My friend/coworker Meaghan and I decided to go visit my Polish friend Dominik in Mestia for his birthday this past weekend. Dominik lives in the Georgian mountains about 30-40 kms from Russia. The journey to Mestia in the Svaneti Region began with a cab ride to the Kobuleti train station, a 2 hour marshutka or 15 passenger van type thing to Zugdidi (Zugdidi is the largest city closest to occupied Abkhazia which is about 25 kms from there), followed by another 5 hour marshutka ride up through the mountains. Mestia has towers that belong to every family there. The towers were used as protection many years ago. We climbed on the roofs of two of the towers to get an amazing view of the valley but while inside one tower we found out of the 12 or so people in the tower there were people from the United States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Canada, Italy, and Norway, talk about a small world. Mestia is in a valley surrounded by mountains and a major river runs through the city. The city is currently undergoing a development boom with the entire downtown square having construction going on. The airport will be finished in two months with hopes of having international flights. The general contractor superintendent told us that flights to Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi seemed to be sure bets though. The flights will be around the same price as a marshutka but will take hours and hours less time.
One of the best Georgian traditions is called a Supra, which is like a major feast. Dominik's host family fixed a massive feast for us to celebrate his birthday. The supra lasted several hours and included dozens of different food dishes. The next night we had another mini supra at Dominik's host uncle's house where we got to hang out with two people from Poland who we had met on the ride to Mestia. The people from Svaneti are extremely hospitable and I will be returning there one day.