Fifteen years ago, just before the century turned, we had the rather quixotic idea of buying a house together – not in the well-padded hills of Tuscany or Provence but in the mountains of the southern Caucasus, where Prometheus defied the gods, where Asia merges with Europe and where the cultures of Iran (the house is just 400 km from Tabriz) and Turkey mingle with those of Byzantine Christianity.
Most of us were working at the time as journalists for Western media organisations in Moscow. Georgia was on the edge of our domain, a sun-kissed escape when the snow-bound Russian winters and the endless cold nights became too much to bear.
We all love Georgia, its people, its wild mountainous countryside, its warm climate, its history, its fascinating fusion of different cultural traditions and, of course, its wonderful food and wine. The idea to build a house was born of our desire to maintain a link with the region and to keep in touch with each other when we left Moscow.
With Lawrence Sheets, who lived and still does live in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, I set out to find our ideal house. We looked all over Kakheti, the province in eastern Georgia that produces the country’s best wines but couldn’t find what we were looking for – a spacious building with a view of the Caucasus and a vineyard attached. But then, just as we were about to give up, we had a stroke of luck. Someone wanted to sell a plot of land in the village of Kisiskhevi – there was no house, just the foundations of today’s Villa Alazani, but there was a small vineyard and there was a wonderful view of the mountains. We bought in on the spot, chased off the cows that had taken over the garden and started building.
It’s taken a long time to get the house to where it is today but after many false starts we’re ready to go. There’s more we still want to do of course – including development of the back garden – but now we want to share our experience with you.
The word is getting out about Georgia as a travel destination but it has not yet been fully discovered. The country is small – about the size of Scotland – but has an incredible range of micro-climates from sub-tropical along the Black Sea coast, to the deserts of the south-east, mediterranean and alpine. There are several mountains over five thousand metres, the highest of which is Mt Shkhara at 5068 metres. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are endless possibilities both in summer and winter, for archeologists and historians Georgia is a treasure trove, for botanists and ornothogists it’s a paradise and for lovers of good food and wine you need look no further!
So please join us and discover the magic and charm of Sakartvelo (as the country is known in Georgian). We look forward to seeing you at the Villa Alazani in Kisiskhevi.