Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wolves and ruins in the forest




I am writing in a noisy and smokey computer center in Zaqatala. The computer centers in this country are generally used by young men who play violent video games. I look to their screens, and see how they are hunting video humans with guns. Occasionally, bright splashes of video blood brightens the screens.

So, I will not write much tonight. The day was long. After teaching in the morning, I went hiking in the woods with two of my students. One of the young men knows the woods very well, and knows of several ancient ruins. Albanian ruins. They are listed in either guidebook I have. The ruins I saw today date from the 4th century. The structure appears to be some sort of guard tower. It's not a church. Under the structure, the beginning of a tunnel is visible. Ivan says the tunnel links other structures in the area. I wasn't going to verify his statement this afternoon, but actually it sounds plausible. I remember visiting the tunnels in Budapest, where the local population took refuge during the raids of hostile tribes. I imagine something similar might be possible here.

The whole area seems almost entirely untouched by archeologists. Aside from a small sign on the ruin that dates its approximate age, the site is unmarked.

We opted not to continue another couple of hours further up the mountain. The afternoon was getting late by the time we made it to this first ruin. On the way back, we stopped at the camp of Ivan's friend, a young man who lives there with his father. They raise bees in the forest, camping there all summer. As we sipped our second cup of tea, Ivan looked at his watch and said we should be going. We should get out of the woods before it got dark. Wolves, he said.

"Wolves?" I asked. "Seriously."

He was serious.

They're scared of people, I said.

Not if there are many of them.

But we are many, I joked.

Ivan smiled, but he took the threat seriously. The wolves killed several cattle here this summer.

For me, wolves are something fanciful and exotic. Only in Northern Michigan have I ever camped where wolves lived in the forest. And there, the wolves were not something to be feared.

But here they are. We left the forest with plenty of light left in the day.