Georgia, a country not to be confused with the State of Georgia in the United States, is located in the South Caucasus region. Throughout the history of the country, it has been the meeting point of cultures. The result? A small yet dynamic country, where you will experience things you never thought you would.
Out of all of the countries I had yet to visit, Georgia wasn’t the top of my list. To be honest I didn’t know much about the country other than it was in the USSR, and that Russia had gone to war with it in 2008. Earlier this year, I decided to move to Tbilisi for work and I have never looked back since.
As a country, Georgia has come a long way since the Rose Revolution in 2003 – which ousted the post-Soviet Shevardnadze government. Even though issues persist, the capital, Tbilisi has become a untapped gem within the Caucasus region. It is a place still not yet ‘discovered’ some people say.
The capital, Tbilisi has a wonderful charm about it that will quickly ensnare you. Founded in the 5th century, the city has had waves of immigration and influence. Influences include the Mongols, the Ottomans, the successive dynasties of Iran alongside the Russians. The consequence of such melting pot, you would assume that some things could be lost, this is not the case with Georgia – it has retained a strong sense of national identity.
Located within the dramatic setting of the deep valley of the Mtkvari river, Tbilisi has an eternal charm. Surrounded by what you can only describe as architecture that is picturesque, housing the welcoming Georgian lifestyle. Over the past 15 years, the city has added a whole new dimension of the city, by adding inviting cafes, restaurants, great choices of accommodation, a great choice of bars and club alongside a long list of other things.
Tbilisi is home to a lively cultural and arts scene which everyone engages in. Whether it is the annual wine festival, where local business showcase their wines for the year; or a large music festival like Tbilisi Open Air Festival, there is always something to do! In addition to a wide choice of things to do, wherever you may go, Georgian people are some of the warmest people around. Once acquainted, they are always inviting you to something – whether it is to attend an infamous ‘supra’ or explore somewhere random!
Old Tbilisi is still very much present. The infamous Old Town, at the narrowest part of the valley, is still reminiscent of ancient Eurasian crossroads. Here you will find charming winding lanes (leading anywhere!), balconied houses (of various types), leafy squares and handsome churches (all typically Georgian Orthodox sect), all overlooked by the wonderful 17-centuries-old Narikala Fortress. It seems almost like a dream – where cultures have crossed and all blended into a great harmony.
Tbilisi’s neighbourhoods a stones throw from the city centre remain very village-like. This close knit community feeling can be experienced through the narrow streets, tiny local shops offering local goodies and a very communal atmosphere. Around the metro stations you will find smaller traders baring their provisions to sell clogging up the pavements – such as fruit, veggies, cheese as well as nuts – all fresh from neighbouring countryside areas.
It is clear – Tbilisi has kept its historic charm. Both modern and ancient, the city remains the beating heart of the Caucasus region and shouldn’t be missed by any means.