Friday, April 18, 2014

Georgia (the country)

In one week I’m off to Georgia – the country, not the American state. I know. Georgia.  Random. This will be a short trip, 10 days in total, so it seems somewhat ludicrous that I am flying to the other side of the globe, but I think I’ll be able to pack a lot in to my time there and I love flying so the long flight is kind of a bonus (all that forced relaxation and guilt free napping…heaven)

It’s not like I discovered Georgia of course, but I really hadn’t given it a thought until about a year or so ago when I was looking at my atlas one lazy day over a cigar (as you do) and I saw it and thought, “What’s the deal with Georgia?” So I started reading about it and became very intrigued. First of all, it looks beautiful in terms of landscape and architecture: snowcapped mountains, bucolically verdant valleys, medieval churches, and glittering modern design. Second, people don’t really go there – not like they do to Italy or Argentina anyway. This appeals to me. The off-the-beaten-track places are always the best. Fewer crowds and a sense (albeit somewhat false) that you are discovering something new makes any place better. Third, Georgia is small enough that I can see enough of it in my time allowed such that I shouldn’t feel deprived. Fourth, I feel an obligation to select travel destinations that will help to improve the geographical knowledge of my friends and family. You’re welcome.

You can read about Georgia on your own if you are so inclined, but here are some basic facts to get you started. Georgia is technically in Western Asia, on the ‘balcony of Europe’. It is nestled between Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and Turkey, with its West coast on the Black Sea - the Caucasus region. Population: about 4.5 million. It was in the news most prominently in recent memory in 2008 when it fought a war with Russia. It has this awesome looking language – Georgian – which is a Kartvelian language. Seriously, Kartvelian. It's fun to say aloud. It is a family of about 4 languages which are only spoken in that region, so it is entirely dissimilar to neighboring languages like Russian and Turkish. The written language looks like this: ულოცავენ. სად არის უახლოესი სიგარების მაღაზია? (Which means, “Greetings. Where is the nearest cigar store?” I think.)

The flag is this cool looking medieval design that would not look out of place being held high by a knight on horseback.

Apparently, Georgia is the oldest confirmed wine-producing country on the planet, with evidence of winemaking vessels discovered from about 6000 bce. From what I can tell the food looks good, with lots of dumplings, bread, eggplant, walnuts, and tomatoes.

The capital city is called Tbilisi (or T'bilisi), which will be my base for the time that I am there. It looks like a beautiful city with charming crumbly bits and beautifully re-built areas, set along a river lots to explore.

From what I’ve read, the Georgian people are renowned for their hospitality, much of which may be booze inspired, but nevertheless, the stories of friendly and welcoming locals was appealing.

But here’s what sealed the deal for me: you can still smoke everywhere in Georgia: in restaurants and bars, in the backs of busses, etc. The thought of being able to smoke cigars with my meals or beverages – inside – is so appealing, that this alone makes it a winning destination. I plan to smoke constantly and joyfully. I have read in two different books however that in Georgia, although it has very high rates of smoking, that when it comes to women, only prostitutes smoke outside on the streets. This is a theory I will obviously be testing on a daily basis.

One added bonus is that my flying itinerary affords me two lengthy layovers in Warsaw, so I’ll be able to do some exploring there are well.

So that’s what I have planned.  I’m sure it will be terrific and I hope to have lots of interesting adventures to share.

Now, let’s see how many cigars I can cram into my backpack…


Melinda said...

Sounds like an interesting country to visit. Will be following your travels as always via your posts. Have fun.

Betty-Lou said...
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