NATO-Georgia

Public Diplomacy Forum

Georgia

Georgia, which is sandwiched between the Caucasus Mountains to the north, the Black Sea to the west and dry deserts to the south, which borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, is not only a crossroad of cultures, but has a wealth of spectacular landscapes. Georgia is quickly becoming one of Europe’s hottest new destina­tions. Here are just few reasons to visit Georgia.

 

  1. Tbilisi: An eclectic melting pot from the hanging balconies in the crumbling Old Tbilisi district and the Per­sian-style sulfur baths clad in turquoise mosaics, to unique art nouveau buildings falling into disrepair sitting side by side with futuristic glass structures, Tbilisi is a city that inspires. The Georgian capital lies on the banks of the Mtkvari River and is surrounded by mountains on all three sides. Archeologists trace the first settlement in today’s Tbilisi to the 4th millennium B.C. Its position on the old Silk Road turned it into a multicultural hub, reflected today in the city’s ethnic diversity and eclectic architecture. The baths in Abanotubani follow the Per­sian tradition, only the thermal water bubbles up naturally from the ground below. Tbilisi gets its name from the Old Georgian word “tbili,” meaning warm, due to its hot, sulfurous water. Moving away from Abanotubani, a walk into the Old Town reveals old churches, mosques and synagogues and even the ruins of the most northern Zoroastrian fire temple.
  2. Ushguli: Europe’s highest village up in the Caucasus Mountains around 2,200 meters above sea level, this small village is Europe’s highest continuously inhabited settlement. Sitting at the foot of Mount Shkhara, Geor­gia’s highest point, Ushguli is famous for the medieval defensive towers connected to each house. It’s deep in the Svaneti region, known for its unique culture that was once cut off from the rest of the country. The main town of Mestia is on its way to becoming the Georgian equivalent of a Swiss resort but Ushguli has been saved by its poor transport routes, which have helped preserve the village’s timeless feel. Ushguli and the region of Upper Svaneti are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  3. The birthplace of wine: When we think of the origin of wine we tend to think of France, Italy, Greece or Persia, but Georgia is in fact one of the world’s oldest wine regions. Many discoveries left the historians no doubt that Georgia was the birthplace of wine. Ancient wine vessels made of clay, bronze and silver; golden wine cups; wine barrels dated to the 2nd or even 3rd millennium BC, as well as vine seeds found in the ancient tombs of the Bronze age outline a continuous story of the history of Georgian wine. In 2003 archaeologists found evidence that Stone Age people were producing wine here up to 8,000 years ago. Since then, wine has played a core part in Georgia’s national identity. The country’s ancient tradition of fermenting grape juice in clay vessels, known as “kvevri”, has made it onto UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. There are hundreds of indigenous grape varieties and Georgian wine is slowly gaining recognition globally.
  4. Mysterious cave cities: Georgia is home to some of the most unusual cave cities in Europe. By themselves, they’re reason alone to visit the country. The oldest is Uplitstsikhe, an ancient settlement that resembles a lu­nar landscape. Others include Davit Gareja, a vast monastic complex carved into the rock of Mount Gareja, and Vardzia, a spectacular underground city that once housed 2,000 monks.
  5. Supra: a traditional Georgian feast: One of the best ways to get to know the country is through its food. In fact, if you haven’t tried a Georgian “supra,” or feast, you haven’t experienced Georgia. The local cheese bread is called “khachapuri,” the most famous being the Adjaran variety. It’s a baked bread boat filled with gooey, melt­ed, tangy “sulguni” cheese, a whole egg yolk and some slivers of butter. Yes, it’s heart stopping, but so delicious. Gathering with friends and family is very important here. If the guests are attending supra, it is even merrier. So if you are invited, don’t be shy: try all the dishes (it’s a big pleasure for the hosts if their guests are full and happy), join the toast-master, take wine with the others and say some warm words too. The order of toasts is not always the same: it varies from region to region, but generally the first glass should be drained for God and peace, because both play very important role for every Georgian. If you learn the phrase “Gmerts dideba chven mshvidoba” (“May the God’s greatness bring you peace”), it would be really appreciated.
  6. Remote mountain villages: The remote regions of Khevsureti and Tusheti in the Caucasus Mountains are home to spectacular medieval villages with small communities that still retain their ancient pagan traditions. The roads going up here are an adrenaline rush in themselves. Tusheti is a cluster of communities, kind of like a Georgian Shangri La, full of old towers, churches, villages and spectacular mountain scenery with wild flowers and trees with leaves that almost look golden. Tusheti has numerous hiking trails and the locals are known for their generous mountain hospitality.
  7. Beautiful and ancient churches: Georgia adopted Christianity back in 324 AD and the country is full of spectac­ular churches and cathedrals in incredible locations. Whether it’s the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mtskhe­ta’s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral or Kutaisi’s Bagrati Cathedral, or the dramatic hill top position of the church in Kazbegi, Georgia’s churches never fail to paint a pretty picture.
  8. The people and Georgian hospitality: For Georgians, a guest is a sacred thing and they will often go out of their way to help you. Georgian generosity and hospitality will often take the form of lots of food and even more drink. As say in Georgia, “Gaumarjos!” (Cheers!).