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

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Ipari, Svaneti, August 2007

This village is roughly halfway between Mestia and Ushguli. I suspect it doesn't get enough stops, is more of a place to pass through between the other two points. But Jeff and I stopped here on our June walk up - and lost the horse - and camped above it on our way back - and nearly lost the horse again. So it has some pretty special memories. There is also a beautiful old church with an exquisite chased gold icon and some wild frescoes, all of St George.

The long house at far left in the top shot belongs to the village's gamgebeli, or governor. Here is where we stayed on the way up in June.

Here I pause to say: Happy Birthday dear A! I'll be trying to call you a little later in the day. Hope you have a great day. Wow, a year has passed since G & I were able to be there for the last one. Is it stinking hot there yet? We're slipping mildly into fall, but it's still warm enough in Tbilisi to contemplate outdoor swimming.
Lots of love,

National Manuscript Centre, Tbilisi, September 2007

Three from the same book, a Bible, in Old Georgian. The top two show parts of its cover.

Kvirikoba, July 28, 2007 (top to bottom)

Top: here's what a successful lifting of the Big Rock looks like.

Bottom: general view of the festival and some of the 30 people with whom I travelled to Svaneti this time.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Salt for Svaneti[a], Part I (silent film)

Parts II & III & details below.

A hint for watching these rather long videos (c. 17 minutes each): let each chapter buffer or load for a while (half or more) before starting to watch it, then it can run without stopping to load the rest.

Salt for Svaneti[a], Part II (silent film)

Part I above, Part III and details below.

Salt for Svaneti[a], Part III (silent film)

Parts I & II above.

I found this gem from 1930, filmed by Mikheil Kalatozov, in the USA on VHS; friends brought it here to Georgia for me. Had it transferred to DVD here. The VHS copy states that only the sound, which is a modern addition to what was originally a silent film, is copyright. So I have removed the sound and am making this nearly hour-long film available to watch in 3 parts on the blog. It's from Ushguli, Europe's highest village; Svan friends of mine say that its depiction of Svan culture as it was then is quite accurate. There's a strong communist propaganda element to the film, of course, as should be expected from a film of its time period. And it's obviously an early film as far as genre goes - how much is documentary, how much drama? The baby death must be staged, along with the avalanche scenes; the horse's death may not be. The funeral itself is likely real, and the terrible July blizzard is a fact, remembered by people I knew.

This is the village to which I will be moving in November 2007 to teach English, learn Svan and really start investigating the Svan people's culture. So, enjoy the first film of Ushguli. (Each part is about 75 MB in size, at least as I uploaded it... some patience may be needed.)

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Ushguli, August 2007

Bottom - the second-highest church of the village, a tiny but beautiful chapel.

Top two - more of the highest church from the same time as the previous (bottom) shot.

National Manuscript Centre, Tbilisi, September 2007

This is, of course, Hebrew, from one of the Centre's many beautiful scrolls.

Kvirikoba, Svaneti, July 28, 2007 (top to bottom)

Three from the Kvirikoba festval in K'ala, the first time I was there.

Top - part of the long, steep walk from the road up to the church itself. Even elderly people, though, were making the trip.

Middle - the crowd planting candles on the church walls and having their prayers read out, while the bell-ringer did his thing & shouted, "Hamin!" (Amen)

Bottom - one of the event's feats of strength, the lifting of a large rock which is not only heavy but quite unwieldy into the bargain. Popular with the young toughs showing off. Out of my league for both size and mass; and to whom would I strut my stuff anyway?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Ushguli, August 2007

Mt Shkhara... Lamaria Church... and, above, a church bell.

National Manuscript Centre, Tbilisi, September 2007

(Video uploading having been a failure tonight despite multiple attempts, I'm abandoning it until tomorrow. Sorry.)

More of the Mongolian book, including another page spread and the complete rope-bound manuscript. Date unknown.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Ushguli, August 2007

My American guest and I were walking through the village from top to bottom when, at the top of the bottom hamlet, we were asked by a young fellow if we'd like to climb up inside a watchtower.

I treat every such experience as a new adventure in photography, because the tower's small windows and thick walls give only narrow glimpses of the world outside. (Best to use as wide a lens as you have.) Thus every view from a watchtower is unique and treasured for me.

This week I have noticed the first viewer from each of three new countries - Qatar, South Africa and - today - Slovakia, the 54th country. Welcome! I also note that only now, after nearly 7 months of the blog's existence, is the USA - with a population some 70 times that of Georgia - catching up in viewer numbers to the latter.

In and above Ushguli, July 2007

Oops - should've uploaded the videos before the manuscript shot! Oh well, never mind.

Top - I shot this 360-degree video panorama in rather a hurry, as the first one I tried, from the top of Mt Lamaria, failed to film after about 5 seconds. So, apologies for the whirlwind tour, which is from near the pass above Ushguli from which the Lentekhi side of Svaneti is visible. It starts and ends with what you can see of Ushguli at the bottom of the frame.

Bottom - candle making. This, using beeswax and cotton, is the traditional Georgian way. The next day some of us took the candles and set off by foot for K'ala, 10 km lower, for the Kvirikoba festival there. More footage to follow.

National Manuscript Centre, Tbilisi, September 2007

This was from an amazing Mongolian book, rope-bound, handwritten in the vertical script. Date unknown. (In case anyone's wondering, I was keeping a shallow focus in all my photographs at the NMC, not trying to get it all in focus but rather to zero in on something within each image.)

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Ushguli, August 2007

Two more locations I'll likely return to frequently for differing light and weather. The top one, though (Lamaria Church), is my best shot so far of this scene.

National Manuscript Centre, Tbilisi, September 2007

Two more images, the top one a closeup from the bottom, from the K'ala book, Georgian, 11th Century.

Football, Ushguli, July 2007

Us vs. them, i.e. guests vs. locals. 2 clips from opposite ends of the field, which is at the top of the village; a goal by each side. We (guests) won.