Up towards Ushguli

Today we are going up to Ushguli in two steps. Ushguli is supposed to be the highest permanently inhabited village of Georgia/ Europe. Although this honour is shared with the village of Juf in Grisons/ Switzerland.

First we battle our way up to Mestia for about 120 km on a road of rather mixed quality. Here Goga awaits us to take us to Ushguli with his Jeep, while we can leave the camper in his garden. The journey from Mestia to Ushguli is about 50 km. For the first 35 km we agree on probably being able to have done it in the camper, too. But then we hit the last 15 km and have to admit, that within the first 10 m of the last 15 km, the camper would undoubtedly have broken down – so good idea taking a taxi…

Up in Ushguli we are dropped off at the Guesthouse Ushguli Maspindzeli and move into two very pretty rooms with ensuite bathrooms and cozy beds. At the moment there is no electricity available but this seems to be the case all over Ushguli and nobody seems to really care.Before dinner there is time for a little walk around the village. Ushguli is an extremely pretty village. Traditionally every family has their own watchtowe. Originally they were built to defend the village and as a place of refuge if attacked. Since 1996 those towers are part of the UNESCO world heritage and give the village a rather archaic and forbidding appearance.

Besides the tourists there live about 70 families permanently in Ushguli. Mainly they derive their income from tourism but there is also a little bit of livestock and a minimum of dairy farming.

The most particular thing about tourism here is that you are somehow treated like extended family. The hotels seem to be redecorated farms, the hosts long established inhabitants. The milk for breakfast is milked just in front of the house and during the day women from the neighbourhood meet to prepare the vegetables for dinner, while the male host cuts half a shin of beef into cubes for the soup. All this takes place in the restaurant. Hospitality does not take place behind doors but is plainly visible to the guests. Swiss gastronomy hygienists would have a field day.

Swanetia in early autumn

As the schoolcamp for our children has been cancelled at the last moment and the start of Ulrich’s term postponed, we decide to take another few days off and discover a little more of Georgia by travelling to Svanetia with the camper.

Moving back home into the van last night, we leave early today to travel westwards. Happily we take on the suggestions of Katrin and Georgia Insight and develop this schedule:

18.09.2019 journey to Zugdidi, or a little further
19.09.2019 journey to Mestia and taxi to Ushguli
20.09.2019 Ushguli
21.09.2019 Taxi Ushguli – Mestia, overnight stay in Bekos Garden Inn, Mestia
22.09.2019 either going on or starting to return to Tbilisi
23.09.2019 return to Tbilisi

The journey is easy and we reach a point about 40 km behind Zugdidi, where we are already within the main valley of the Svanetian region. We find a beautiful place to stay overnight just beside the road in a parking bay overlooking the most beautiful valley. Three of the omnipresent stray dogs keep us company during the night and only occasionally we can hear a car passing.

Campsite with a view.