The methaphore of the “gem” is widely used by travel writers to illustrate the exceptional beauty of the places they visited. Speaking of Georgia, beauty of this land lies not only within the amazing nature landscapes and unique architecture but even more within the hospitality and warmth of its people – so much that even calling it a “gem” doesn’t cover how much I fell in love with the country.
Georgians will truly make you feel like you came to visit your long-time-no-see relatives. Doesn’t matter if you stay in a cute little hostel, which certainly craves for some remodeling or with a family using Couchsurfing, you will feel at home.
Sure, there might be some cultural shock at first, especially when you try to cross a street on your own for the first time – the traffic is crazy and you might start to wonder if there are any rules at all (there are, by the way). It is still a developing and relatively poor country, you can see plenty of old Russian cars like Lada or Volga, which are fixed using a duct tape (like an open air museum, huh?) and you will encounter cows, pigs and other domestic animals wandering freely along the concrete roads, even in the cities.
If you are an environmentalist you might not be happy with the nowadays situation in Georgia – the rivers are not being cleaned efficiently yet and there are more trash spoiling the wonderful nature scenery than a westerner is used to.
Nevertheless, I am pretty sure it is the only country in the world where in the middle of your trip by marshrutka (local public transport), the driver stops at some breathtaking location, all the passengers get out of the vechile, take all the snacks they have, some wine or chacha and set up one of the most memorable picnics in your lifetime – you, as a guest, being the centre of attention, of course. I was even more astonished when an intercity taxi driver unexpectedly brought us to the restaurant to try various Georgian traditional snacks and drinks. I am confident it cost more to him than we actually paid for the trip but hey – it is Georgian hospitality.
Oh, and don’t be surprised when your plans to hike in the rural area fall flat – you are simply too intriguing for the locals to pass by – they suggest you take a ride with them and tell all about where you came from and how you got there. It is one of the best countries for hitchhikers, I believe.
If you are more into food than socializing, Georgia has a lot to offer as well. The cuisine is rich in vegetables, cheese and spices and it is both an adventure and a delight to get to know it dish by dish. Keep in mind that different regions in Georgia have specific dishes, which surely taste the best in the region of origin.
There are a lot of restaurants around the country and you can find quite decent traditional food in all of them but I suggest that you ask locals for recommendation where to eat and I promise you will not regret it. If you are lucky, you might even end up sitting at one table with Georgians, which can only mean one thing – a feast. Locals are very proud of their cuisine and it is in their interest that you try as many different dishes as possible until your stomach hurts. Literally hurts. If not for Borjomi mineral water, I don’t know if I was able to survive eating so much food.
Where is food, there is also wine. And after a few glasses of homemade Georgian wine (the local grapes are very distinct from the ones we are used to, by the way), the singing starts. It is very likely that one of the locals at the table has a guitar and all the rest know the traditional songs by heart. One thing I can say for sure – Geogians know how to enjoy life.
Sounds like I’m telling you about a life in another planet, I know. But it’s all pretty simple, really. Georgians believe that guests are sent by God and act accordingly. Strong religious beliefs lead these people to love their neighbours as themselves (quite literally – community ties are very strong there), which leads Georgia to being one of the safest countries in the world and that is one of the many reasons why it is a great travel destination.
And last but not least, one could write the whole book about the magnificent Georgia’s nature. It is a high altitude country situated in the Caucasus mountains with plenty of hiking, trekking and climbing opportunities. Ushguli village – a must visit – is one of the highest continuously inhabited establishments in Europe, settled at an altitude of 2100 meters and also a home to one of the most rewarding trails I’ve ever had a chance to hike, leading to the Shkhara mountain glacier. Georgia is a true nature lover’s paradise, having a variety of Natural Parks, Nature Reserves and incredible landscapes pretty much anywhere you look. You just have to have your camera ready at all times!
If you like caves, you can enjoy the one full of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls and wonderlful underground lake, where, as it is believed, the legendary Prometheus was chained or you can visit a few cave cities built in the ancient or medieval times. And after all the traveling and sighstseeing you can always relax at the beach of the Black sea coast, admiring the palm trees.
I’ve been to Georgia twice and had experienced more adventures, been astonished and surprised more times than during all my other travels around Europe altogether. And I believe that this amazing country has to offer so much more, one just have to set sail, keep an open mind and be ready for the unexpected to happen. Hopefully, you will fall in love with Georgia the same way I did.
P.S. The pictures you see here are a little sneak peek into the upcoming series of posts about many wonderful places around Georgia and my crazy adventures. Hope to see you back in Trouvaille Travel soon.! 🙂