Imagine living in this place … during winter

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High in the beautiful mountains of the Georgian region of Khevsureti in Eastern Europe is an ancient village reminiscent of a scene straight out of the popular HBO drama series Game Of Thrones. While no dragon has been seen flying, just like the beloved series, there is a legend of waiting for a chosen one to come.

According to the Georgian Journal, local tradition has it that the ancient walled village of Mutso was established in the 10th century by five brothers who built it directly in the mountains at an elevation of about 5,250 feet or nearly a mile from above. The integration of the rugged landscape has fortified the colony for centuries and helped it become the most powerful outpost in northern Georgia, controlling roads and protecting the state border for centuries.

Legend also holds that a treasure kept by the villagers over the centuries is still hidden in the mountains, waiting for “the chosen one”.

Aluda Daiauri, a member of one of the few families living in Mutso today, told Ruptly that the fortresses in the mountains had been erected as defensive structures and people had settled nearby “in order to repel the enemy with more success “. The members of the Daiauri family are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the fortress and are among the few families who still have not left their homeland.

“It was a strategic place, the enemy troops fought and attacked. The fortifications were built in the rocks, so we lived in fortresses,” Daiauri told Ruptly. He noted that the houses in the fortified village were usually built on three floors, with the top floor being used both as a living quarters and as a lookout post.

While the rocky and isolated terrain helped protect the medieval village, a shortage of fertile land, a ruthless climate and inadequate infrastructure all contributed to a gradual decline in the population that persisted until the mid-20th century, according to Europa Nostra. And the lack of electricity and means of communication has made life even more difficult in the modern world.

Walled village of Mutso, Georgia. (National Agency for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage of Georgia via Flickr.com/EuropaNostra)

All over Soviet Georgia, villages began to empty for the same basic reasons. Unemployment, poor infrastructure, a harsh climate, and lack of water and electricity drove people out in the second half of the 20th century. People have moved in droves from these mountain villages to booming towns, a trend strongly encouraged by the government, according to a 2019 report from JAMnews, a media outlet that focuses on the European part of it. Is known as the Caucus.

While Mutso was almost completely abandoned almost a century ago, the old dwellings and strongholds have been preserved. In 2014, the Georgian government launched a massive settlement rehabilitation project, an effort locals, including the Daiauri family, hope to attract tourists and create jobs.

Eldar Daiauri returned to his hometown of Mutso six years ago and, in an attempt to attract tourists to the village, helped his family open a hotel.

“I myself am a student at Tbilisi State University and I think it will be an example for others to return to their homeland,” Mariam Daiauri told Ruptly. She recognizes that, other than tourism, the remote region has little to attract full-time people. Many residents only spend summers there and retreat to town for the winter.

The region is often covered with snow in winter, according to AccuWeather’s chief international meteorologist Jason Nicholls. Snow depths can vary from nearly a foot (30 cm) to over 3 feet (100 cm) in the area. Higher elevations can be buried by even more snow, with snow depths reaching nearly 6.5 feet (2 m). And the harshest winter weather can result in temperatures as low as 18 below zero F to 31 below zero F (28 below zero C to 35 below zero C).

Perhaps the harsh weather there has caused some to have a grim view of the place.

“Unfortunately, neither for women nor for men, there are no ideal conditions for a fulfilling life, for example, to spend a whole year here, although it is not impossible,” Mariam Daiauri told Ruptly . Yet she remains hopeful, especially in light of the ongoing renovation project. “I believe the situation is not hopeless.”

Mariam’s cousin, Keti, 10, also lives in Mutso and goes to school in the nearby village of Chatili. She told reporters at Ruptly that she was sad after a friend of hers recently graduated from school and left. Keti explained that it is difficult to get to school in the winter when the roads are blocked by snow, so she often stays in Shatili during the school season, as the school is the only one within 30 miles. According to JAMnews, in 2019 the building was renovated, but the principal of the school, Makvala Daiauri, said that the students could not study chemistry, mathematics and physics because the teachers could not stand the harsh winter and stop.

According to JAMnews, a minibus from Tbilisi delivers passengers and winter supplies to Shatili. “In winter the road is almost completely closed. In November snowfall cuts Khevsureti off from the rest of Georgia. No car can reach Shatili, and even a helicopter has to wait for the weather to get there. snow road until it melts in May. “

Keti’s uncle, Aluda Daiauri, works to restore Mutso by building his own house – with his own hands, the old “dry way” – laying stones without using mortar. As Europa Nostra noted, local knowledge of the tradition of dry shale masonry was almost lost. The technique was passed on to the locals by Kisti artisans from the neighboring region and, as Europa Nostra puts it, “the local community [has been] empowered to take care of their own heritage.

Aluda Daiauri said that as a child, 16 families lived in Mutso. By the end of 2021, it was down to four. One of them never had electricity. The rest is supplied by an old hydroelectric power station. Electricity is only sufficient for lighting and sometimes for television. There was never the Internet in Mutso. To make a phone call, you have to walk 10 miles to the village of Anatori where there is a signal.

Despite the harsh winters, the locals are determined to see their ancient village updated with the needs of modern people. Nikoloz Antidze, head of the National Agency for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, told the Georgian Journal that there is now a cafe in Mutso where tourists can relax and that there are more plans for hotels and hostels. In addition, he said that a permanent communication system has also been put in place. Telephone masts have been installed and a hydroelectric power station and power supply system have also been regulated, he said.

“The safety of visitors will be ensured. The development of footpaths and special barriers is also planned. In addition, here we have the reserve-museum, where three residents are employed. They will be responsible for ensuring the safety of visitors. In addition, special warning banners will be installed, for the safety of tourists, ”Antidze explained.

As buildings are adapted and basic infrastructure issues, such as lack of electricity and communications, have been resolved, families have slowly started to return. The project is bringing what was old back to life, and some say it sets the precedent needed for a new renaissance of Georgia’s historic and mountainous settlements.

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