Georgia: a country to fall in love with

Discovering the country of wine and hospitality

I fell in love with Georgia way before our plane landed in Tbilisi a couple of months ago.

I was checking flights at reasonable price and distance from Milan and I had two options: Bruxelles or Tbilisi. Unfortunately for Bruxelles I have a thing for Central Asia and Caucasus: the choice was easy.

Georgia is know mainly for these three facts:

  1. Stalin was born in Gori (about 100km from Tbilisi)
  2. Georgia is the country of wine (being Italian, this was very interesting for me)
  3. Hospitality is a very important part of Georgian culture

So basically when we arrived in Georgia we expected to spend a few days wine tasting and experiencing Georgian hospitality — we didn’t plan to visit Gori, so no Stalin in our trip. Our hopes became reality quite quickly: on our second day we met Nodari, a taxi driver who showed us Mtskheta and Sighnaghi.

During our trip to Mtskheta, not only we saw the monastery (which is the main attraction there), Nodari showed us how they make bread in Georgia and took us to restaurant where we tasted one of the loveliest wines I’ve ever drunk. It is not like the wine we make in Italy, it’s somewhat sweeter and lighter in the mouth. It’s a pity it isn’t easy to find Georgian wine around the world because I think it deserves to be drunk more than any other wine I’ve drunk around the world (like Australian and Argentinian wines)

I really love meeting people during my trips and Nodari was more than a taxi driver, he was our window on Georgian culture. After the first trip we decided we would meet on the following day to visit Sighnaghi a city in Kakheti, the wine region.

Nodari picked us up at the hostel and immediately showed us the gifts he had brought for us: a bottle of his own wine, a bottle of his own I-don-t-know-what-it-was spirit and a mix of salt and spices. I was immediately astonished by his hospitality.

In fact there’s not much to see in Sighnaghi, but I was happy to be this close to the Caucasus:

When we arrived in Sighnaghi though we heard music in the main square and when we got close we saw that there was a Georgian dances show. The dancers were all kids from dance schools (I assume) and they were really good. I found out that Georgian dances are pretty famous and there are several types of it.

These kids are dancing Partsa:

This is I think Mtiuluri (correct me if I am wrong):

What I enjoyed the most about these dances is the energy of the kids both males and females. They were proud of that they were doing and the sight of these dances gave me the feeling of a country in which culture is protected by everyone, including new generations. Georgia felt like a young dynamic country where people were discovering their own culture while creating a new future. It is such a different point of view for someone who comes from Italy.

While watching these kids performing I thought that I wish we had less people fixated with football and more people dancing. The energy and the passion that they and their proud parents where showing is the fuel for a growing country and I think we’re gonna hear more and more from Georgians.

So what do I know now about Georgia?

  1. Georgia actually is the country of hospitality, people are very curious to meet tourists and they usually want to show the best parts of their country. While it is possible to find young people who speak English, it’s best to have some basic knowledge of Russian
  2. Wine in Georgia is good, especially red wine (I didn’t love white wine as well). In fact I am looking forward to drinking it again and again
  3. Georgia has a very interesting dance tradition and Georgians are keeping it alive with an incredible energy. On Wikipedia it is possible to find the complete list of Georgian traditional dances. If I knew this before my trip I would have searched if there’s any theatre in Tbilisi
  4. The food is a lovely mixture of Southern Europe and Asia: the ingredients are the same we use in Italy, but there’s a wide use of spices that will make you feel in Asia. In one of the restaurants in Tbilisi we had sausages and — to my surprise — when we ordered, the waiter told us “mind that this is like that Sicilian specialty… stigghioli”. I felt immediately at home.
  5. Tbilisi is a lively european city where young people create start ups and there are creative spaces (we stayed at Fabrika Tbilisi, a beautiful hostel that mixes industrial design and Georgian taste)
  6. The Caucasian area is very interesting for those who like to know more about political geography: there are two areas that are struggling for independence, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. While Georgia claims that they are Georgian regions, they are independent countries recognized only by Russia.
  7. Georgia hosts one of the worlds’ most famous Jazz festivals: the Black Sea Jazz Fest in Batumi. I wished I had time to visit Batumi, it’s a growing city on the Black Sea.
  8. Oh yes, Stalin was born there.

I hope reading this article will help you consider Georgia for your next trips. I’ve spent there 5 days and I think I am going back to see the western part as soon as I can.