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The Corners of Georgia: The Stone Village-Fortress of Shatili

Shatili village, Georgia
Photo taken by Levan Gokadze / wikimedia.org.  Shatili village, Georgia

The mountainous state of Georgia is full of wintry, hard-to-reach places, where people have managed to retain ancient traditions and characteristic short tempers. The architecture and natural landscapes of these sites are downright mesmerising. The Village of Shatili, located in the region of Upper Khevsureti over 150 km from Tbilisi, is one of these places. It’s a village-fortress, built from flat stones and still inhabited by people. The village can, albeit with great difficulty, be reached by transport.

Khevsureti is not – and never was – a touristy region. It stretches along a wide ridge of the Caucasian mountain range and has a border with Chechnya. The local Khevsuretians are still leading their traditional, insulated life. Customary law and the code of honour are alive here to this day, which is why visitors are looked upon with suspicion and rarely talked to. The Khevsuretians are especially adamant about not selling their houses and land to strangers.

The Shatili valley
Photo taken by Ben van der Ploeg / wikimedia.org.  The Shatili valley

Shatili itself is known for the architecture of its fortifications and defensive towers – the locals used these fortresses to defend themselves against invaders and harsh weather conditions. Shatili is Khevsureti’s best-known village and can be reached by following the road. During recent years, more and more Georgians and tourists have begun to visit Shatili at weekends, providing the locals with a bit of work, whereas previously their main occupation was waging wars with Chechnya. Now Shatili has about 10 guest houses, and when tourists arrive, the landladies make some food and souvenirs to sell to guests.

Shatili, Georgia
Photo taken by Levan Gokadze / wikimedia.org.  Shatili, Georgia

Today, Shatili, just like the other villages of Khevsureti, is inhabited by no more than several dozen families. The village has no infrastructure, hardly any transportation, no shops, mobile connection or Internet. Regardless of all that, however, it’s a unique place with a long history and a distinctive atmosphere.

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