“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
After the rocky pass we ended up straight away in the first village in Sveneti, the most popular mountainous region in Georgia. The 2,100m high town claims to be the highest inhabited village in Europe (which seems funny after visiting towns over 4,300m in the Himalayas), but what makes it truly spectacular is the beautiful glacier covered mountain right next door, and the 1,000 year old stone towers which are still standing tall.
These old towers which are scattered throughout the landscape were built between the ninth and thirteenth centuries for protection during skirmishes both from the outside and from the blood feuds which erupted constantly within their own community. There are said to be over 170 of these towers still standing throughout the region which is part of the reason this town has been on Unesco’s world heritage list for over two decades. We even got to climb into one of these towers during our stay which was slightly difficult because it involved “rock climbing” up each level as there are five to seven “lofts” in each one where the villagers use to hide.
Though this village and region in general has traditionally depended on farming for its livelihood, in recent years tourism has taken over and now nearly every single home is a guest house for the hoards of visitors who pass through during the summer. It’s incredible to realize that all of this tourism really only began five or six years ago because now it is so widespread. And perhaps slightly ironic because during Georgia’s long history of being conquered this region had been relatively left alone since even the Soviets didn’t see the point of a long mountainous trudge only to conquer a few villages.
Since it was pouring and we were out of food (and there were no shops in this small town) we ended up spending two nights in a guest house which was expensive (twenty dollars each for room and board) but lovely. We also met two other cycling couples and were finally able to make some friends!