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Georgia honeymoon

A land of magnificent history and unparalleled natural beauty

A Eurasian country, Georgia is a land filled with magnificent history and unparalleled natural beauty. Archaeologists found the oldest traces of wine production (7000-5000 BC) in Georgia. For those of us in the West, we unfortunately get precious little exposure to this stretch of land between the Black and Caspian seas. However, this is changing drastically.

During the Soviet era, Georgia was the "Riviera of the Soviet Union" and was renowned for its cuisine and wine. Russians may love vodka, but the Georgian wines were favoured by the Soviet elite. During Soviet era, Georgia flooded Russian markets with high quality tea, wine and fruits. The Georgian Black Sea coast, in particular (Abkhazia and Adjaria), enjoys sub-tropical conditions and beautiful beaches (imagine pine trees and mountains covering the coast line).

Imagine cities with narrow side streets filled with leaning houses, overstretched balconies, mangled and twisted stairways, majestic old churches, heavenly food and warm and welcoming people. All of this with a backdrop of magnificent snow peaked mountains, and the best beaches of the Black Sea.

photo by Ldingley

People

The Georgians have exceptionally strong traditions of hospitality, chivalry, and codes of personal honour. They believe that guests come from God. Friendship is prized highest among all the virtues. It is celebrated in Shota Rustaveli's 12th century national epic, The Knight in the Tiger's Skin ("Vepkhistqaosani"), in which a person's worth is judged by the depth of his friendships. The Georgians are proud, passionate, and fiercely individualistic, yet deeply connected with each other by a shared sense of belonging to a greater Georgian family. Women are highly esteemed in society and are accorded a chivalric respect. The statue of Mother of Georgia (kartlis deda) that stands in the hills above Tbilisi perhaps best symbolizes the national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine with which she greets her friends and in her right is a sword drawn against her enemies.

photo by Ldingley

Shopping

  • Gold & Other Jewelry - Gold, silver, handmade & other misc. jewelry, precious stones are very cheap in Georgia and quality of the precious stones, gold and silver is superb. Many foreigners visit Georgia to buy jewelry, because of its cost and quality.
  • Art & Paintings – Georgian artists, such as Pirosmani, Gigo Gabashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Korneli Sanadze, Elene Akhvlediani, Sergo Kobuladze, Simon Virsaladze, Ekaterine Baghdavadze and others, are famous for their work. In Georgia you will find many various art shops, paintings and painters who sell their works on the streets. Their work is high quality and are often very good value.
  • Antiques & Other Gifts – in Georgia you will able to find many antiques not only from Georgia, but Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Russian and European as well.
  • Georgian wine, as much as you can. Georgia is the cradle of wine making, and with 521 original varieties of grape you will be sure to find excellent wines.
  • Cognac. Georgian cognac is unique as it's made from Georgian wine. Try Saradjishvili 'Tbilisi' cognac.
  • When heading outside the cities, you might find an original hand-made carpet for sale.
  • 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.

Georgian export commodities (especially wine and mineral water) are widely counterfeited in the domestic and CIS market. For example, the Borjomi bottling plant produces roughly one million bottles of Borjomi per year, but there were three million bottles sold in Russia only! To be sure that you are getting the real thing, you will need to buy from the source.

Food

A famous Georgian dish, khinkali. A must try if you visit a Georgian restaurant.The cuisine of Georgia is justly famous throughout the region (visitors to Moscow will have noticed the amount of Georgian restaurants). The two "national" dishes are "khachapuri" (a cheese filled bread, it more resembles cheese pie) and khinkali (minced, spiced meat in a dumpling, served in enormous quantities). While the khachapuri comes with every meal (and it's very possible to get tired of this), khinkali is usually reserved for its own separate meal, where Georgian men will down 15 huge dumplings like it's no big deal.

Shashlik, a tasty grilled kebab 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.

For a quick snack you can try all variety of "pirozhki," pastry stuffed with meat, potatoes, cheese, or other ingredients, usually sold by babushkas in markets and on the side of the street. Be aware of western-style dishes (pizzas, hamburgers etc) though, which are usually a pale copy of their true selves. It is much better to try local food.

The fruit and vegetables here will spoil your taste buds forever—you may not be able to stomach the produce you get at home forever. Whatever it is here—the lack of any processed foods, a special quality to the soil, the fabled tale of God tripping on the Greater Caucasus mountains and dropping his lunch here—the produce is bursting at the seams with flavor. And it's very cheap. Even if you only speak English and stand out as a foreigner like a slug in a spotlight, you can get fruit and vegetables in the market for a mere fraction of what you would pay in, say, Western Europe. Grabbing a quick meal of tomatoes, fresh cheese, puri (bread), and fruit is perhaps the most rewarding meal to be had in the country—and that's saying a lot.

If you can, try and get yourself invited to dinner at someone's home (this is not too difficult in Georgia, owing to their hospitality and general desire to stuff foreign visitors full of all the food they can afford). The food in restaurants is an odd set piece of the same dishes over and over. But Georgian cuisine is far richer, and has an untold number of dishes to try, prepared from scratch with fresh, locally grown products (supermarkets have barely touched this country). Try and get your hands on ajabsandali, a sort of vegetable ratatouille, made differently according to each family's recipe, and which is wonderful.

Language

For language fans, Georgian and its related languages are a real treat. For everyone else, they could be a nightmare. Georgian is a Caucasian language which is not in any way related to any languages spoken outside of Georgia, and it's famous for its consonants. Not only are there quite a slew, but many, possibly even most, words start off with at least two and it's possible to string together as many as eight, as in gvprtskvni, the admittedly rather theoretical lament "you peel us". This combination of formidable consonant clusters and an original alphabet make Georgian a hard language to acquire.

While everyone who visits should attempt to learn at least a few Georgian words, it is possible to get by in most areas with Russian. People most likely to understand Russian include: older generations, non-Georgian citizens (Russians, Armenians, Ossetes, Azeris, etc.), members of the elite (who likely also speak English), and taxi drivers. In rural areas, however, it is often more difficult to find Russian speakers (look for the oldest person around!).

The younger generation, largely due to hostility towards Russia, now prefers to study English, but because access to good quality English instruction in province is so low, it is difficult to travel using only English even in the capital. When in Tbilisi and in need for help, look for younger people; they are more likely to know some English.

Finally, signs in Georgia are rarely bilingual (apart from Tbilisi metro) or some stores; however, most road signs are in both the Georgian and Latin alphabets. Basic knowledge of the Georgian alphabet is very useful to understand road signs, store/restaurant names, and bus destinations. Those traveling without knowledge of Russian or Georgian should carry a phrasebook or travel with a guide.

Source: Wikitravel.org

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