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Described variously as part of Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, Georgia has long been a flash point for cultural and geographical collision. Its weather and landscape are a meeting of east and west. Its history is a lengthy list of empires rising and falling, of invasions, skirmishes, massacres and wars. But it is also a nation of survival, and of great natural, cultural and gastronomic beauty. Georgia is holding its arms open to the world. And as civil unrest calms, the world is beginning to notice.
Georgia is a newly independent nation, and while living conditions are improving, they're not yet at the western standards desired by the government. Tourist facilities outside of the capital, Tbilisi, are not highly developed and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Despite this, and despite an area in the north of the country being basically off-limits due to separatist control, terrorist activity and an abundance of land mines, Georgia presents a proud face to the world. Its culture is ancient and built around a vast variety of influences; its people are a mix of traditional and very modern; and the food! Oh, my, the food!
Because of the presence of land mines and high incidence of kidnapping, visitors are advised to avoid travelling near the Russian border region, especially Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Kabarda-Balkar and Karachay-Cherkessia. The breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should also be avoided.
Full country name: Georgia
GDP: US$11.2 billion
Georgia is at the junction of Europe and Asia, and this has led to a diverse, moderate culture developing over thousands of years. According to ancient tradition, when God was handing out land to the peoples of the planet, the Georgians were too busy eating and drinking and arrived late. God told them that there was no land left, and the Georgians told him that they had been toasting his health. They invited God to join them, and he had such a wonderful time at the Georgians' table that he gave them all the land he had been saving for himself. Truly God's own country.
Food in Georgia is one of the biggest attractions for visitors, and is the centrepiece of domestic cultural activity. Part of this family focus, and an unusual phenomenon for foreign visitors, is Georgian meal-time. Complicated ritual relationships are manifested in it. The table is led by tamada, who proposes traditional toasts throughout the meal. To the outsider, it can seem as though nothing is done before everyone drinks to it. It's best not to toast while drinking beer; it's regarded as a subtle insult.
During Soviet rule, Georgian restaurants spread through the republic, and are still favourite haunts for discerning foodies throughout Russia and its former states. Each part of Georgia has its unique cuisine with flavours derived from spice combinations, but as a rule, a focus on herbs and garlic predominates. The only difficulty you will experience buying food will be because the locals are so keen to give it away! Cafes and restaurants mostly serve Georgian and more traditional European food, while fast food restaurants offer local dishes such as khinkali, kabab, barbecue and khachapuri. American-style fast food restaurants serve the usual collection of hot-dogs and hamburgers. For a breakfast with a difference, try the khachi, a soup of tripe, cow hoof and lots of garlic.
Coke and Fanta are ubiquitous, however traditional Georgian mineral waters and fruit drinks have a well-deserved reputation. They are mostly sold in specialty shops. For thousands of kilometers around, Georgian wines are regarded as the best quality. The country's unique climate and soil quality have made it a major wine-making region for many thousands of years.
While surrounding countries use Cyrillic script when writing, Georgia goes it alone. The Georgian alphabet includes 33 symbols (5 vowels and 28 consonants). The shape of the letters is absolutely unique and it cannot be compared to any other existing alphabet.
full name: Georgia
Georgia Resource Page
Georgia - A Country Study
Imagemap of Georgia
The World Travel Guide Online - Georgia
Travel Document Systems - Georgia
Georgia @ Travel Notes
Georgia - Summary Profile
Georgia - Consular Information Sheet
The Georgian Language
Georgian National Ballet
Monuments of Ancient Georgia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia
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