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Mestia is the administrative and tourist center of Svaneti. It is located in the foundation among peaks and mountains, on the shore of the rivers Mestiachala and Mulkhra. The height from the sea level is 1500 meters. The winter is cold and plentiful with snow. Summer is short and cool, shaded. The average year temperature is 5,7 °C.
Mestia is located at 456 km away from Tbilisi, and 128 kilometers away from Zugdidi, which is the nearest railroad station. Zugdidi is connected to Mestia with car road, which is cut in the gorges, beyond human vision see Caucasus ridges.
Nowadays, the road is asphalted, the part of the road is concreted, so any kind of car can walk there, but during centuries, the only way connected to Mestia was closed during the last days of November until the middle of April, as a result of snowing, landsliding, stone falling and other natural diseases. Like this way, Zemo (upper) Svaneti was used to far from the other world, with a role of treasure reservoir. Even today, there are kept many unique relics.
Mestia is one of the most remarkable monuments in Georgia, famous of its ethnographic and architectonic masterpieces. There are kept the middle age, national, cultural and defensive buildings. The churches, which are remaining here, are basically dated to the XII century, the wall paintings belong to the same epoch. So are the Svanian home-fortresses, surrounded by a fence, and creating a whole complex, which includes a tower, with an homestead next to it, called Machubi, and other agricultural buildings. Here you can also see 2 museums: Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography and Mikheil Khergiani Museum. The locals till are firmly keeping those ancient traditional customs and rules. One of the most popular national Fest is “Laproba”, which is celebrated in the first days of February. For this day, there are cut out as many lanterns from the birch trees, as many men have a family. At night, everyone gets together in the heart of the village and pray for St. George.
In Mestia there is also famous a mountain-skiing resort o Hatsvali. You can get on the peak of the mountain with a cable car, where there is a cafe, called “Zuruldi”. Form here wonderful views and panoramas of Mestia and Ushguli can be seen.
Near Mestia, about 15 km away from it, on the main ridge of the Svaneti Caucasus south slope, there is situated Chalaati Glacier.
This is the one and only glacier, which is cutting through the forest zone. From Mestia there is a 13 kilometer long dirt road, and the last 2 kilometers you should walk on the passengers way. You can get there by any kinds of transport, and passengers way is easy, as well.
In 10 kilometers from Mestia there is little Koruldi Lakes, where reflected boundless peaks has unforgettable influence on the visitors. There is a car road to get to the lakes.
In Mestia there are many family hotels, hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants, where you can taste famous Svanian cousin.
If you ever visit Svaneti, you should definitely taste these dishes: Kubdari (this is slashed meat pasty), also, Tashmjabi (unsalted, young, maize cheesed, with boiled and squashed potato), Khachapuri, made of millet, Chvishtari, Svanian cheese (which is prepared with a special list of ingredients). Svani cousin is special for Svani Salt, which has different taste and smell, this is the unique mix of herbs, including garlic, dill, coriander, savory and other herbs.
The essential ingredient of Svanian Salt is Gitsruli, which grows only on the slopes of Svaneti.
There is one very important sauce- Kharshili, which is made of nettle, barley and flour. It’s told, that if you eat this sauce ten times, you won’t get ill that year.
Tourist season in Mestia lasts during the whole year. So, you can travel in the wonderful land at any time of the year. You can get there by different ways: the fastest way is to fly down there in a plane. The travel takes just 50 minutes. Costs 65 GEL. Also, you can get there by a bus, which goes from the central station, and take 9 hours. Costs 30 GEL.
There is one more way to get there- train from Zugdidi, and then, by a minibus until Mestia.
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