II. Zemo Achara 28-31 January

At the end of January we spent four days in the southwest Georgian province of Ach'ara. Our host was Gogi Goradze, who hails from the village of Chikuneti, which is in the Mach'axela Valley, only a few kilometers from the Turkish border. We stayed with Gogi's relatives, interviewed some of them on life in Mach'axela during Soviet times -- being a border zone, access was nearly impossible, and the locals were closely watched by the Russian troops stationed at the Turkish frontier. We visited an old mosque (jame) with extraordinarily beautiful woodwork in the neighboring town of Chxut'uneti, which was converted into a museum in the Soviet period. The next day we explored the main valley of Upper Ach'ara, stopping in the village of Chanchkalo for a banquet with music and traditional dancing. On Sunday the 30th, we went further up the valley to Xulo, where we met Avtandil Bolkvadze, a local government official and former student of Paata's. Avto took us on a tour of the town, introduced to the local priest Father Mirian, and of course, more banqueting took place.

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