Georgians call their country Sakartvelo (საქართველო). They are Kartvelians (ქართველები) in their own language called Kartuli (ქართული).
The foreign names like Georgia/Georgien may have something to do with the popularity of St. George (the Dragonkiller) among Georgians. Or maybe not. The predominantly Slavic name Gruzija (and similar) comes from the Russian word Gruziya. (Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not want to be a part of Georgia, but officially still are, to most people. This is a serious problem, so don’t go there. Check what your Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to say on the topic.)
Georgians are nice. Very nice.
As I said before: If you find yourself in a stressful situation in Georgia, you’ll get all the help possible plus a box of cigarettes, even if you don’t smoke. But you may have to pay tourist prices for many things – don’t get angry, they are still lower than at home, in most cases (not for rental cars and hotel rooms), and surely you didn’t travel to Georgia to fix your general finances, did you? To easen your anger at the cheaper prices the local population will likely get to pay: the average monthly income of a Georgian household was 328 $ in 2010.
Georgians can cook.
Oh, I told you that before? Well, let me just repeat myself, thank you: Oh girl, can they cook! They’ll tell you that themselves and ask you whether you liked the food and check the quantity you eat and give you more before asking whether you wanted more … And you will eat. More than ever. And reminisce about all that eating later, again and again.
Just remember: It’s Kazakhstan that’s number one exporter of potassium.
Georgia is the home of wine.
Really. They likely invented wine making, 7000-8000 years ago. Traditionally, wine was and is made in large clay vessels called kvevri, often buried in the ground. And the Georgian word for “wine”? Why, it’s “gvino” and many other languages borrowed it!
Since we can get our lovely Georgian wine in Germany, we didn’t drink too much of it there, blood alcohol limit being 0,00 in Georgia and me not wanting to perturb my non-drinking but driving husband.
There aren’t many motorways in Georgia.
There seem to be only one, the ს1. It’s not very long, mind you. Now, as I said before, Georgians do not really care about traffic rules. That doesn’t mean they don’t watch out and take care of each other as participants in the traffic: We didn’t see any accidents at all and weren’t too afraid to be involved in any, neither as drivers nor as pedestrians. It is of course hard work to constantly have to process all the situational data necessary to always react appropriately (“I have right of way but will that guy wanting to turn left cede it? No? Well then.”) Obeying rules would have made it all much easier, but what can you do. I was of course afraid because our car was falling apart, but that was due to our having been given a piece of rolling shit and not to the traffic itself.
There’s another thing about that short piece of the Georgian motorway: people use it for different purposes. Like: returning home late at night. Afoot, of course. Not everyone’s rich enough to own a car, but we all need to get home somehow. Crossing the motorway on foot is popular, too, despite all that annoying traffic. Letting your cattle graze away everything that’s not non-organic is often seen as well. Not to forget transporting stuff that is hardly attached to your vehicle, because surely God will provide?
There’s a thing about Georgia I could never get used to: the stench. Since people are allowed to smoke almost everywhere, they do. And since car servicing isn’t at the top of their priority list (remember the monthly income stated above?), their vehicles will release quite some stinking stuff … Not good, for an olfactory snob like me.
Another thing sorely lacking: marked hiking trails 😦
There are many stray dogs in Georgia. And many of them are quite willing to adopt you for the time being. Let me present you ours: Spächt!
He had waited for us at the Mtirala National Park Visitor Centre and then went hiking with us, as you would. “What if he won’t be able to keep pace with us, he looks so tiny?” I wondered. It soon turned out he could keep the pace. But I had troubles instead.
The next thing, my husband pulled four sausages from his rucksack. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He doesn’t eat the stuff. The dog ate them up even before he could manage to remove the plastic film. “Actually, they were for you.” my dear told me. “She gave them to me and told me I should give them to you.” “But they know I am vegetarian and you don’t speak Georgian?!?” “I know, I know. But I swear that’s what happened.” Well, our dog was well fed – and wouldn’t leave us on our way back, even as we sat in the car, trying to leave the Mtirala National Park with its kidney-shattering road at a breakneck speed of 5-10 kmh. Only after we could finally drive fast did he disappear in the night.
“Well, I read bears like to attack groups of people with a dog.” Our Austrian neighbour is smiling wickedly and I am smiling back. I am quite sure I have seen bear droppings along the way in the park. I wasn’t afraid of the bear at all. I am not always a rational person – maybe that’s why the bear itself never turned up while I was sitting around, waiting for the others to return from that lake they had wanted to see so much.
Anyway: There are many stray dogs and also cats in Georgia, and they are just about everywhere. I guess many people can’t afford to really keep them but may borrow them from the street from time to time, maybe feed them a bit and let them go. At least that’s what I concluded when I saw they are all thin but not too dirty, sick or unkempt. Some can be dangerous and it is a good idea to be careful. But some you’ll never forget.
Georgia has a very rich history and can prove it.
You can get the idea of how important that tiny country was by simply visiting one or two national museums. You probably won’t find them at the first try because they had to move for renovation reasons and your city map doesn’t know that, but when you do, enjoy. I was seriously hooked by the Colchian culture, especially the artefacts made of gold.
(A tool for strapping young toddlers who must learn to walk on their own – logical, isn’t it? To be seen in the Tbilisi Open Air Museum of Ethnography)
I did get to see the inside of an olden church or two even though I had always forgotten about women having to wear a long skirt and cover their head and shoulders (I improvised with a large pashmina and a wide-brim sun hat) – so yes, there are many ecclesiastical objects in Georgia to be seen, too.
Now, while this is the end of my Georgia reports and, just like you, I have been working hard all this time and finding it difficult to read about such exotic travels, even if I wrote it all, it’s not the end of my Georgia input per se: I want to learn the alphabet should I need to read Georgian fluently ever again – you know, street names and stuff. So I’ll be inventing little learning tricks as I go along. And write about other stuff as soon as I find time, the new semester having already begun …