Sunday, July 12, 2009

Surami: the town, the fortress and the film

Finally, I'm back. It's been a really long time since my previous post again. 3 months, in fact. What a shame! Well, it's not that I'm a pretty lazy blogger, it's rather because I've got too many things to do all year round except for July and August, when there are no lectures, no exams at the University, when all normal people go on holiday and freaks like me and my colleagues try to use the opportunity and do some scientific research or write a new textbook for students. Today I've decided that my textbook can wait and it's really time to come back to writing my blog.

So what has happened during the last three months? You now, economic and financial crises have their advantages: the employer offers you to go on unpaid "holidays" and you get some extra free time. That's great, even though you don't get paid. The most important thing is that you can spend this time with those you love. Wanna guess..? Yes, that's right, in the meantime, I've been to Georgia again! Well, not only that. My family name is Å ileikaitÄ—-Kaishauri now (I like it very much :chups:) Yes, we got married when I was in Tbilisi and you can read about this adventure of ours in Rezo's blog, the post is called Between Two Worlds. Maybe some day I'll tell you about the peculiarities of the way the Civil Registry of Georgia works (trust me, they are unique!), but not today.

Today's topic is Surami, the place where Rezo spent a lot of time as a child and that means a lot to him. It's the place where Rezo's Granny and Aunt used to live, the place he had told me a lot about before we had some unforgettable time there in August 2008 and a place that means a lot to me, too.

I was reading Rezo's post about how we got married some days ago when I saw that he had published our pictures taken in Surami a year before (we had no photos of our wedding because there was no wedding party and things like that and that is one of the things I appreciate in our relationship - everything is quite unusual but I feel that it's the way it is meant to be). When I saw the pictures, my thoughts went back to those incredibly happy moments and I felt a strong desire to tell you about that place.

To start with, Surami is a small mountain resort town with a population of some 9,000 people located in the Shida Kartli (Inner Kartli) region of Georgia, on the southern slopes of the Likhi Range (a.k.a. Surami Range) that divides Georgia into two parts (the western and the eastern ones).

According to historical sources, the first human settlement existed on the present territory of Surami in the early Bronze Age (it's 3300–2000 BC, in case you don't remember).

It might be Surium referred to by Classical authors as situated in the eastern part of the kingdom of Colchis. Because of its strategical location, Surami became a heavily fortified town in the 12th century AD. The famous Surami Fortress was probably built at that time.

There is a local legend associated with the Surami fortress. Preparing to defend their country from the enemy, people started building a fortress, but each time the wall had reached the roof level, it started crumbling to pieces and collapsed.
According to a fortune-teller's prediction, the wall of the fortress would only hold, if the bravest and most handsome young man was walled up in it.
Of course, there was a brave young man who was ready to sacrifice his life for his country. Thanks to his selfless deed, the fortress stopped crumbling to pieces, the building was completed and nothing could ever destroy it.
But the hero's mother used to come up to the wall and cry for his son every day, that's why one of the walls is wet and darker in colour than the others.

Every time I look at the pictures we took at the Surami Fortress, they make me think of the film called Ambavi Suramis tsikhisa (The Legend of the Surami Fortress) (1984) directed by Sergei Parajanov and Dodo Abashidze, based on Daniel Chonkadze's novel Suramis tsikhe (Surami Fortress). The film was made in memory of the Georgian warriors of all times who had given their lives for their country.

It's not an easy film at all, so think twice before watching it if you are used to simple action and adventure films where everything is clear and comes to a happy end. You have to watch this movie with the right attitude.

It's a parable, a film rich in colours and details, accompanied by unique music, a film that makes you feel that the truth is not what you see on the surface, but much deeper, somewhere out there, the real looks like the surreal and vice versa.

According to Hal Erickson, "So many ancient legends are based upon self-sacrifice that one would think that Legend of Surami Fortress would have nothing new to offer--and one would be quite unfair to this well-crafted film to think along those lines. Never as brilliant as the critics made it out to be, Suram Fortress is still an immensely satisfying work from a gifted film-making team."

When you look up at the Surami fortress standing at its foot, it grows over your head, monumental, tremendous and stern, its walls seem to remember the severe battles witnessed in the past, the clanking of arms and the shouting of fighting people. Times change, but it still remains where it was, as though it was saying "It's the land of a freedom-loving nation, people who can give their lives for their country. I am here to remind you of that." The feeling is unforgettable, indeed. And when you climb up the hill, there is a wonderful view over the country.

Among the pictures Rezo, his brother Soso and I took at the Surami Fortress, there is one representing Rezo and me in front of that wall where, according to the legend, the hero's mother used to stand and cry. As you can see in the picture, the wall really seems wet and dark.

To tell you the truth, walking over the ruins made my knees tremble, not only because I am afraid of the height a little bit, but merely because of the excitement that I am finally at this place, the place I had seen in the movie, the place I had heard a lot of. It was good to feel Rezo's strong and warm hand holding me tight.

Coming back to the town of Surami, nowadays it is a quiet place, just ideal to have a rest far away from the busy city life and civilization, breathing fresh air, drinking mineral water rich in iron directly from a spring just in the middle of the street, on the way to the greengrocer's, spending the days in the hammock hanging outside, enjoying lots of sun and all sorts of fruit in the garden behind the house, and the rainy evenings or stormy nights inside the old house. In addition to all these advantages, it's a wonderful place to spend your holidays with the man you love :)

When Rezo and I arrived there, he was concerned a bit about whether the little comfort-loving European Princess (he-he, that's me) would be able to live in a small countryside house without amenities for several days and so on, but I felt just great. It was a good opportunity to see the place where, as I mentioned before, Rezo had grown up, to share his memories, to feel his Granny's almost imperceptible but still warm presence, to wake up beside him and hear his breathing.

What about the shower and the household duties? Of course having a bathroom with central heating and so on would be good, but bringing water from the draw well, heating it up on a gas stove, driving to exchange the gas cylinder (yes, we ran short of gas in the middle of warming up the water necessary to wash my hair), going shopping for fresh bread and cooking can be fun as long as you do everything together.

Now I'll tell you something I once wrote in my facebook. I am head over ears in love with Rezo. If you have seen his homepage, you know that he's a talented artist and designer, if you often visit Tbilisi forum, you know that he's a skilled gamer and solver of any kind of computer problems. What I like about him, is his honesty and his sense of humour :D But not only that, of course. Well, I could talk about Rezo for ages... But I'll just add that he's my partner, my lover, my best friend and my everything, just all in one :2kiss:

P.S. Enjoy a scene from the film :)