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Georgian places


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The Republic of Georgia, wedged between Russia and Turkey on the eastern side of the Black Sea, is about the size of West Virginia. But that modest area includes high sharp mountains in the north (the North Caucasus, higher than the Alps), lower rounded mountains in the south (the South Caucasus, similar to the Appalachians), balmy seashore to the west (the Black Sea), semi-desert to the east, and rich arable land devoted to everything from wine grapes to tea to bananas to sunflowers in between.


My main reason to be in Georgia is not to take pictures but to study and find (and occasionally perform) traditional Georgian folk music, and village singers are the authentic source of this music, which varies as widely between regions as the geography. So over the course of 40 years, in repeated visits, short and long, I have spent a lot of time in small villages all over the country, and seen a lot of contrasting terrain. 


Some of the images in this gallery are from the region of Svaneti, in the northwest, high in the North Caucasus. The stone towers characteristic of Svan villages were mostly built before the 12th century. In those days the Svans fought a perpetual low-level war against the Muslim inhabitants of the north slopes of the Caucasus. All over Svaneti, villagers built clusters of single-family defensive towers in which to hide during raids and rain rocks down on invaders; most of those towers still stand, giving Svan villages their distinctive odd medieval high-rise look.


Some images come from the region of Achara, in the southwest, in the lower South Caucasus, where mountainside villages above 5000 feet are only a couple of hours from the shores of the Black Sea. The land farmed here occupies slopes so steep that farmers have adapted their hand tools, shortening the handles of hoes and mattocks to work the soil more or less straight in front of their faces.


And a few of my images are of banquet tables from all over: The traditional banquet table, simple or elaborate, and the ancient formal toasting ritual that goes along with it, is such a central feature of Georgian culture that it really constitutes a region of its own, a region shimmering deliciously into view at mealtime or anytime, all over the country.

STUART GELZER photography

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