Georgia: old traditions and juxtapositions

Georgia is a country of traditions and juxtapositions. A country where beautiful historic churches stand next to kitschy modern architecture. A country where most people are strikingly poor, yet some drive around in new Porsches and Hummers. A country where on your lefthand side is an azure blue sea, and on your righthand side are snow capped mountains. A country whose people seem to be distant, but where you can become someone’s new best friend within a matter of minutes.

Georgia is a country of many contradictions indeed.

Georgia: old vs. new

What strikes me the most is that there seems to be a constant battle between the old and the new. Ugly high rises sprout up from the ground without any regard for the surrounding history. The internet in the train is faster and more reliable than in many ‘modern’ countries.

Skyline of Batumi, Georiga

The skyline of Batumi, where history meets modernity.

Opera house Batumi, Georgia.

Batumi’s historic drama theater, just a street away from many of the high rises of the previous picture.

On the other hand, the country seems to be a place where time is forgotten. Church is an integral part of life, and even very young children make the sign of the cross whenever they pass a church or religious monument. The fact that the church wasn’t built with their particular brand of Christianity in mind doesn’t seem to matter.

Cave monastery in Vardzia, Georgia.

The cave monastery of Vardzia is another holy place in Georgia, and a must-visit.

The timelessness of the country is best seen through the variety of cars driving on the road. Driving next to the Porsches and Hummers are Ladas (Soviet-era leftovers that are no longer manufactured as of 2012) and donkey carts.

Lada in Kutasi, Georgia.

A throwback to Soviet times, the Lada is ubiquitous on Georgian roads.

 

Man with goats in traffic in Kutaisi Georgia

More proof of the constant clash of old and new.

Health standards, or the lack thereof, are striking. Smoking is allowed practically anywhere (restaurants, buses, you name it), and healthy food options are all but impossible to find. Fitness seems to be far from the mind–we saw a total of two people exercising in our time in the country, and only one gym.

Khachapuri in Batumi, Georgia

Khachapuri epitomizes Georgia’s unhealthy lifestyle. Note the square of melted butter atop the egg and cheese because why not?

Hospitality in Georgia

What makes Georgia truly special, besides it gorgeous landscapes, its tasty (albeit unhealthy) food, its fascinating history, and its never ending set of peculiarities, are its people. The Georgian people are among, if not the, most friendly and welcoming people I’ve ever had the joy of meeting.

 

Hospitality in Zugdidi, Georgia.

 

Hospitality in Zugdidi, Georgia.

 

Hospitality in Zugdidi, Georgia.

The hospitality we received was heartwarming wherever we were.They are extremely helpful, and if you ever have the pleasure of visiting someone in their house you are their honored guest, their friend, their relative.  Nothing is too good for you, and you will be welcomed with a genuine smile, food, and copious amounts of alcohol.  I am hard pressed to think of a people that have made me feel more welcome in their country.

 

Hitchhikers in Kazbegi, Georgia

 

Do you need help? No problem, we will help you… and get you drunk in the process. Georgian hospitality at its best.

The Georgian struggle

All and all, it seems to me that Georgia is still struggling to find its place in the world.

On the one hand, it wants to be part of ‘modern’ Europe… and I think we Westerners can learn a thing or two from Georgia and the Georgians. On the other hand, it has distinct peculiarities which others in Europe would find arcane and not of this century. Personally, I am more charmed by the ‘old’ Georgia (although I could do without the smoking). However I urge you to come see for yourself. This country, and especially its people, deserve it.

 

Georgian flag

 

Have you ever been to Georgia? What did you think of the country and its people? Share your story in the comments.

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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