“Few people are familiar with the rich and unique culture of Georgia as an independent country,”writes Shangai daily.
Geographically, Georgia is in the heart of Caucasus mountain range and its high mountains with many peaks have developed into vacation resorts for skiing called Gudauri and Bakuriani.
The highest point in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,068 meters above sea level. The Shkhara routes are hard to hike as they are long, technically difficult and dangerous. But don’t be too scared, as there are friendly people ready to give you a hand when needed.
My best childhood summer vacations were spent in western Georgia, along the Black Sea coast. A famous destination there is the Batumi Botanical Garden.
It is considered to be one of the largest botanical gardens in the former Soviet Union. Its collection comprises more than 2,000 plants, including 104 of Caucasian origin.
Georgia’s unique, strong-tasting Borjomi mineral water is famous and sought after beyond Georgia’s borders. In the hard-drinking former Soviet Union it was a popular hangover cure — it still is among the former Soviet Union countries today.
There is an old joke — “It’s too late to drink Borjomi when your kidneys have failed” — referring to a situation when nothing can be done to fix your problem.
The water comes from the mineral springs in the southern town of Borjomi, which is also a popular spot for its spas. My favorite place in Tbilisi, the capital, is the Open Air Museum of Ethnography in Vake district, to the west of Turtle Lake.
Actually it’s not a building, but 65 hectares of exhibits. You can physically “visit” almost all the regions of Georgia in several hours and learn about the architecture and traditions of different regions.
Walk through the area and enter different Georgian houses and observe the equipment, clothes, old furniture, objects of traditional arts, and you can even try a Georgian dish which is prepared in one of those old houses.
If you want to feel the country’s spirit and culture and, of course, if you’re hungry, take your seat at the supra! It means a traditional Georgian dinner.
Here you have the traditional wine which is among the best in the world and the variety of dishes with liberal use of various herbs and spices.
At the supra, there always is the tamada (or a toastmaster). It’s a unbroken toasting tradition: tamada is very honorable and his eloquence sets the happy atmosphere for the dinner.
His toasts are about peace and the reason for the gathering. When he finishes saying the toast, everybody says “Gaumarjos!” which means “to our victory!”
Georgia is also an old winemaking region. Its diverse geography and climate makes it home to 500 grape varieties.
I’m truly interested if it’s possible to find a Georgian wine in China. And much to my surprise I found it in Beijing. That made my day!
In Tbilisi you can go and watch Georgian dance performance. There’s actually no precise record when Georgian dances were created. But according to historians, secular and martial melodies were popular between tribes.
Georgians even danced and sang before battles. The first kind of dance was accompanied by roundelays — short, simple songs with a refrain.
Each dance reflects the life of the region where it was created. Each dance has a special costume resembling the ancient clothing of its region.
Georgian wedding songs are energetic and full of life. A dancing woman is soft and delicate; she dances on tiptoes.
A man demonstrates militancy by his quick moves, high leaps and brave pirouettes. Dancers explain: “To dance Georgian dances — you have to be born Georgian.”