Shrouded in mystery

A country that offers the best of Europe and Asia, Georgia is at the cusp of tourism boom, offering abundance of all-season holiday options at affordable prices

Georgia is like the perfect match and everything you do just amazes you even more. Located at the intersection of West Asia and East Europe with the Black Sea to its north west, this country is on a high gear to cater to sudden increase in tourist footfall. Besides being the most beautiful in the Caucasus region, Georgia has a unique ethnic group, language and culture. Despite centuries of invasions by Mongols, Russians, Ottoman and Byzantines, it has managed to hold out on its own. It was among the first few countries to adopt Christianity as the official religion and is therefore home to many beautiful churches built hundreds of years ago. Many can be found in its capital, Tbilisi.

Tbilisi

Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, is a dream destination having just enough to hold the curious visitor for a day, two or more and plenty for the hardcore adventurist. Besides the Narikala Fortress and the Metekhi Church, one of the most spoken about icons is the Bridge of Peace, designed by an Italian architect, built in Italy and transported to Georgia and assembled here. At night, the glass canopy top glimmers with thousands of LED lights, giving Tbilisi a makeover, standing firm and young against the otherwise old neighbourhood.

Built on the banks of Kura River, it does a great party scene, throbbing with life and music till late hours. So if you are looking for a great night out, head to Rustaveli to rub shoulders with a lively and artsy crowd.

North is for adventure

Drive along the Georgian Military Highway towards Gudauri and Stepantsminda (former Kazbegi), the adventure destination of Georgia, and witness historical evidences at vantage points, like Jvari Monastery overlooking the Unesco World Heritage town of Mstshekta and Ananuri Fortress further uphill. Gudauri is also the home of adventure sports like paragliding and skiing, with fantastic hiking tracks. A little beyond Gudauri is the famous (and colourful) Friendship Monument, built in 1983 to celebrate friendship between Russia and Georgia.

If Kazbegi is your last stop, make sure to hike/drive up to Gergeti Trinity Church built 2,170 metres above the village of Gergeti. The 14th century church is worth the trip because the views from the mountain top is breathtaking. It is said that this is the most beautiful spot in Georgia.

East is for heritage

On the eastern side of Georgia is the picturesque, walled city named Sighnaghi. Not known to many is the fact that Kakheti has over 300 varieties of grapes. It is also the region for monasteries, the most famous of them being the Bodbe Monastery where the body of Saint Nino’s (Enlightener of Georgia) is buried. Women are expected to keep their heads covered inside the monastery and photography is strictly prohibited. Saint Nino is much revered by Georgians.

When in Georgia, anything that begins with letter K is a must try – for example – Khachapuri, Khinkali (easily the national dish), Kharcho (thick soup) and kebab. To avoid confusion, simply order off the menu and be assured you can’t go wrong with food here.

Khinkali, a delicious dumpling, is served hot, but do not reach for your fork or spoon! This dumpling demands using both of your hands. Begin with adding a dash of pepper, then hold it up by its stem. Taste the fleshy base first and then you can go for the liquid inside, lest it drops. Remember, you must not eat the stem. In Georgia, eating the khinkali stem can bring you shame.

By: Anjaly Thomas

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