A mere 48 hours ago we were sitting in a restaurant in one of the most fascinating countries we have visited thus far – Georgia. Before our trip several people asked us about our reasons to visit this small country in the Caucasus. Georgia, or საქართველო (Sakartvelo) as it’s called in Georgian, is not yet a very known tourist destination in our part of Europe and in a way I can understand why people were so curious. Before the trip I had personally been dreaming about visiting Georgia for quite some time, so for me this was one of those things to tick off from my bucket list. And the country did definitely not disappoint! We think that more people should find this precious gem so here are our top reasons for you to go to explore Georgia right now.
Georgia Is Amazing Nature
OK. Imagine a tiny country hidden between the Caucasian mountain ranges. You can probably visualize high mountain peaks, green hills, deep valleys, and mighty rivers. Add to this vineyards, deep caves, and colorful poppy fields. It is like a constant love story with nature. We went on some tours in Georgia and the truth is that the nature was the most amazing thing (although, as you will see later, there are plenty of things to do and to see). We both agreed that one could spend days just gazing at the nature in awe. For all those who love winter sports, the country has some popular ski resorts in the mountains.
There are several towns in the country, but the capital Tbilisi is the only one that could be considered a city (size-wise). Nature is present in the towns and cities as well – in the capital, for instance, one can admire waterfalls and climb high hills for beautiful sights.
In Georgia Your Belly Will Be Happy
The first time I visited a Georgian restaurant was in Moscow and unfortunately they have not found their way to the Nordic countries yet. Georgian cuisine is quite heavy, but oh so tasty. We talk stews, different types of bread, kebabs, fresh vegetables, walnuts, soups, pomegranate seeds, cheese, fresh herbs and the list goes on. I was actually surprised about the variety of vegetarian dishes. Food is very important to Georgians and so is the wine. Georgian wine is quite famous throughout Europe (although it’s difficult to find in Sweden). In fact Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world; wine production started in the area over 8,000 years ago.
Most restaurants serve local foods and I dare to say that there is something for everyone – and the prices are very affordable. We found out that the best thing to do is mix and match different small dishes – thus creating the best experience for you. We did not try any of the white wines, but did fall in love with a red wine called Saperavi (საფერავი), which is made of a grape with the same name.
And a positive surprise: the tea. Tea is one of the main crops of the country’s agricultural output. So now, while writing this post, I’m having a cup of Georgian tea.
In Georgia You Will Hear A Lot of Fascinating Stories
Georgia used to be a part of the Soviet Union and the Georgians have seen and experienced a lot. The people are very friendly and talkative, and they will eagerly tell you a lot of stories – from Soviet times and before to the current day. We had a young guide talk about his attempts to work in the music industry, a driver told us about his wish to live in the countryside. Topics that came up were corruption, history, traveling, and politics.
And in cases were there are no stories to be told; cows and sheeps along the many roads in the country will create stories for you to tell once you get back home.
Did We Mention Georgian History?
As one of our guides told us, one could talk about Georgian history for two weeks straight. We will talk more about some of the historical sights in coming posts, but in short one can sum it up with wine (see above), Christianity (hence all the religious sights), and wars. According to Wikipedia, the nation of Georgia was first unified as a single kingdom in 1008 AD. After invasions, wars, and the waves of history, the current country became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During years of civil unrest and economic crisis in the 1990s, the Rose Revolution of 2003 marked a change and the country has continued its development despite the tense relations with Russia. Georgia is currently a relatively well-functioning market economy with a mixed media environment. According to Transparency International’s 2015 report, Georgia is the least corrupt country in the Black Sea region, including some EU-countries.
People Are Adorable & Traveling Is Easy
One of the greatest surprises of our trip was the friendliness of people. Everybody – from the hotel staff to random ladies on the street – was very nice and helpful (despite any potential language barriers). English is spoken more or less well in Tbilisi, Russian will take you further. Most street signs are in both Georgian and English.
Traveling around in the country is also very straightforward, the traffic might be horrible at times. And the animals really walk freely everywhere! We went on one tour with an English-speaking guide. For another trip we just wanted an English-speaking driver and that worked perfectly well, too. The third option we tried was getting a taxi. And no surprises there, it worked well too.
How Do You Go to Georgia?
There are no direct flights from Sweden to Georgia. One can fly via Russia, Ukraine, Turkey or Latvia. However, not all airlines offer daily flights. At the end we settled for Aeroflot via Moscow as it was the most convenient (and cheapest) option for us. Traveling via Russia does not require any transit visa – at least not from EU-citizens. The only negative thing about traveling to Georgia is the time – all flights seem to arrive and depart in the middle of the night.