It may not have the history of many of Georgia’s other cities, but Batumi charms, thanks to its mellow coastal vibe, lively nightlife and sites like a “magical” fountain.
Georgia is a place that blends east and west traditions while remaining unspoiled by modern tourism and retaining its authenticity. Once experienced, Georgia’s ancient past and simplistic lifestyle are hard to forget. Exploring Georgia is a constant pleasure. For walkers and hikers, the country is sheer heaven, while botanists and bird-watchers will be enthralled and archaeologists can explore numerous ancient findings. And for skiing fanatics, some of the best slopes in the world are in Georgia, and can be skied year round.
Georgia was declared a sovereign nation following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but over the years, the country has been the victim of constant unrest and danger. Landmine warnings are a concern for travellers, and some countries, including Canada, have issued travel alerts. This aside, Georgia is working hard to put its troubles in the past.
Currency: Romanian Lari (GEL)
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Krubera Cave (or the Voronya Cave, sometimes spelled Voronja Cave) is the deepest known cave on Earth. It is located in the Arabika Massif of the Gagrinsky Range of the Western Caucasus. “Voronya Cave” means “Crows’ Cave” in Russian, a name that was given to it by Kiev spelunkers during the 1980s due to a number of crows nesting in the entrance pit.
- Georgia is famous for its winemaking tradition. In fact, it is believed the name “wine” is derived from the ancient Georgian language. The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archaeology to at least 6000 BCE, when the people of South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned to wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. Today, Georgia ranks second in volume of grape production in the former Soviet Union, behind Moldova, and Georgian wines have always been highly prized and sought after.
- Georgia has a Jewish community that is considered to be one of the oldest in the world. Georgian Jews can trace their migration into the country back to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE.
- When meeting someone for the first time in Georgia, shake hands while saying gamarjoba (“hello”). When addressing Georgians, only close friends or family will usually use first names. First names may also be used with the word Batono (“Sir”) or Kalbatono (“Madam”) immediately afterwards, which brings a sense of formality. Most Georgians expect to be addressed with their appropriate title followed by the surname.
- Warm hospitality a very Georgian trait. Foreigners are guests of the country, and guests are seen as a gift. Expect to be invited to a home for a supra, which is a large dinner party involving many toasts. The toastmaster or tamada selects people to make long toasts and, for special toast, a horn full of wine is passed around the table. Beer is only used to toast the enemy, so don’t toast with beer!
Georgia’s climate is affected by subtropical influences from the west and Mediterranean influences from the east, and can be quite complex. Climatic zones are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude.
Along the Black Sea coast, from Abkhazia to the Turkish border, and in the region known as the Kolkhida Lowlands, the dominant subtropical climate features high humidity and heavy precipitation.
The plains of eastern Georgia are shielded from the influence of the Black Sea by mountains that provide a more continental climate. Summer temperatures average 20°C to 24°C, while winter temperatures average 2°C to 4°C. Humidity is low, and rainfall averages 500 to 800 millimetres per year.
At higher elevations, precipitation is sometimes twice as heavy as in the eastern plains. In the west, the climate is subtropical to about 650 metres; above that altitude (and to the north and east) is a band of moist and moderately warm weather, then a band of cool and wet conditions. Alpine conditions begin at about 2,100 metres, and above 3,600 metres, snow and ice are present year-round.
Georgia is a country rich with history. The language in Georgia is one of the oldest languages in the world that is still used and the country’s current capital, Tbilisi, is more than 1,500 years old. Much of Georgia’s history involves portions of the country falling under other empires at different points in time, including the Persian, Roman, Byzantium, Mongol, and Turkish empires.
During the 11th and 12th centuries, Georgia experienced its golden age. It became a powerful independent kingdom under the leadership of its greatest rulers, including King David the Builder and Queen Tamar.
In 1783, the country became a protectorate of Russia. Except for a brief period of freedom in the early 1900s, for the next 200 years, Georgia would be in some way part of or tied to Russia: first to the Russian empire and later to the Soviet Union. On April 9, 1991, Georgia declared its independence and became a free country.
Tbilisi is Georgia’s largest city, and the political and cultural centre of the country. It has been the capital of Georgia since the 5th century, and overflows with history throughout its narrow alleyways.
This museum houses hundreds of thousands of Georgian and Caucasian artifacts of archaeology and ethnography. A permanent exposition chronologically follows the development of Georgia’s material culture from the Bronze Age to the early 20th century.
In Tbilisi, a trip to Tiflis Avenue is a must for art lovers. This art centre and gallery represents a variety of Georgian artists working in different media, and is located in the old town, on King Erekle II Street. Tiflis Avenue also runs an online art store with the largest selection of contemporary Georgian art.
Situated in the southwest of Georgia on the Black Sea coast, the Achara region is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The coastline boasts palm trees and tea plantations, backed by forested hills. Achara is also home to a fascinating history; the region spent three centuries under Turkish rule and is still home to a population of Georgian Muslims.
SKI MOUNTAINEERING IN THE GREAT CAUCASUS
The Great Caucasus mountains, home to perpetually snow-capped summits, are ideal for skiing, yet the region still remains mostly undiscovered. Just a couple of hours from the capital is the heli-ski resort of Gudauri (2,200 metres). From there, it’s another hour to Mt. Kazbegi (5,047 metres)—a top-notch alpine skiing destination.
Perched dramatically along the Mtkvari River, Georgia’s cultural and political centre is a vibrant city, as beautiful as it is exciting.
Pamela MacNaughtan enters the desert portion of the Mongol Rally and finds herself sweating all day and driving all night to make it to Tbilisi.
The Mongol Rally will chew you up, spit you out and expect you to keep going as if nothing happened, says Pamela MacNaughtan. Follow her as she braves the world’s most outrageous road trip—and takes Travel+Escape along for the ride!