Forbidden Towers Spark the Imagination

by | Oct 30, 2023

Medieval stone towers rise against rocky, snow-capped mountains behind Mestia, in Georgia’s Caucasus mountains. Trees with orange-yellow leaves climb up the side of the hills, ushering in the upcoming winter.   

The trip from Zugdidi takes you through gorges and by emerald green rivers. The marshrutka (minibuses) drivers consider the windy roads a daredevil’s ride. Each curve presents a new challenge. 

The Sevans built these towers a thousand years ago to defend against adversaries. They housed animals, people, and food in these 20-25 meter tall structures, comprising four or five stories. A simple wooden staircase connected the floors. Openings to attack invaders lay on the highest floor. Today, the towers, like many ancient architecture, attract tourists, not foes. The old Sevans, who fought several feuds, failed to envision such a change!

The Sevans lived in one-room stone houses with their cows and sheep. They slept on a platform over their animals for warmth. Men had a bench higher than women, who sat above their children. The family leader sat in his own chair. 

Cows wander down the center of the road, their neck bells ringing. Cars present an inconvenience. They crawl out of the way – for the animals, not people. For us, we must watch where we step!

The town’s simple guesthouses serve both breakfast and dinner as part of the tariff. The dinners introduce the visitors to Svaneti cuisine. Getting to and from town takes patience as the marshrutkas leave when full and disappear towards late afternoon. An affordable plane flies from Tbilisi.  

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