I have always wanted to explore regions where Marco Polo visited during his fabled travels. So when the chance appeared I took it without thinking too much. And what could be better than a 5-day, 70 km, hike to one of the highest continuously inhabited settlement in Europe?
Arriving To Mestia
We have arrived in the Svanetia region, Mestia city in the evening after a gruesome trip that took us across the seas and mountains and deep lush valleys. Just to fulfill a dream. It was already late and the craftsmen, silk workers, and artisans had already closed their stalls. And the streets were ruled by the food peddlers. However, food had to wait. First of all a tavern to stay.
We passed by the first one where we stood there for a moment, listened to the hubbub of voices. As usual, at this hour it was full of people. We did not enter. We had another tavern in mind a bit further out. On the outskirts of the city. It was recommended to us by someone who visited this village beforehand.
From our room windows, we noticed that the whole town was decorated with ancient towers that were used for protection from neighboring tribes. They were so well built that the region officially has never been conquered.
The outskirts of the village still have the feeling of an ancient place just like in the stories of Marco Polo even though the city center feels more like high-end mountainous tourist places in Austria.
Leaving On A Hike
2 days later mid-morning sun warmed our backs as we crossed the small river and made our way along the dusty road before turning up a lesser-known way and heading back into the hills to continue our journey unobserved.
Our hike took us through many valleys and long-forgotten villages in Georgia, Svanetia region.
Settlement of Adishi
It looked rustic just like you would imagine a medieval village. Built on a cliff in a very narrow valley a few steps to the right and you would fall down into the river down the steep cliff. The travelers and the locals that recently came back revere this feature. With dirty streets full of cattle excrement and dirt, with some of the buildings falling over, while others being repaired.
Some farmers living and some living from the passing travelers. People are very different compared to the previous village. Here they are more talkative and friendly always ready for a drink and fun time. We stayed in a Tavern called Nino and Tarzan with a friendly bunch who have prepared a kingly dinner.
While the valleys settled by mountains with flour-white peaks. Brooding in the distance. With river roaring at the bottom. While the floor of the valley and surrounding hills are lush green where herds of cattle enjoy the pastures with shrubs growing on the sides and one or another tower peaking out letting know that there is a village somewhere nearby.
Arriving To Ushguli
This was our freedom for 5 days. We hiked around 70 km before we reached the final stop Ushguli. The highest living village in Europe.