USHGULI (უშგული)

Ushguli is a village community located at the foot of Mount Shkhara (5,268m) and the mouth of the rivers Enguri and Kvishiri at an altitude between 2,060 and 2,200 meters. It is considered the highest permanently inhabited place in Europe. Ushguli consists of the five villages Murkmeli, Chazhashi, Chvibiani, Lamjurishi, and Zhibiani, which line up along the river for a distance of two kilometers. The village always represented the symbol of free Svaneti, Ushgulian population never had rulers. However, eight of the Princes, willing to dominate the village, ended their lives tragically.

We came primarily because of the old houses with their Svan defense towers. The oldest towers date back to the 8th and 9th centuries. However, some towers are just over 200 years old. The fortified towers were mostly attached directly to the house, but there are also free-standing towers. The massive tower, built of stone and 20 to 25 meters high, had several floors. Some towers had five or six floors, but most had three. The Svans used to store their food on the ground floor. This room usually had neither doors nor windows – for security reasons. They withdrew to the second floor when there was danger. There (or on the third floor) was also the entrance to the tower, which could only be entered via a lowered ladder. On the top floor, covered with a slate roof, were the barriers with embrasures on both sides, from which the enemies could be observed and attacked if they came too close to the houses.