Caucasus prehistory and saint land
During the whole winter green villages located between 5 000 meters high hills are isolated from the world. From Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, you can get to this natural castle after 11-hour journey and passing the rugged roads by transport. Landscapes look like the film views shot in the middle age. Approximatly 12 000 Svani live in 17 villages and 72 settlements of Georgia. Big dogs are barking in the entrance. Hens, wild pigs and bulls are walking in the muddy roads. Women are dressed in black. During the centuries Caucasians used to go there for securing their power from Bizantians, Ottomans, several imperies and Bolsheviks… the kings used to send gold there and in case of victories in the battles, they used to get back it.
Svaneti Culture and Traditions
the towers and churches of Svaneti are protected by UNESCO. Supposedly the most settlements of Svaneti towers are built in the ealy Middle Ages. Tower is widely spread defence building in Svaneti. Most of the towers are 20-25 meters in height and consist of 4-5 floors, rarely 6 floors. The floors are connected to each other with internal wooden stairs. Towers are covered with two-side roofs and most of them have a narrow window. A fighting platform was arranged on the top floor. Towers were build with cobble stones and boulders, sometimes even with schists. Towers from outsides were covered with plaster. In case of need Svan tower-house has function of defence. Unlike the tower, tower-house is lower and consists of three floors. Th first floor is for human and cattle habitation, the second floor has the purpose of agriculture, although in the warmer months of the year it was used for living. Currently the vast majority of towers are without function, with exception of individual families who use high floors for storing goods for winter. In Svaneti towers are combined with the environment, which sophisticates the experience and taste of ancient builders.
In Svaneti, local culture creates an uninterrupted chain with Early Bronze Age to the present day. This region is rich of churches, unique Fresco paintings and icon samples. In early centuries, Svaneti was the part of Kolkhi Kingdom, then – Egrisi Kingdom in the first half of BC III by the reign of King Parnavaz, Svaneti was the territorial unit of Kartli kingdom. In IV century Svaneti became the ally of Lazeti Kingdom and often took part in battles for protecting the kingdom boarders. Time to time Svaneti was independent region with its own ruler and tribal councils. During the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali Svaneti joined to Kartli Kingdom, but at the begining of IV century it bacame independent again. Christianity in the region, most likely, Lazika Kingdom was spread in 523-530 years. Historical sources refer Svans as gold minersm strong and ancient farmers. Greek historian and geograph Strabon gives us the following information about Svans: they are best at bravery and very strong, they possess everything around and occupy the Caucasus summits, which are above Dioskuria. Svans have never experienced the defeat the enemy, the life was not interrupted here and that’s why indegenous Georgian population remained unchanged here. Settlements developed in the conditions of household. As a result of the dissolation of a large family, they used to be created fraternities (Svan – “Lambukh”, “Sambukh”), the union created the internal territorial community in the ravine. Svans from the ancient times developed cattle breeding and field-corp cultivation, religous beliefs are related to the fields of farming. Svans used to build tower settlements, churches and bridges, roads, making farm tools and weapons, also they used to create unique wheat cultures. Svaneti is famous for its folk art and fine works, wood carving art. Svaneti is famous for exquisite fresco paintings and excellent fresco schools. Local language is one of the riches and treasures of Svaneti. Svan language is one of the branches of Georgian languages from Ibro-Caucasisan family. Svan language is an unwritten language. Georgian language has been a literal and national language for Svans for centuries. The myth of the Argonauts is linked with the gold gained in this region. People with the help of experience knew that the rivers from Svaneti were carrying sand mixed with gold. Svans sometimes used to find big lumps of gold in groves. They used sheep leather to get the gold. Sheep leather strected on a wooden plank used to be put in the river and it was strengthened in such way that water could not manage to take it. At this time the fur side of the leather was placed above. After some time they used to take it for drying the leather. They used to shake it down and then they used to get gold “pebbles”. The gold exctraction rule and the existence of sand with mixed of gold in the rivers of Georgia was known for Greek and Roman writers. Argonauts arrived to Kolkhi Kingdom for getting the Golden Fleece. At that time Svaneti was the part of Kolkhi Kingdom. It was the only part, from which the Kingdom of Kolkhi and its threatful King Ayeti was supplied by gold. In Svaneti, even today it is confirmed tha folk way of getting gold. In the stories, tales and legends of elder people there is always mentioned bulls with golden horns and godess Dali with golden hair. Traditions and customers of the region are as strict as the nature and style of living. Religious custom played a big role in the life of Svans. The number of days with customs was 160. Svans used to conduct rituals with a big respect, where the dominants were patrons of goods and people, gods of fertility, they worshiped spirits and had fire holidays. Svans sing polyphonic songs, the ancient texts of these songs are about their ancestors, hunters, gold producers, cattle-breeders and farmers. Svans perfomr dances, which is common only for this region and they pass this mystical legends and fairy tales from generation to generation. Integral part of Svan clothing is Svanian cao, which is made of felt. The twisted thread sewn to the upper part and it is creating a cross.
In the upper region the altitude of 2000 m there is humid climate, winters are cold and long, and sumers are short, warm and sometimes hot. The average annual temperature is +5.7 C, in January -6.4 C, in July +16.4 C. In the highest places of Svaneti, where there is no a real summer, there is humid and nival climate.
Food in Svaneti
Svanetian cusine is distinguished in the Caucasus with its diversity. An environmentally friendly product, the mastership of housewives and special dressings – “Svan Salt” grants incomprehensivness to Svan table. In ancient times Svan feast was the symbol of getting people know closer and respect. Reconciliation used to stop between the rivals at Svan feast, secular issues used to be solved there as well. Even the public courts used to make a decision at the feast. Svans are very hospitable people. They treat an ordinary guest and just foreign tourist with a great respect. There are different means and dishes in Svaneti: bread, khachapuri, kubdari, chvishdari, cheese and cheese dishes diversity, a variety of porridges cooked with cereals, barbecue a variety of meat dishes, honey and jam made with several berries. Svan people drink vodka called – rakhi. In Svaneti many disease are treated with plants and different folk methods. Here, old and young everyone are well aware of the name and designation of medical plants.