In 1818, Swabians from southern Germany, specifically Württemberg, came to settle in the land that is now called Bolnisi. They built homes and a church, developed their agriculture, and named the settlement Katharinenfeld in honor of Württemberg’s queen, Catherina.
Still to this day you will find cobbled streets laid by the Germans, a historic Lutheran church, old German factories, and two-story houses built using Fachwerk on stone foundations with steep roofs, wooden balconies, and glass loggias.
These homes in Bolnisi are an interesting combination of Georgian and German. For example, the frames of the houses were mainly made of oak, supplemented with stones, unlike European Fachwerks, which had wooden frames, supplemented with straw clay and painted white. While the homes do look distinctly German, many also contain Georgian-style balconies, making them a unique mix of the two cultures.
Here the houses have thick walls, high attics, deep basements, and wine cellars. The high attics were where the German settlers kept provisions, including smoked sausages and dried cheese. The attics also contained small windows called samertskhle-samtrede (“sparrowhole-pigeonhole” in Georgian), so that worms would not get into the cheese.
The basements were dug very deep so that wine could be kept at the proper temperature no matter the season. Some basements contain 200-year-old wooden casks to this day!
At the start of the second world war, Stalin declared all the Germans living in the USSR to be enemies of the state and ordered them to be quickly deported. The only exception to the deportations were Germans married to locals, and some of their descendants remain in Bolnisi to this day.
This deportation ended the story of Katherinenfeld. However, the historic German Settlement of Bolnisi is so well preserved, that you will really feel like you are in a village in Württemberg when you take a visit to this slice of Georgian history.