Okay, we already thought we were grounded in a different century in Mestia, but what we experienced in Ushguli, which is one of the highest (altitude: 2.119 metres) continuously inhabited villages in Europe, was hard to top. The whole four settlements of Ushguli seemed not to change over centuries – plenty of Svani towers, historical stone houses with exceptional slate roofs, framed by a gorgeous mountain scenery. Wandering around the small alleys we were invited by a Georgian family to watch their preparation for Easter Monday dinner: they already slaughtered a piglet and they were just about to take the pluck off. The guy took the pig to the untouched snow and cleaned it. After a while we continued to explore this magical place.
Below you find a description about Ushguli from the Unesco World Heritage site – I can’t describe it in better words 😉
“Preserved by its long-lasting geographical isolation, the mountain landscape of the Upper Svaneti region is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval villages and tower houses.
The property occupies the upper reaches of the lnguri River Basin between the Caucasus and Svaneti ranges. It consists of several small villages forming a community that are dominated by the towers and situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers.
The village of Chazhashi in Ushguli community, situated at the confluence of the lnguri and Black Rivers, has preserved more than 200 medieval tower houses, churches and castles. The land use and settlement structure reveal the continued dwelling and building traditions of local Svan people living in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. The origins of Svaneti tower houses go back to prehistory. Its features reflect the traditional economic mode and social organization of Svan communities. These towers usually have three to five floors, and the thickness of the walls decreases, giving the towers a slender, tapering profile. The houses themselves are usually two-storeyed; the ground floor is a single hall with an open hearth and accommodation for both people and domestic animals, the latter being separated by a wooden partition, which is often lavishly decorated. A corridor annex helped the thermal insulation of the building. The upper floor was used by the human occupants during summer, and also served as a store for fodder and tools. A door at this level provided access to the tower, which was also connected with the corridor that protected the entrance. The houses were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against the invaders who plagued the region.“
On the way to Ushguli we stopped by a Svan tower along a river – it is called the Tower of Love. We got a pretty odd explanation of the story behind the name from our driver Giga. Listen up!