Today’s episode about the famous things across the globe is about Georgia (the country!), so we have asked our fellow travel blogger Baia of “Red Fedora Diary” What is Georgia famous for? This is her insightful response!
Georgia, still an undiscovered destination to many, is tucked between Europe and Asia. This small former Soviet country binds a lot in – ancient cities, diverse food culture, snowy Caucasus mountains, Black Sea coast, delicious wine, and lush nature. If you are one of those travelers who hasn’t visited Georgia yet, here’s an introduction to things Georgia is known for.
Things Georgia is Famous for
The first Europeans
According to an archeological expedition in Dmanisi, a 1.8 million-year-old skull was found. This is the oldest human skull found outside of Africa. After the discovery, the skulls of the oldest Georgian couple were called Zezva and Mzia and are displayed at the National Museum in Tbilisi.
Birthplace of Wine
Georgia has been making wine for over 8,000 years and recently broke the GUINNESS World Records by being the oldest wine-making nation based on the wine residue found on one of the clay jars Georgia uses to produce the beverage. Its unique winemaking process is even listed as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Georgia has its own language and alphabet spoken by only around 4 million Georgians in the whole world. It is among the world’s 14 unique and oldest languages. The alphabet underwent three different script development, and what Georgia uses today is called Mtavruli, having 33 letters.
Georgia is rich in hot springs and sulfur waters. Tbilisi, the capital, has a whole district dedicated to these sulfur bathhouses called Abanobubani. It even gave the name to the city, where the word Tbili in Georgian means warm.
According to the legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali was hunting in the lush wild nature in the territory of today’s Tbilisi when he discovered the warm waters by accident and decided to build a city around it.
In general, sulfur water is believed to benefit the skin and general well-being. It’s advised to bathe in this natural hot water of around 40º C temperature for only one hour.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
Tbilisi is home to the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world – Holy Trinity Cathedral, also known as Sameba in Georgian. Spanning more than 3,000 sq. meters both inside and outside, it is also one of the world’s largest religious buildings by total area.
Finished in 2004, it took almost ten years to complete the construction, and today is the primary cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In terms of architecture, the building is a combination of traditional Georgian church architecture with undertones of the Byzantine era.
An abundance of Food
Georgian cuisine is as diverse as its landscape, where every region has its own traditional dish. The cuisine is influenced by Georgia’s neighbors and invaders, such as Persians, Ottomans, and Russians. Additionally, Medittereaninan trances can also be found here. Due to this, the meals are heavy on dough, meat, various strong and flavorful spices, and walnuts. However, there are plenty of plant-based dishes to cater to vegetarians as well.
The most popular meals by locals and foreigners are meat dumplings called Khinkali, pizza-like cheese pie Khachapuri and its boat-shaped version called Adjaruli Khachapuri, eggplant in walnut sauces, and appetizer plate called Pkhali, to name just a few.
Georgia, generally, is a very hospitable country where every guest is considered a “gift from God,” no matter if a person is a foreigner or not. Georgians love treating their guests like royalty. However, this hospitality can seem a bit too much, especially when hosts constantly insist on eating if they see an empty plate in front of you or chugging the glass of wine instead of sipping.
Two of the most ancient cities in Europe
Two cities and former capitals of Georgia, Mtskheta and Kutaisi, are among Europe’s 16 ancient cities. Mtskheta, located only 30 minutes from Tbilisi, was formed around 3,000 years ago. Kutaisi in western Georgia has been inhabited from as early as the second millennium BC and used to be the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis.
Mountains and lush nature
Bordering the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia is a paradise for nature and hiking lovers. Wild and untouched nature, backdropped by the snowy Caucasus mountains, is what awaits a visitor here. Six out of the ten highest peaks of the Caucasus are within the territory of Georgia. Mt. Shkara in Svaneti is the highest at 5,068 meters above sea level, followed by Mt. Kazbegi in Stepantsminda.
Apart from these highest peaks, Georgia is known for its canyons, karst caves, semi-desert terrain, and alpine lakes to name a few. Intrigued? Here are some of the most unique and best places to visit in Georgia
Krubera and Veryovkina Caves
Located in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in western Georgia, Veryovkina and Krubera caves are the Earth’s deepest known caves. The first is 2,212 meters deep, while Krubera hasn’t been fully explored, and the deepest traversed point is 2,197 +/- 20 meters.
Ukrainian Speleological Association reached a depth of 1,710 meters in 2001, making it one of the deepest known caves in the world after the Lamprechtsofen in the Austrian Alps. Over the course of ten years, the Association continued the exploration and reached a depth of 2,197 meters.
20% occupied by Russia
Georgia and Russia have had tense political relations for several centuries now. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a one year war (1992-1993) broke out between Georgia and Russia, backing up Abkhazia, a Black Sea region of Georgia. The conflict heavily affected both sides; it left Abkhazia’s towns devastated and destroyed, while post-Soviet Georgia suffered significant financial, psychological, and human damage. The war forced thousands of ethnic Georgians living in Abkhazia to flee their homes and become refugees seeking home all over the country.
Recently, Russia and Georgia had another, yet, short-armed conflict in August 2008 in another bordering region with Russia – South Ossetia. Russian army unjustifiably crossed the state border and started the South Ossetian conflict before the Georgian side could respond. Russia blamed Georgia for being aggressive and offensive to South Ossetia and launched extensive air, land, and sea invasion to enforce peace. The war lasted for around ten days until Georgian forces retreated.
Today, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are breakaway regions controlled by Russia, which none of the Georgians (except those living there or having relatives) can travel to. The border with South Ossetia moves several centimeters very often, causing various villages to either leave or stay in a conflict zone. Russia and Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru recognize both regions as independent states.
Due to its highland landscape, Georgia boasts several ski resorts perfect for skiers, snowboarders, and even heli-ski lovers. Gudauri is the most famous ski resort offering tree-free slopes at various altitudes. Bakuriani, covered in coniferous forests, is a perfect family-friendly destination where adults can also enjoy the adrenaline-boosting downhill. And if you are after even more extreme sports, try the high altitude slopes of Hatsvali and Tetnuldi ski resorts in Svaneti.
Highest villages in Europe
Among other things, Georgia is also known for its highest number of permanent villages in Europe. The villages of Ushguli in the Svaneti region and Bochorna in Tusheti are nestled at 2,100 and 2,345 meters above sea level, respectively. Both of them are mountainous areas where summers are short, and winters are breezy and snowy.
Georgian National Dances
Georgian National Dance has roots in sports games, military moves, and dances performed during various holidays and celebrations in the Middle Ages. There are more than 15 different dances, out of which only two, Khorumi and Perkhuli, are among the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia.
Polyphonic folk music
Apart from the national dances, Georgia is also known for its choral folk music. It even got the attention of UNESCO and was listed on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2008. Georgian polyphony has three different types: Polyphonic dialogue over a bass background sung most in eastern Georgia, a complex frequented in Svaneti, and three partly improvised versified parts traditional to the west.
Georgian song in space
The spacecraft Voyager 2 sent to space in 1977 includes one of the most popular Georgian folk songs, “Chakrulo,” sung mostly at celebrations and festivals. The Golden Record features 116 images, spoken greetings in 59 languages, traditional folk music from around the world, and different natural sounds.
Whether Georgians are proud or not of Joseph Stalin (Ioseb Jughashvili) being a Georgian is quite a debatable subject. However, it’s part of history and can’t be overlooked.
The leader of the Soviet Union was born in a small town called Gori, around one hour drive from Tbilisi. If you want to learn more about his (mostly good) deeds, you can visit the house museum in Gori and explore his private, 83 tone railway carriage he used to travel with.
Not many people know that the world-famous singer and songwriter Katie was born in Kutaisi during the Soviet times. At 8, she moved with her family to the UK and has lived there ever since.
She released her very first album at the age of 19, called Call Off the Search, and reached the top of the UK charts selling more than 1.8 million copies in the first five months.
Throughout her career, she has been listed as UK’s best-selling and Europe’s highest-selling female artist in 2006. And Sunday Times Rich List, published in 2008. She was nominated as the seventh richest British musician under thirty.
Giorgi Balanchivadze, or George Balanchine, was a ballet choreographer and a co-founder of New York City Ballet, making him one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century and a father of American ballet.
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, George was a son of a Georgian opera singer and composer, Meliton Balanchivadze, and went to the Imperial Ballet School.
He created his trademark neoclassical style in ballet by modernizing the standards and techniques he adopted at the Imperial Ballet School. He combined them with various schools of movement he learned on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Often called Nikala or just Pirosmani, Niko was a naive Georgian painter who reached fame after his death after being relatively poor for most of his life. He worked on a variety of ordinary jobs to make ends meet and painted everyday rustic scenes honored today for their image of the country back in that time. Part of his works is on display at National Gallery in Tbilisi.
* Cover photo by vvvita via Depositphotos
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