Georgia is situated at the juncture of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, bounded to the west by the Black Sea and by mountains to the north and south. With its favorable geographic location Georgia has always been a connecting link between Europe and Asia, traversed by many routes, – including the famous Silk Road. The traditions of the East and West meet in in this country to form a culture unlike any other in the world. Georgia is a land of endless wonders, mainly untouched and still retaining its authentic character. Exploring Georgia is a constant pleasure for trekkers, sport-lovers, botanists or archaeologists alike. In this mystical land you have the opportunity to visit summer and winter resorts simultaneously and fully enjoy your weekends and holidays.
S A F E T Y
Georgia is one of the safest places for travelers. Crime rates are one of the lowest in Europe. Corruption, once a big hassle, has become far less visible in recent years. It is now safe and reasonable to trust the Georgian police, as the infamous and corrupt traffic police have been disbanded. Police cars are patrolling streets in Georgian cities and towns regularly, and can help in case of car trouble, or any other problem on the road.
It is not safe to travel to Abkhazia or South Ossetia. These regions are not under the control of the national government and are marked by violence between the Georgian military and separatist militant groups, who since Summer 2008 are backed up by Russian troops who are considered to be occupiers by the Tbilisi government and under international law.
C U L T U R E
The culture of Georgia has evolved over the country’s long history, providing it with a unique national culture and a strong literary tradition based on the Georgian language and alphabet. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve Georgian distinctiveness despite repeated periods of foreign occupation.
Settlements tend to be dominated by a church built on a hill or in the center. Many churches were destroyed or turned into storehouses during the storehouses.
Urban architecture bears strong traces of Soviet influence. The older quarters in some cities are elegant and demonstrate an attractive mixture of European and Asian architecture.
H I S T O R Y
Georgian identity is strongly intertwined with Orthodox Christianity and ancient history. Despite the huge influence of Christianity in Georgia they are tolerant and respectful toward the representatives of other religions.
In the 4th century Christianity was firmly established in Georgia and Georgians always protected the Orthodox doctrine from conquerors: Persians and Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Ottomans who tried forcefully spread their religion in the country. Many people took martyr deaths for their belief in Jesus Christ.
Early in the beginning of 19th century Georgian Kingdoms were annexed by Russian Empire. In March 1917 after the Revolution the independence of Georgian state and Church were regained. Georgia is the place for a lot of Christian relics. Hundreds of tourists pilgrimage to visit the holy places there.
W I N E
Georgians love to drink, so the country has an seemingly infinite amount of beers, wines, liquors and distilled drinks. To take home, buy a bottle of chacha, a potent grape vodka somewhat similar to Lebanese Arak.
Georgia is the cradle of winemaking, and with 521 original varieties of grape you will be sure to find excellent wines. Archaeological findings which indicate wine production back to 6000 BC. Thanks to the ancient tradition of wine production and amazing climate, Georgian wine holds its strong competition with French and Italian. Definitely try out Georgian wine. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to export home-bottled wine, which is often the best kind.
G A S T R O N O M Y
A Supra is a traditional Georgian feast and an important part of Georgian social culture. There are two types of supra: a festive supra, called a Keipi, and a sombre supra, called a Kelekhi, that is always held after burials. In ancient Georgia, a Keipi would be held in the spring for all the village to attend. The women of the village would ensure that the food was constantly replenished as a Tamada, or toastmaster, gives a toast. Tradition would have that no one could touch their wine bowl until the toast was finished.
Georgian cuisine is rightfully famous throughout the region. The most popular foods are khinkali (a cooked meat dumpling that usually is accompanied by beer) and Khachapuri, a cheese-bread, called Georgian pizza.
Eating khinkali is not like what you’re used to doing with dumplings. First of all, you use only your hands. (There’s a real reason for this, because cutting the large dumpling would spill the juice and ruin the taste.) Locals will begin by seasoning the dumplings with pepper. Then grab the dumpling however you like, from the top “handle” if it pleases you, and take a small bite out of the side to slurp up the juice. Don’t let any juice fall on your plate, or the Georgians watching you will start chuckling, and you’ll get your chin messy. Then, still holding the khinkali, eat around the top, finishing the dumpling and then placing the twisted top on your plate—it’s considered an extreme mark of poverty in finances and taste to eat the doughy top. (Plus it helps keep count of how many khinkali have been consumed). It’s also nice to look with pride upon all your tops once, with practice, you get into the double digits with these dumplings.
The most popular vegetables are tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, pumpkins, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, and cabbage. The most popular sauce, tkemali, is made of wild plums; other sauces are based on walnuts with spices, or pomegranate juice. Fish, especially trout, is eaten universally. A wide variety of locally grown fruit is supplemented by wild and cultured berries, watermelons and other melons.
Mtsvadi, a tasty grilled chunks of marinated pork or veal on stick with onions, is another staple. But this is by no means the end of the list of wonderful dishes, usually flavored with garlic, coriander, walnuts, and dill. A traditional Georgian feast (supra) is truly a sight to behold, with a spread that no group could finish, accompanied by at least 20 toasts set to wine or brandy.
M U S T S E E
For us, every place in Georgia is unique and fascinating, but if you ask us to pick out top 5, the list will be:
Mtatsminda – Overlooking the Capital City, – Tbilisi, Mtatsminda is a sight to behold. We strongly recommend you to take funicular car and have a meal at local restaurant while enjoying the view, – definitely worth your time and energy.
Svaneti – Whole region of upper Svaneti is a part of Unesco Heritage Site list. Need we say more?
Svetitskhoveli – Known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle, Svetitskhoveli has long been one of the principal Georgian Orthodoxchurches and is among the most venerated places of worship in the region. The present structure was completed in 1029 by the medieval Georgian architect Arsukisdze, although the site itself dates back to the early fourth century.
Dry Bridge Market – To breath in living past and land an unusual souvenir, – the Dry Bridge is perfect place for that. Open air market is one of the most colourful aspects of Tbilisi and definitely worth checking out.
Tusheti National Park – breath-taking and panoramic, Tusheti National Park is the historic home of the eponymous Tush peoples. There are few roads in sight, and the villages that can be found nestled amidst the misty mountaintops are historic, brick-built affairs like Dartlo, which can be seen protruding almost organically from the land.