to meet the others. Pauli, Ian, Maxi, Cristen, Alyssa, and Nicole were waiting for us at the flag fountain and we met Yevgeny for the first time at the Resource Center. He’s from the third group and decided to tag along. Excellent choice, Yev! You picked a good group to join!
We had decided to hire a private marshrutka for the weekend to take us to and around Mestia, the capital of Svaneti. For an idea of where we went, I will now provide you with a handy dandy map!
Okay, wow. That turned out huge. You shouldn’t have any troubles finding Mestia.
So we met our driver and he loaded up our bags into the trunk of the marshrutka. Off we went, towards the mountain! But not before we stopped at the drivers house to pick up some necessities: Mixed tapes, Tcha Tcha, and a hammock. This guy is going to have an awesome time in Svaneti!
Knowing that we were in for a long ride, Maxi had had the delightful foresight to grab a few jugs of wine. What is a jug of wine? Is that like a bottle of wine? Yes, yes it is. But six times bigger. For a few reference photos, please continue reading!
Drinking wine from a wide-mouthed jug on a bumpy marshrutka is really hard! Ian and Yev designed a perfect solution by knifing a hole into the lid of the jug and one into the side, just below the neck, for an airhole. Now we could drink do our hearts’ content without sloshing wine all over ourselves. If only we’d found out sooner! We could’ve saved a few shirts. Overall, this was a dangerous innovation, I found. By sitting in the middle, the wine passed by on its way to the front AND to the back. I may or may not have drank it in both directions. I will spare you the details save one, “Ian, would you hold my glasses for a moment? I think I am going to throw up out the window.”
Shortly after we had embarked upon the journey, our driver took us slightly out of the way to do some sight seeing. He took us to a dam.
We got out and walked around, under the careful eye of the dam guards. From the dam viewing platform we could take nice photos, like the one above, and we could even display our dam Georgian patriotism!
And because no trip to the dam would be complete without a healthy dose of “cute,” here’s a picture of a dam puppy.
Back on the road, we left civilization further and further behind. For a long while only the omnipresent telephone wires bouncing through the valleys alongside us reminded us that we were going somewhere. And that somewhere probably had telephones.
The mountains kept teasing us by dashing in and out of view. Since we drove through valleys and along cliffs, we often could not tell what lay ahead, behind, or beside us. The only clue was the driver’s helpful anecdotes (Translations courtesy of Yevgeny who, as a native of Belarus, can better provide such services than I), “A Ukrainian died here. He tried to raft the river and died,” “Here is where a marshrutka driver fell asleep (snoring sound effects) and killed three people when he drove off a cliff,” “A Russian died here,” and so on and so forth.
After a few hours of driving, and lots o’ jugwine, the driver stopped to take us sight seeing again. He wanted to show us a bridge. How many of you have seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? (Fun fact, because of this movie the PG-13 rating was created! Three cheers for fictionalized violence against children!) If you haven’t, go see it now. Not because it’s great–on the contrary, it’s the worst Indiana Jones movie (An admittedly harsh standard), but it will be relevant for this and a future post. The climax of the film takes place on a rope bridge precariously suspended over an enormous chasm with alligators at the bottom. Try to spot the differences between the following two photos:
Also, I just want to give a shout out to my buddy Owen who loves to pee off things. I peed off this bridge in your honor. I knew you would want me to. Mom, if you print this for Nana, please feel free to excise those last three sentences. Or not. I’m not ashamed.
The road was an arduous one and full of potholes. I could easily understand why so many Ukrainians had died on the road–it was windy and had sheer cliffs all around. Occasionally there would be barriers on particularly dangerous curves (added post facto? Probably.), but they weren’t very comforting.
Many pee breaks, one sunset, and one puke-out-the-window later we finally arrived in the quiet mountainside town of Mestia. There are so many more things to say about Mestia, but for now I will leave you with a photographic cliffhanger to sate you. (I wonder who I think of when I use “you”?)
I feel weird about ending a post with the words, “Yeah, baby!” so I won’t.