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Somnambulating into Mestia Manor (aka Sleepless in Svaneti)

trees on the road to svaneti
Hooray for green green green on the road to Svaneti.

How is it that some people have the evil power to snore in a leonine roar and a resonance that would humble a humpback whale? On last night’s eight-hour escapade train ride from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, in our four-person compartment we had such a Georgian, and diagonally above him lay a man with sleep apnea that sounded like he was choking on a cat.

The whole thing was sufficiently absurd that all I could do was laugh and was glad to see that Robin was doing the same. A good omen for our traveling together.

From the western city of Zugdidi, we hopped in a minibus/marshrutka for the five-hour rocky road slalom mad dash for Svaneti’s capital of Mestia. Sitting in the middle of the three-person bench, a man too my right pulled a Weekend at Bernie’s on me and just kept collapsing onto me. Initially just his head on my shoulder, but soon I felt like I should be expressing to others, “We’re really just good friends.”

white dog
Our first furry friend in Svaneti. He barks in a 6th Century dialect.

I made the mistake of leaning forward a little to let him collapse behind my back to wake him up, but he just fell with his head into my middle spine. Here’s the funny part: it turns out he was in a coma. Ha!

No. He wasn’t. He woke up eventually when the vehicle swerved particularly tightly and his body flew off the seat.

In any case, we arrived at the Ushba Guesthouse exhausted but thrilled to be in the mountains. Took a brief stroll and snapped the above image of the towers that are symbolic of the region, poking up their crooked heads in herds like intoxicated meerkats.

Over the centuries, as empires whisked through Tbilisi and the rest of the region, Svaneti always (pretty much) managed to maintain its isolation buried in the North Caucasus. It was here that treasures were hidden during invasions (and into the towers that folks took refuge), and the Svans maintain their distinct dialect, a 6th Century version of modern Georgian.

See complete Svaneti photos on my flickr page.

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