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Green Silk Road in Georgia 2024

As the 2024 expedition of Green Silk Road travellers set out from Auroville in South India, some of us already had to compromise on our ideal of not-flying. One of us had just returned after another long distance journey and could not afford the 40 hours train trip to Delhi, another (myself) was stuck in Chennai doing paperwork.

Fortunately we had Cyprien upholding the banner of slow travel, visiting the amazing Sanjeevs en route across India (see his blog post), and Jasmine and Lukas did take the train.

We left Delhi in good spirits despite a small concern for Cyprien's bag that got waylaid because it had a power bank inside (note to self: ready airline instructions carefully!), and arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia in the middle of the night. Our host Matthias was awake and ready to party. It was the day of Open Air -Georgia's biggest music festival, and he took Lukas straight to the dancefloor while the rest of us gratefully plunged into the many beds in his parents' apartment.

Tbilisi proved to be an interesting mix of heritage and hustle, sparkled with free roadside mulberry fruits. We attended mass in Latin (for some of us the first time in church), after buying some appropriate trousers in one of the many second hand outlets, explored the old city and tasted some famous Georgian wine. Navigating with Google maps proved to be a challenge as some of the roads mentioned on the app simply don't exist. I found myself climbing over construction site fences and bushwhacking through brambles to get to the shop where they sell local sim cards with coverage in rural areas.

That was enough urban experience and it was time to get Green -onward to the Ecovillage Georgia about which we had heard so much, and which we visited the year before, when it was still a dream in the minds of its founders, Nini, Anna and Giorgi. After a 3 hour minibus ride we reached the sacred space and I fell in love with the land, at the foot of the Caucasus, a stream gently caressing its edges, a herd of cows keeping the grass in check and providing us milk and cheese (a common passion the Dutch share with Georgians). There is a large barn, with enough space for everyone who did not have a tent to sleep in the hay, and so so so much possibility for all kinds of dream projects! A carpentry workshop, a co-working space, volunteer accommodation, a community kitchen, an indoor theatre/music studio, you name it.

As per the GSR code we came ready to pull up our sleeves and there was plenty of work to do: clearing around the 100 or so hazelnut trees, chopping a fallen walnut tree into benches and logs and bringing it in to dry, digging trenches, upgrading the kitchen, and of course jump-starting community life with its rhythms of cooking, cleaning, sharing, dancing and getting to know each other. Georgia is in a critical moment politically, with the authoritarians attacking civil society head on, and this brings a sense of anxiety and uncertainty which can stifle creativity and joyful manifestation. I recognise this from Auroville which is under siege from similar forces. But it was heartening to see the care and solidarity with which our friends and peers are responding to the situation. It is a testament to the power of community in the face of oppression and crisis, which is likely to become the "new normal" across the world, as humanity knee-jerks from the polycrisis into strong-man command and control regimes.

Ecovillage Georgia is ready for take off, and we brainstormed ideas on how to mobilise resources, how to tune into the more-than-human forces of Life and how this all syncs up with everyone's personal lives. We hiked into the nearby mountain range of Lagodekhi with its magnificent (and ice cold!) waterfall as a climax, singing and picking bramble berries along the way. I can totally see this place attracting scores of urbanites, seeking fresh air and gorgeous views, time and space to recalibrate and remember forgotten crafts. And I hope the Green Silk Road can play a role in helping weave this hotspot into the tapestry of alternatives, tapping into support and wisdom as we go.

On the way back to Tbilisi we had the chance to learn about another beautiful place based initiative called Parzival youth centre. It is a hub for young people to learn, teach, design and create projects, inspired by the teachings of anthroposophy. Local kids get to experience self-directed learning, theatre and gardening, there is a camomile farm where we had the chance to harvest and be deeply camomiled and soon it will host a horse therapy stable in the forest. Matthias told us of a future in which young people could borrow a horse and go camping by a lake in the bioregion: an image that made my heart sing. 

Now I write this post from our next port of call: Poti, a harbour town on the Black Sea, where we are hosted by the sweet family of Anna, Pata and their lovely daughters who live among many animals in a tiny garden of Eden amidst an otherwise industrial area. I realise how important it is to come back to places we have visited before, as it deepens the relationships and expands the web of possibilities to reimagine and regenerate our world.

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