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