In historical sources Javakheti (Zaabakhah) was first mentioned in 785 B.C in the inscription of the Urartu King Argyt I as a conquered side; Nowadays This part of Georgia is the most interesting place for traveling, because its undiscovered culture and unexplored areas. Landscapes are completely free and quiet from contemporary urban chaos; Samtskhe-Javakheti is rich with lakes and rivers, flora and fauna and has unique architecture, which is different to other places in Georgia.
What do we know about Samtskhe-Jvakheti? Traveling in the land of Shota Rustaveli, Famous Georgian Writer of XXII century, we can only imagine castles and fortresses described in “Knight in Panther’s Skin”. The fortresses, the towers and the ruins built in the confluences of the rivers are opening up deep historical excursions. Such monuments built from the hill stones with “dry technique” are called Megalithic or Cyclopic structures.
But in this article you won’t read about impressive architecture of Javakhetian fortresses; lots have been written about it before me and many will write after too. Here I want to talk about Green Roof Houses, which are typical for this area and after observation and study you find that they have great significance, history and architectural character. We’ll overview the villages of Paravani, Poka and Gorelovka.
If you drive south from Tbilisi, in 130 kilometers you will see the bright blue color of Paravani Lake and then two villages on its banks: Paravani and Poka.
With the narrow paths from the central road, you will reach to the village Paravani and the first thing you’ll think: why is the smell of the fertilizer in the air? However, this discomfort will soon be forgotten, because you will discover that the green mall seen from above is not an actually green mall, but the roofs of residential houses.
The typical Javakhetian residential houses are characterized with a green roof. In some villages they are in the ground and the light source is a trumpet in the center of the roof. Here, the ceiling also absorbs the function of the vent and outside it is practically not visible.
What was the reason for building such housing?
– Thermal insulation and defense.
Javakheti climate is characterized by cold winters and hot summers, so the house built in the ground covered with the grass roof is warranty of cooled place in the summer and warm in the winter. As for the defense, geographical location was the result of frequent invasions, and construction of “disguised” houses was a clever way for the people living there. In the village Arali, which is located in the Adigeni district, according to the locals, houses were connected to each other by secret tunnels which lead to the Fortress, where locals were escaped while invasions.
Let’s go back to the village Paravani and Poka: I mentioned the smell at the beginning; The thing is that these villages are in the alpine zone and have only a dried animal waste for heating, which they dry in the summer under the sun and burn in the oven instead of wood in Winter.
The villages Paravani is also interesting because here the green roof houses are built above the ground and their structure is easily seen. Here these houses stand separately, when in Poka and Gorelovka villages they are attached to the houses, where nowadays locals live. Today there are only a few green roofed houses in the villages of Poka,Paravani in Gorelovka, where people still live. Now they have the function of animal stalls, and the locals live in two-storey homes, which are located next to the greenhouses and are built with local stones. Most of the green houses now are falling apart or completely shaky, which is the most sophisticated part of these villages while traveling there.
In social networks we often see photos with the caption: “Iceland, I want it” and a green roof house is photographed with the mountains background.
You’ll be surprised to discover that another Iceland exist in Samtskhe-Javakhetian villages. Even more beautiful if you ask me. Now there are ethnic Armenians living who do not really understand the uniqueness of their environment. Poka nunnery monastery is functioning in the village Poka, where they’re popularizing this place very well, but it is not enough.
The touristic potential of the villages Paravani and Poka is much bigger than we can imagine.
The journey here is a fun adventure: where else can you find huge nests of crane birds, which are build on the roofs of the houses or the lights pillars; where do you meet sheep that are eating lunch on these green houses or migrating flamingos that are resting on Paravani Lake in October?
This and many other details create the unique environment of these villages of Javakheti for tourism activities. It is worth mentioning the diversity of Samtskhe-Javakhetian cuisine and the terrace vineyards on the mountain slopes, where locals make world’s one of the unique wines.
What can we do to promote these places?
In the first place, this place should revive and start a new life and I don’t mean fancy new developments. This part of Javakheti should become a new traveling zone of Georgia, all traditions and environment must be rediscovered and presented to the visitor. Samtskhe-Javakheti must pass Vardzia-Borjomi tours and expand the tourism routes. There are still fully undiscovered places, such as Dashbashi Canyon, Village Kheta In Akhaltsikhe region, village Gorelovka, which is known as Duhabor village, the village of Arali in the Adigeni region and many other places which are inattentent in the course of time indefinitely.
It should be noted that we, IDAAF architects have been voluntary working on a project of transformation of the villages of Paravani and Poka into the tourist zone. The project includes the development of the general plan for these villages and their archaeological appearance based on the existing environment.
The village Paravani and Poka are located away from each other, but their hiking trails can be easily arranged. We chose these two villages because of its interesting location, as they are on the banks of the Paravani Lake and surrounded with the impressive views. Swimming in the lake is not recommended, however, swimming pools nearby can be build easily.
As for those green roofed housing that are not used by the locals, we think transform them to a comfortable night stay houses. Each of them will have a outdoor pool and a green garden, a stone fence and windows open on the lake view.
In the village also will be arranged narrow paved streets and café-restaurants, bakery, coffee shops, crafts and product shop, where local products will be presented, whether it’s mountain honey, baked bread or cheese, which variety will left any visitor speechless. An example is the Poka Nunnery Monastery, where they make absolutely amazing products and present these area very well.
We IDAAF Architects are looking for interested people and are ready to introduce our vision and ideas about developing this area as a tourist zone for all interested parties.
Here are some examples from the villages which were transformed as touristic zone.
One thing we need to realize about Samtskhe-Javakheti is that it is one of the oldest settlements in the world. There was an active culture and life in all the important events that took place in the world.
Georgian tourism must take another step up and introduce this beautiful and mostly undiscovered place to more people.
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili