Pitching Right In: Etseri, Svaneti


To be honest, it’s time my wife had a good holiday. Away from the stresses and multiple roles of guest house and shop. I do all I can to help, but she goes above and beyond.

Knowing this, we put out a call for volunteer helpers some months ago. This was answered by friends of mine from my area of Canada, just west of Edmonton. Enter John and Roth Pohl!

The live on an acreage outside Spruce Grove, and are well acquainted with small-scale farming; so our multi-flavored garden is no surprise and also quite useful for them. Ruth handles most of the cooking and cleaning, and John has proved most indispensable in handywork. Simply having his extra pair of hands around, not to mention the experience that comes with 76 years while maintaining good health, means that there are numerous projects we can tackle together which were impossible for me alone. (Ruth is also “around retirement age” but has enough energy to tackle all we need.) Lali is away on village infrastructure training for the week in Mestia, so this is a trial run for the Pohls before we leave it to them for the Black Sea coast and maybe Tusheti too.

We’ve replaced the scary-looking and weak back fence near the barn, along with the ramp up to its 2nd floor, which was rotting and getting dangerous to walk on. Cows will exploit any perceived weakness and break in to where “the grass is greener.” We’ve made a wood plank floor for the covered gazebo outside. He’s added a small step landing off the small garage door, replacing 2 cement bricks which were serving this role somewhat precariously. We gave one of the young apple trees a whole new protective enclosure to accommodate its larger size and future growth. And now he’s making a new set of steps, much stronger than the rickety old ones, outside our personal entrance to the house. Most useful, indeed.

Last night and this morning we had our first big guest run, 14 from the Czech Republic, led and guided by an old friend of Lali’s and mine from our early years teaching English in Mestia. That went smoothly enough, supper, sleep and breakfast; now they’re on their way hiking up to Mazeri, the top of Becho, with small backpacks on and larger ones being transported to their next night’s stop there by car. They left more than satisfied, and we are dealing with the laundering and replacing of all that bedding, plus the washing up and cleaning to prepare for tomorrow’s group of 7. Such is our two-month busy season in Hanmer Guest House: nearly every day a booking, plus the unexpected walk-ins. We also hosted a family of four from Austria last night, but they were in tents in the garden and self-serving food-wise as the house was already full. We try to cater for every budget, from tents to 1, 2 or 3 meals to cooking for oneself in the separate kitchen upstairs.

The Pohls are well travelled, from Afghanistan to Zambia, but the beauty of our mountains apparently surpasses that of the Rockies for them. We are very glad to have them helping to such a degree while we slip away and relax; a neighbor girl will run the shop, which needs Georgian, a few hours a day too. Strength to them!

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

15 August 2019 16:43