It’s lunchtime in Svaneti and already things have taken an alcoholic turn. “To our ancestors!” says Valeri, our host, raising yet another chacha-filled glass. “Gaumarjos!” I reply, grimacing as the home-made brandy ignites the back of my throat.
By the time we’ve toasted our families, St George, each other, good health, absent friends and the brother he lost fighting for Abkhazia, Valeri has offered me three hectares, a few cows and a house in the village.
“Bring your husband and make babies!” he cries, raising another glass.
Valeri may be generous, but he also wants neighbours. He and his wife Maro are the last inhabitants of Kichkuldashi, a thousand-year-old Svan hamlet whose ruined houses are scattered like broken teeth across an emerald hillside. In the 16th century 40 families lived here, but now just this elderly couple remain, cajoling an existence from the land with their earth-blackened hands.