When you think about “Georgia”, you probably start thinking of peaches and ice tea, not hachapuri and wine. But if you love yourself, you will try Georgian cuisine the first chance you get! From Georgia the country, that is. Before I came to Russia, like most Americans, after the end of the 2008 Georgian-Russian war, I sort of forgot it even existed (sorry Georgia!). But this tiny country of less than 4 million people is worth knowing about.
I spent 4 days in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in early March. Not only was the weather significantly nicer than March in Moscow (sunny and in the 50s every day!), but prices are also much cheaper in Tbilisi. Both factors make it a popular holiday spot for Russians. Indeed, because I’m pale and look more like an ethnic Russian than an ethnic Georgian, most people just started speaking to me in Russian! Like other former Soviet countries, Russian is the most common second language among older Georgians, and English is the most common among younger people. Between the two languages, I had no trouble navigating the city. Being able to use two languages in that way was so empowering! Between my two languages, I was able to have great conversations with Georgians, Russians, European travelers, and even several very kind American Peace Corps volunteers (thanks Jacob, and the HC network!:)
One of my favorite parts of Tbilisi was the architecture and buildings. While technically part of Asia, Georgia is much more European in culture. Unlike some of the other European capitals I’ve seen, it’s buildings weren’t destroyed in World War II. And either because it flew under the radar, being far away from Moscow, or because Georgian-born Stalin held a soft spot for Tbilisi, the decorative details of its buildings were left intact under Soviet rule. It was amazing for me to see pre-war, Soviet, and modern buildings in the city, all with unique Georgian designs. The homes of wealthy merchants were split between many families in the Soviet period, who build a network of rickety stairs and public balconies, giving the many courtyards of the city a Hogwartsian quality (and not just because I think it must be magic keeping those things up!). Tbilisi is a city undergoing rapid change. It is developing a vibrant tourism industry and buildings are being restored all over the city. I felt lucky to be able to see the city when I did, because I think within 5 years it will look really different!
Georgia is definitely a place I want to return to, and not just for the sun! For the wine and iced coffee too!
Until next time!
Russian words: Грузия (groo-ziya), the country; Джорджия, the state, say “Georgia” with a Russian accent 😉