In the city of the golden fleece


Colchis Fountain, Kutaisi The train ride passed quickly with comfortable first class seats and a back issue of the London Review of Books.  It was the same Zugdidi-bound service we’d used a few days before, but we would not be returning to the highlands. We were bound for Berlin the next day, and there isn’t much more to say. All aboard for Kutaisi I liked Kutaisi immediately, with it’s...

Leaning balconies of Tbilisi


Tbilisi balcony I was getting used to the cool dimness of our rented flat on Revaz Tabukashvili Street, with its taciturn owner who was only talkative when scented with vodka, but our time in Tbilisi was drawing to a close. We slept late, and walked over to the Dry Bridge, where mismatched items were being laid out on plank tables or plastic sheets on the ground. It was the same sort of trinkets...

Museum for a monster


Gori’s Stalin Museum I told you about Mirian in my last blog — the driver we hired to visit two towns outside Tbilisi — and how intent he was to educate us about Georgia’s Atlantean origins, its remarkable fecundity in spawning the bloodlines of every royal family from Europe to Asia, and the mysterious way a baby can tap into universal truth. If only they had a larger vocabulary, we’d all...

Raving Mad in Mtskheta


Looking over the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers When a morning starts with obscure theology, you know it’s about to go off the rails.  We hadn’t been driving for more than five minutes when Mirian launched into an earnest lecture on celestial theories of contact with other realms, and how the soft spot in a baby’s head is actually a portal that closes as we get older, cutting us...

A hawk on Mount Gul


I had one more hike to do before we left Svaneti and moved down into the lowlands. I was glad to be back at Meri’s again. It wasn’t as though the food had been bad in Ushguli. It’s just that Meri’s cooking made everyone else’s seem mediocre by comparison.  Meri’s cooking didn’t make me fat — it’s my wallet hanging under my shirt The heat was so intense I caught myself glancing...

Caught in a rainstorm wine jug ambush


The 45km road to Ushguli was said to be treacherous: a precarious dirt track requiring a 4×4 and at least 3 hours. Small jacked-up Mitsubishi Delica vans make the trip many times each day in the August high season, and so we walked to the centre of town in the morning to buy a ticket. To my surprise, we were pointed to a regular-sized marshrutka van, the typical fixed-route...

On the cow-strewn road to Mestia


The road from Kutaisi followed the flat coastal plains of what used to be, in Greco-Roman geography, Colchis — the land where Jason and his Argonauts sought the Golden Fleece.  Archaeologists believe there may have been some truth to this legend, at least as far as the fleece was concerned. Around the 5th century BC, people in this region did sometimes stretch a sheep fleece over a wooden...

Tom Parfitt: Walking the High Caucasus


Tom Parfitt Tom Parfitt walked across the northern flank of the Russian Caucasus, from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, through republics whose names are synonymous with violence, extremism and warfare. He did it to rid himself of nightmares brought on by the terrible events he witnessed during the 2004 seige of School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia. He also wanted to understand how places...


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