USHGULI The Village In The Sky
For centuries Ushguli has been the seat of power. Set in the topmost reaches of the Enguri valley beneath the snow-covered massif of Mt Shkhara (5193m), Georgia’s highest peak. It is here, during the golden age of Georgia, Tamar the Great, the Queen of Georgia had the summer and winter castles. Even now you can still find the towers still standing protecting the region. However, not much else of the castle is left.
The majority of the Ushguli of today is in essence 4 villages combined into one. The final destination for the few who walk the old way from Mestia. It is old and almost unchanged since the time the Tartars ruled the world. The moment you see it you can feel like it is a portal to the time that was. However at the same time slowly it is being changed to the time that is now. And the only thing that never truly changes are the mountains surrounding the village. Like guardians trying to protect this esoteric place.
It is here that was revealed that the ancient Svan (ethnic group) gods pantheon never disappeared. It stayed. It just changed its name to different god names to survive the changing of the period. For example “Lamaria” Svan goddess and grain fertility, dairy cattle and needlework patron changed its name to St. Mary. Or another example is God “GHMERTI” who is now called Father God by the Christian. For those who are interested to read more about the ancient religion of Svan can start here http://www.caucasustravelguide.com/georgia/art-culture-and-history/literature/georgian-mythology.html.
Thus when you walk and especially when you talk with the locals you can still feel the old gods’ presence. Some more than the others. If you get the chance to stay at Surrealist artist Pridon Nijharadze house (Guest & Art House “Gamarjoba”. Tel – 599209719). Where his brother converted his gallery into a sleeping place for the tourists. There you can feel that through his paintings he is still in tune with ancient times.
The old town or the part of Ushguli – Chazhashi village that is protected by the Unesco. Is a charming place where you can truly feel like you are back in time. Walking unpaved roads, with pigs and chickens and horses running around and shit and dirt mixed together. This easily helps to imagine how in the olden days these narrow streets were busy in the morning and in the evening when farmers, hunters, and other craftsmen would be coming and going back home. To a house built of stone with very small windows and usually, a third of the area was penned off for the animals, which lived in the hut with the family. While the fire is constantly burning inside the center of the hut, with the air permanently eye-watering smoky. But the most striking feature was that life in Ushguli was mainly self-sufficient. And the traders they could expect where in summer when the snow that covered passes has melted away and then only for a couple of months.
However, now, everything is changing, slowly, but changing. But for now, it is still a place of wonder. Where you can be a witness to this change. Where you can experience the old and the new. Where you can see a child of 6 years old riding a horse across town and at the same time cars passing by. You can see the older generation riding horses to shepherd the cows while playing with the phones. Where you can see ancient houses with satellites and tv. Where the older people still uphold the ancient traditions and are trying to keep the younger one to not forget it.
It will stay like that for a while, slowly transforming. Not to fast, since 6 months of the year are often impassable. Thus the changes will not happen immediately but over time with the improvement of life in the region.
It is a place where the old world meets the new one.
Simonas Radkevicius – https://www.instagram.com/sim_rad/
P.s. It has first appeared on http://numi.world/ushguli-the-sky-pearl-of-svanetia/