Georgia (the country, not the state) is an incredible destination for travel, but not a common place for many world travelers.
While Georgia is not a large country, it certainly has a lot to see and do, mostly because of its long history and rich culture. Here is a brief list of some of the quintessential Georgian experiences and the best places in Georgia to travel to experience them:
Georgia has the earliest evidence of wine making of any places in the world. Therefore, they have the title of being the “home of wine making”. Their technique for making wine is unique, compared to many of the modern vat and barrel tools used in most fermenting processes. Instead, Georgians use large unglazed earthenware vessels to place crushed up grapes (seeds, skins and all), which then go into the ground and are buried. This method controls the temperature and needs no yeast. The resulting wine then has a distinct flavor. The wine they are most known for is saparavi, which is a dry red wine. I personally also like kinsmaruli, which is a semi-sweet red wine. They also have white wine and something called a black wine. The remnants left over from the wine making, mostly seeds and skin, are they crushed further, in a similar process to Grappa (an Italian liquor) to make Chacha. Drinking chacha is sure to burn your throat, especially if it is homemade and the alcohol content is not controlled for. The best place to visit in Georgia to learn about the process and try the wine is the Kakheti region, particularly Kvareli.
Georgians are known for their hospitality. In fact, the idea of guests stopping by unannounced is common place, along with keeping guest rooms ready at all time. I was lucky enough, because I was visiting someone who lives here, to experience on a few occasions the incredible hospitality of Georgian citizens. They openly welcomed us in for tea and snacks, continuing to tell us “chahme, chahme” (eat in Georgian). It must be mentioned that their hospitality is almost an extension of their worth, so it is not wise to turn down food or other gifts. They give easily and freely, so be gracious and thankful, and try not to refuse them the pleasure of hosting you.
Hello – გამარჯობა (gamarjoba)
Goodbye – კარგად/ნახვამდის (kargad/naxvamdis)
Thank You – მადლობა (madloba)
Yes – კი (ki)
No – არა (ara)
Please – თუ შეიძლება (tu sheidzleba)
Wine – ღვინო (ghvino)
Red – წითელი (tsiteli)
White – თეთრი (tetri)
Getting around Georgia outside of Tbilisi can be difficult. As a developing country, there aren’t a lot of public transportation options. So most of the time we opted for marshrutkas, which are essentially small buses with limited air conditioning and personal space. Taking a marshrutka is a way to keep costs down, as they frequently cost only a few GEL (Georgian lari) but also they just seem to be a right of passage. I would also like to note that these buses are not neatly lined up or have schedules online. This is a hunting game as we experienced. At one point we were in a taxi with the driver taking us around to different lots asking where the marshrutka we wanted might be.
Maybe now you are considering adding Georgia to your travel list?! Whether it’s a stop-over in Tbilisi or a full country tour, or at least a visit to your local Georgian restaurant to try out some of the delicacies, Georgian cultural experiences are worth your time.