TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT – PART V: Georgia

The beautiful dwarf in the Caucasus

Just as big as Bavaria and only 3.7 Million inhabitants – That is Georgia. The South Caucasian country is well known to most Europeans, especially through the Caucasus conflict and the independence aspirations of individual ethnic groups. Georgia, it seems, is rarely present in the media and if so, then it is always in the shadow of its giant neighbour Russia. The “Balcony of Europe” – as inhabitants call the country – is often underestimated. That’s a shame, because Georgia offers an unique cultural potpourri of architecture, food, customs and even languages. The national language is Georgian, but more than twenty other languages are spoken in the country, including Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian. A few residents speak a little (broken) English and German. That can lead to problems when you travel individually through the country without any knowledge of regional languages. However, despite this (small) barrier it is definitely worth it to go to Georgia. Because the beauty and diversity of this country speak volumes.

“The Black Sea has a personality that can not be summed up with an adjective like ‘unpredictable’ or an expression such as ‘friendly to strangers’.” (Neal Ascherson)

The Black Sea is a true tourist attraction – not only in Bulgaria and Turkey. Also Georgia has become quickly a popular bathing area. This has several reasons: The prices are low, the country has not yet been determined by mass tourism and you can go for swimming until the end of October – the Caucasus as thanks. The mountains are protective against all excessive temperature drops and cold winds from the north. One of the most beautiful cities on the Black Sea is Batumi in the region of Adjara. The south Georgian port city is located near to the Turkish border. So if you don’t wanna spend your entire vacation in Georgia, you can quickly cross the border and go to Turkey. A visa isn’t needed therefor. Other well-known ports are Poti and Sukhumi – the latter is legally recognized – just by some states – as the capital of the autonomous region of Abkhazia.

Kaukasus 1Over the time, the Georgian Black Sea coast was ravaged by various (seafarer) nations. Already the Arabs, Persians, Romans and Byzantines settled in Georgia – and they left behind some important buildings and relics. The small town of Mtskheta in central Georgia, for example, was the capital and the religious center of the country until the 6th century. This very day you can still visit numerous cultural monuments, such as the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the Dshwari Church which belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In about 20 minutes you can go from Mtskheta to Tbilisi on the Georgian Military Road. For culture lovers, it is generally highly recommended to look for a hotel directly in the Georgian capital. Because in Tbilisi itself there is much to discover. And the prices are very affordable. In addition, the city is a good starting point for trips to other regions and cities in the country.

More than one million people live in Tbilisi – That’s one quarter of the Georgian population. Accordingly, the city is also the lifestyle and cultural center of the country. A dozen museums, the Georgian State Circus, the State Academic Theater “Shota Rustaveli” and the Tbilisi International Film Festival are based in here. Worth seeing are also the 128-acre botanical garden, the historic distric with the spa quarter “Abanotubani” and the district Garetubani with its mansions from the 19th century. Modern houses, houses of prayer and ancient buildings conflate into a fascinating city panorama that is rarely found in the entire world. Antiquity and modernity, nature and mankind, progress and tradition seem to harmonize perfectly here in Tbilisi and create an unique symbiosis.

Kaukasus 4Georgia is more than just culture and coasts. Due to its geographic location, the country is also very suitable for hikers and climbers. The highest mountain in the country is the Shkhara with about 5,200 meters. Two other five-thousand-meter peaks, the Janghi and the Kazbek, are located on the Georgian ground; and they provide perfect glaciers for alpine climbing. Every day guided tours – such as climbing, trekking, skiing and horse riding tours – are offered to various mountains in the Caucasus. Of course you can also photograph wonderful nature pictures on such tours, you can just enjoy the beautiful scenery or go on an excursion to one of the small mountain villages.

Whether by train, by foot or by water – Georgia is definitely worth a visit. Snow-white glaciers, unspoiled nature, fascinating towns, ancient ruins and beautiful sandy beaches leave probably nothing to be desired. As a tourist you have to and you will feel at home in this small country.

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