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    As in the rest of Georgia, Svaneti is known for exceptionally wonderful polyphonic singing performed by groups of men. But unlike other parts of Georgia, in Svaneti this polyphonic singing is accompanied by the Svan harp – the changi. Svaneti is the only place in Georgia where this instrument still exists. The name comes from Persian and is related to harp instruments in the lands further east and south.  The Svan national instrument is a lute-like instrument – chuniri. The instrument is not only used together with changi to accompany polyphonic singing, it is used to predict the weather. Weak or unclear sounds might indicate rain.
     
    ”The tower house” is the trademark of Svaneti. Even though some other parts of Georgia have tower houses, they cannot be fully compared with the Svan tower houses. In Western Europe there are just a handful of family towers like these left in Tuscany, while it is estimated that there are about 200 of them left in Svaneti.  They were built from stone sometime from the 6th to the 16th century, even though most of them were built between the 9th and the 13th century. The tower house is a square-shaped house where the walls are around 5 metres long and the height of the house can reach up to 25 metres. The tower house may have up to five floors. For security reasons the upper floor has small windows that are wider inside than outside. The tower house usually stood next to a two-storey house. The houses were used as homes for humans and animals alike, and had an important defence function as well.  From the tower it was possible to observe what was happening around you, see who was approaching and give smoke or sound signals to the next tower house. Here the family could lock itself in and defend itself.  The tower houses were also built to withstand avalanches and landslides.
     
    Of the three places in Georgia that have been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, one is located in Svaneti – the mountain village of Ushguli.
     
    Svaneti is often compared to the most beautiful parts of Switzerland. The uniqueness of Svaneti is that most of the mountain villages with the characteristic tower houses are well preserved and look like they did back in the Middle Ages.  
     

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