Georgia has become an increasingly recognizable brand with within the tourism industry. Whether it’s the Black Sea coastal towns, the towering peaks of the Caucasus Mountains, the country’s sprawling, unspoiled nature, or cosmopolitan Tbilisi, Georgia has something to offer everyone.
Although the country remains relatively unknown to those living outside the post-Soviet space, Georgia has slowly transformed itself, going from virtual obscurity — to an increasingly popular destination for those seeking to free their spirit, and take on new adventures.
One note of caution – if you are expecting perfectly manicured neighborhoods, orderly traffic, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and German-grade timetables, you will be disappointed.
Expect the unexpected
Georgia is in a state of flux, and that is part of its charm. Aside from its natural beauty, Georgia’s hidden allure lies in its unpredictability. Metaphorically speaking, Georgia is like a child that doesn’t cooperate. In Georgia, things get delayed. Things get canceled. Often. Unplanned adventures happen without advanced notice. Impromptu gatherings are commonplace – spontaneous feasts and unpremeditated drinking sessions can come about unexpectedly. Georgians rarely lack reasons to justify a celebration. In some countries, such deviations might be looked at as a nuisance, but deviation is precisely what makes Georgia so appealing.
In fact it is Georgia’s arbitrary nature that is responsible for producing the satisfying sense of freedom many get from living or traveling in the country. Put more succinctly, Georgia offers an escape from the rigidness, and the rules-based societies that exist in most Western European cities. And it is exactly this sense of freedom that makes Georgia so special.
Georgia: Rich in human capital
The inhabitants of a country are what makes a nation great. Georgia may be lacking in monetary capital, but it is rich in human capital. As cliché as it may sound, hospitality and Georgia are two terms that are inextricably linked. Georgia’s reputation as being a hospitable nation cannot be dismissed or overstated. Stories of travelers being invited into the family home to drink and dine are not made of fairy dust. These stories are true. According to Georgian folklore, all guests are a gift from God, so it is hardly surprising that such occurrences are not infrequent – especially when traveling in villages outside the major population centers.
It remains up for debate whether such cordial invitations and displays of hospitality are always genuine, heartfelt gestures, or simply a byproduct of self-imposed cultural obligations. Often times they are sincere, and regardless, provide travelers with an opportunity to take in the spectacle of what transpires at the Georgian table, and experience first-hand, the rich cuisine and traditions of the Georgian supra (feast). Guests occupying a seat at the Georgian table should expect to eat bountifully and drink copiously. Not only will you be included in the feast’s endearing rituals, but it is highly likely that you will be the main reason for the feast altogether. Guests should keep this in mind before declining a refill of their wine glass or resisting another helping of food when it is offered.
Gluttony aside, the Georgian supra is something that should not be missed. It provides a intimate look into the Georgian heart and soul, and offers a chance to experience a type of comraderie and social inclusion that is rarely experienced in the fast-paced, day-to-day life in the West.
Safety among the chaos
One of the most ironic aspects to traveling in Georgia is how such a Wild Westenvironment can be experienced amid such a safe backdrop. Despite its laid-back, anything goes nature, Georgia is impressively safe. For all of its quirks, idiosyncracies and imperfections, crime is uncommon, and random street violence just doesn’t exist on the scale that it does in other places around the world.
In fact, their are exactly zero “no-go zones” in Georgia. In other words, there are no particular districts where you cannot walk, and no region that will make you feel your wellbeing is in jeopardy. In case something does happen, Georgia’s patrol police, though woefully inept at enforcing traffic laws, are ubiquitous, quick to respond when called, and do not tolerate criminal behavior.
Although the likelihood of being a victim of a crime in Georgia is low, the probability of being victimized by Georgia’s chaotic drivers unfortunately is not. Pedestrians are second-class citizens in Georgia. The moment you forget this is the moment that you put your life in peril. Tbilisi’s intractable traffic problems, the sheer number of cars on the road, and the country’s dangerous driving culture require that pedestrians be particularly vigilant when navigating the steets. It is rare that motorists observe posted speed limits (if there are any), and even rarer that the patrol police enforce them.
Well worth a visit
At the end of the day, Georgia’s positives far outweigh its negatives. The country remains a special place in the hearts of many. After visiting, most leave with the desire to return. Georgia’s seductiveness is sometimes hard to describe, as Georgia remans a country of contradictions: it is both beautful and simultaneously ugly; peaceful yet somehow chaotic, safe but in some ways dangerous…
Most of all, Georgia is an environment suited for improvisation; a place ripe with culture, amid a society that is constantly evolving and redefining what it means to be alive. In an existential sense, Georgia is a place where the soul can roam free, and where you can satiate your desire for impulsivity.