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What makes Georgia such an unique country?
From the Point of View of a Local Person
author JULIA SHABASHVILI
I can easily say that I am a traveler and I am very lucky that my job lets me travel. Thus, I often spend a considerable amount of time traveling in different countries.
Yesterday I decided to make a list of the countries I have visited, so I counted 21 countries, many of which I have visited more than once.
Doing this I was thinking how amazing traveling can be. How many people, cultures, traditions and different attitudes I have faced during my stopover in all those places. Suddenly I recalled a conversation with my friend while discussing our most favorite activities during traveling. Then I unexpectedly realized that I could “feel” unknown cities only while strolling in their streets and hanging out in outdoor cafes, enjoying a cup of black aromatic coffee or a glass or tasty white wine.
In such moments, all the worries fade away leaving only the shadows of smiles and an incredible feeling of relaxation. However, it does not last long, since I always want to come back home, to Georgia, where there is a little part of me that calls me back all the time.
There is something unexplainable, which nourishes my strong ties with Georgia. Probably it is this unexplainable thing which makes plenty of foreigners fall in love with this country at first sight. So what is it about? What makes Georgia so special and unique? How could I describe the country in just a few words? I often asked this question to myself and finally, I found the only relevant special word - diversity! Georgia is definitely the country with tremendous diversities.
From my point of view, all starts from the diversity of landscapes. Just after your first steps in the country you witness the surprising diversity of terrain. During your visit you can hike or even ski in high mountains, but then you can make your way down to the Black Sea, where you have a chance to dip your toes in salty sea water and witness marvelous sunsets at the seaside. Do not forget to wander around the caves or catch the sun rise in a semi- desert. It is also possible to take your time to appreciate the view of fertile valleys with the snowy top of the Caucasus Mountains in Kakheti and enjoy a sip of local traditional semi- dry white wine Tsinandali. (my favorite wine!). Multiple climate zones including subtropical, alpine, subalpine, Mediterranean… will amaze you and certainly satisfy your curiosity.
Based on landscape diversity, the territory of Georgia is divided into different regions: Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti, Adjara and so on. All those parts of the country represent their particular dialects of the Georgian Language. As it is known, the Georgian language has 16 different dialects. Moreover, character, temperament and attitudes of the people from these different parts also differ. For example, if in the western part of Georgia, when hosting guests, people would insist on your sampling all the dishes they serve; in Kakheti you need to be prepared that similar invitation is made only once and never repeated. If in Racha people are very slow and extremely peaceful, in Guria it is hard to catch a word from the unusually fast speech and jokes.
Due to its unique location, Georgia used to be the central place along the Silk Road, which allowed different cultures and civilizations to meet in this tiny country. Thus, Georgian culture is enriched by the traits taken from all those cultures. Georgian culture reveals a unique mixture of European and Asian features. It can be concluded that cultural diversity is another peculiarity of Georgia.
For centuries, Georgia has been particularly tolerant of various religions. Only one fact is enough to illustrate this. Within one little square of Tbilisi, one may come across different religious buildings and places of worship: Orthodox churches, an Armenian church, a Synagogue, a Mosque.
Religious diversity brings about the ethnic diversity and vice versa. According to the latest census, ethnic Georgians constitute 86, 8 % of the total population. Ethnic Azeris who represent 6,3 % of the total population and Armenians, who make up 4,5% of the residents of the country, are compactly settled in different regions of the country. Other ethnic minorities are Russians, Ossetians, Ukrainians, Kists, Greeks, Yezidis. The concept of a courtyard in Old Tbilisi is a brilliant confirmation of Georgian tolerance. In Tbilisi courtyards, referred to by locals as ” Italian yards”, Georgians together with Armenians, Azeris, Yazidis and many other ethnicities used to coexist peacefully.. What is particularly interesting is that all these people knew and could speak each other’s languages.
Georgia is a linguistically diverse country as well. Georgian as a Kartvelian language along with Abkhazian is a state language, but few other languages are also spoken on the territory of Georgia. Compactly settled ethnic Armenians and Azeris use their own languages. Russian is still a main foreign language for older generations of Georgians, but English is also becoming popular especially among young people. Considering the linguistic diversity of Georgia, I would like to attract your attention to other Kartvelian languages which are spoken in Georgia and which are sister languages of Georgian. These are Megrelian (spoken mostly in Megrelia) and Svan (spoken by Svans).
Finally, I would like to briefly refer to the architectural diversity of Georgia which seems to be my most favorite part. Tbilisi with its tiny streets, cobblestone roads, colorful, wooden, curved balconies, splendid buildings with Art Nouveau facades has developed the wide range of architectural styles. The old city with its ancient neighborhood spread around the Turkish sulphur baths preserves the features of an Asian city’s infrastructure and medieval planning while Rustaveli and Agmashenebeli avenues, also Sololaki built a la mode of Parisian boulevards, follows the styles of an urban development of European cities.
I could continue writing endlessly but I believe I should stop here and let you get inspired to visit and explore Georgia, to see as many places here as you can, to walk along cobblestone streets, to sit in a cozy, open cafes in Tbilisi or in Batumi and to enjoy some of the most ancient and exceptional wines in the world. That is what I am doing in my leisure time in Tbilisi, even though I am not a tourist here, but when I go for a little stroll along my favorite streets, I till discover something new and quaint for myself. Therefore, I remain a traveler in my home city.
Let Georgia surprise you and conquer your heart!
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