fashion map

Highland dreams

HIGHLAND DREAMS

AN ADVENTURE IN TUSHETI

by Eleonora Tsiteladze

My name is Nora Tsiteladze, I’m  26 and for the past years, I’ve been dreaming of visiting the hills of the Caucasus. In my childhood my Granny would always tell me marvellous stories about the highlands of our beautiful Georgia. I would imagine mysterious clouds covering majestic mountains and wise shepherds narrating ancient legends. In Georgian mountains, she used to say, one can find anything she’s looking for. Seeing a miracle in little details, obtaining answers to complex questions, and maybe even, finding true love – was all made possible up in the hills. 

This summer my wish has finally been granted and I left for Tusheti – a highland region in north-eastern Georgia. Articles from Wikipedia are far from being informative enough when planning a trip to Tusheti since this region is full of surprises. In this article I will share the impressions from my journey and at the end, provide you with fashion tips for such adventures. Let’s go! 

As a passionate adventurer, I always end up with a collection of hilarious stories from my journeys. Obviously, a trip to Tusheti was not an exception and I have a bunch of stories to tell.

GETTING READY FOR THE TRIP

To begin with, the goal of this trip was collecting insider materials for IERI and creating a Fashion Map of Georgia. Unexpectedly for me, I was assigned to a group of @lifenstyletbilisi – a team of performance artists, art dealers, photographers and videographers. We were all united by a common goal – to get inspired and implement our ideas at an altitude of 2500m and above.

Like any self-respecting traveler, I had checked the weather prior to my trip and, based on this, packed all mountain essentials. My essentials included a couple of dresses, beautiful sandals and of course, a swimsuit.  I was pretty sure I’d wear my fashionable clothes up in the hills. Little did I know how things would actually turn out for me. I checked the weather of the nearest town. How short-sighted of me! Checking the weather “in the nearest town” in Tusheti is like going to Maldives and checking the weather in Paris. That was useless — the weather in my village had nothing to do with the weather in “the nearest town”.

 

THE ROAD 

So all dressed in white I entered the cramped bus and got ready for my 6 hours long trip. When the bus got to the Tusheti road, and I realized how dangerous the road was, my face turned as pale as my look.
At some point along the serpentine, I felt as if I were a blockbuster hero or a drone shooting for National Geographic. Turning on some mysterious music on the stereo, I suddenly burst out in tears – I just couldn’t stand this endless stream of fear and admiration. 

On my way up to the hills, I saw tons of strange but beautiful plants. I couldn’t stop myself from leaving a piece of IERI on those flowers.

I expected Mother Nature to express all the dissatisfaction caused by our intrusion, though this feeling was broken by the driver, who informed me that the plants could actually be eaten and that it was especially good for digestion.
I thought to myself, ” I survived the severe cold and jumping over a cliff. Now, why not celebrate my good fortune and pay tribute to my digestion?”. But I abstained.
I preferred eating traditional Shoti, which, according to tradition, is purchased in 300 pieces at once. So eventually, I reached my destination all covered up with bread.

FASHIONISTA IN TUSHETI

I was greeted with applause in Omalo – perhaps because I was the only girl in the whole village wearing such an outfit. Meanwhile, I was literally freezing. But Georgia will never leave anyone in trouble. I pimped up my look with traditional Tushetian socks.
I realized that sandals worn with colored, woolen socks are the coolest trend of the season. Knitting beautiful socks from natural sheep wool and dying them with natural color is the main hobby of local women.

I realized that sandals worn with colored, woolen socks are the coolest trend of the season. Knitting beautiful socks from natural sheep wool and dying them with natural color is the main hobby of local women. By the way, a Georgian artist @bagrationi_lia made a stunning and interesting performance from the wool of local sheep. The performance symbolized vanity and reminded the audience that nothing is eternal in the world.

Every day we visited different villages, where I was constantly searching for dizzying shooting angels and sometimes even risked my life for the sake of artsy photos. As a real fashion enthusiast and, obviously, unlike most tourists with boring backpacks, I went hiking with a beautiful handbag full of IERI jewelry.

Despite the fact that I looked and felt like an urban madman, I managed to reach all the peaks and overcome difficult obstacles, even when the equipped fellow travelers timidly turned back. It was either Chacha or love for fashion that I had to thank for keeping me alive in this journey.
Up in the mountains, I attended a mesmerizing performance by @utabekaia. Watching dancers in abstract handcrafted costumes on top of the hill was breathtaking!

By the way, the owners of my guesthouse “Nadiani” – Tushetians in the 13th generation – showed me a handmade carpet, crafted by the owner’s great-grandmother. Look at this beauty …

Levan, the owner, told me that many locals had not left this height for more than 20-30 years. But in general, the most dangerous road is usually closed in autumn, and the entire population is transported to Kakheti to spend the winter. However, the most devoted ones stay here in winter too. 
Honestly, I’d love staying in Tusheti once I get old. I’d be a crazy old woman, who weaves carpets all the time. Wearing white.

 

FEELING LIKE A LOCAL

On the 4th day of the trip, Tusheti felt like home. I started hugging trees and talking to birds – turns out my eighth chakra had opened, as I felt magical energy.  I mimicked goats, ran away from herding dogs, fought off an eagle with my bag, and even played a game “don’t kick the frog”. Once I took a turkey for a stone and after several unsuccessful attempts to sit on it, realized that the stone was actually someone else. I’m still ashamed of the poor turkey.

For some reason, I saw signs in everything and everywhere. Once, after the evening fun, running across the field, I accidentally crashed into a horse. Honestly speaking, I still can’t figure out who was shouting louder – me, or the horse. I took this comical incident as another symbolic sign. I should definitely be doing something great for having such amazing episodes. I’m grateful for these memories! 
And do you know what was another sign for my good fortune? – I was sunburnt so badly that even the middle parting in my hair got burnt. So here we go – there’s another tip from me. Always take a sunscreen, as well as a hat to the hills – “Oh, that’s what the [damn] hat is for … “, I thought.

At the end of the trip, we saw a beautiful gorge with a mountain river and myriads of stones. Touching the stones, my palms got hot and I suddenly realized that these stones were magical and capable of granting wishes. 
I took a few magical stones for IERI. Now you can touch the Tushetian stones in our store and make a wish. Placed under the water, Liya jewelry looked especially beautiful on top of these stones.

For the sake of more beautiful shots, I dragged the blocks back and forth and looked like a cockroach throughout the whole journey. Thankfully, my effort was much appreciated by the touristic group I was assigned to. The group members praised my dedication to the job and we soon became good friends. In the evenings, sitting by the fire, we played ‘truth and dare’, and shared our impressions of Tusheti to each other.

MY INSTRUCTION FOR THE POTENTIAL TRAVELERS

“If you get scared, look for white stones, they are a sign that everything will be fine”. Do not try to understand this phrase now – visit Tusheti and you’ll get what I’m talking about.
During this extraordinary journey, my attention was grasped to the similarities between Georgian national clothes and pieces at IERI Store. Furthermore, I realized that almost all products from IERI are synthesized with Georgian nature. Consequently, IERI Store definitely represents “fashion inspired by Georgia”.  
As a little compliment from me, I compiled some images for you. The images feature different looks for cold weather and uneven roads. So now, nothing will prevent you from enjoying amazing and magical Tusheti.

 

Translation by Sopo Kevkhishvili