People lived here for almost 700 years, from the 5th to the 12th centuries It is a natural defensive formation of the landscape so high, so fantastically made that it was almost impregnable. The climb up to the fortress leaves me breathless and shaky; I grab exposed tree roots at times to stop sliding back down. But from the top I look at the Alazani River far below, then across to the Caucasus Mountains, lifting their lovely, cold, white heads above the fields and meadows of the river valley. Queen Tamar rebuilt this stone fortress in the 12th century, Paata tells us and the stories say this room was hers.
For thousands of years the tides of conquest and invasion have flowed through Georgia. Khornabuji was a place where the inhabitants of this valley could find shelter until those tides passed. Paata shows us a round hole dug into the ground by one of the walls. An earthenware wine jar, or khevri maybe a thousand years old and still perfectly intact.
People meet in Georgia around the rituals of wine and food. Vashlovani's zoologist Amiran Khodiashvili cooks meat over an open fire and pours us homemade wine from a huge glass jar. We are not strangers Pat has visited Vashlovani four times already, and he brought me here for the first time last autumn.