Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Svaneti, June 2007

We spent the night at Ipari, with the family of its gamgebeli, or governor. He arranged for us to enter the 10th-century church, a magnificent little building. From the bottom:

Two shots (general and detail) of an outside wall, mixing pagan with Christian imagery.

The fabulous 10th century chased gold icon of St George killing not the dragon, but his archenemy, the Emperor Diocletian. A scene found more than once in Svaneti.

Frescoed walls inside the church: Twin St Georges killing both foes; dragon at right, Emperor at left. (The loss of detail in some areas is partly due to my not noticing lens flare, I think it was, in the rather dimly lit interior. I've cleaned it up as best I can here, but the results are not perfect.)

There's a whole lot more story connected with Ipari but not captured on either film or video. At about 8 pm on the evening of our stay, the gamgebeli's father told me, "Your horse has run away!" Somehow a gate had been left open, not our fault as she was in the hands of our hosts. I alerted Jeff: we must find her quickly, as light was soon to fade. Off we ran up the switchback towards the pass in the direction of her home, Etseri. The father, meanwhile, knew the paths straight up the long hill, and began running up them.

Jeff and I panted up the long zigzags - slow progress given the altitude and ascent, and having done a full day's walking already! I was in the lead, and spotted the horse, still walking away, cursed beast. I tried to catch up to her in a nonchalant kind of way; but she merely began trotting. I realised instantly, no surprise, that she could run circles around me anywhere. Moment of despair. She rounded the next bit of zigzag and was gone from sight.

Just then I heard a yell from up ahead. Then who should appear but our host's father, leading the horse by her bridle! He had succeeded in moving above her by his vertical pathways, and my appearing below her had merely driven her to him. Great relief as our strenuous half-hour was over and the animal was safe again. We slowly walked back down to Ipari in the gathering darkness with the new realisation that our pack beast was potentially more trouble than we had anticipated. But this was actually a walk in the park compared to what we would come to call Crazy Horse Day, a week later. Stay tuned! I'll have that story after a long set of Ushguli segments.

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