When Vance Joy sang about having Georgia on his mind in his 2014 single ‘Georgia’ was he really talking about a person? Maybe it was actually about the country Georgia. It might be one of Europe’s less travelled countries, but we can certainly see why a visit to this incredible country would leave you singing its praises! Let’s have a look at some of the interesting facts that make Georgia so unique.
Tbilisi by monticellllo/Adobe Stock
1. It was the birthplace of wine!
It’s hard to imagine a world without wine (especially at the moment!) and we have Georgia to thank for its creation! They have been making and perfecting this wonderful beverage for at least 8,000 years. The technique they use for their winemaking which involves a clay jar called a Qvevri has even been listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
Photo Credit: Georgian National Tourism Administration
2. Georgia was home to the first Europeans
The oldest human skulls in the Caucasus, belonging to a 1.8 million year old couple called Zezva and Mzia, were found during an archaeological expedition in Dmanisi. They are seen as an important link between African and European ancestors.
3. Georgians love to host a guest!
In Georgia, it is believed that a guest is a gift from God. When holding a ‘supra’ (a traditional Georgian feast) guests are welcomed with open arms and the ‘tamade’ (a toastmaster) will make sure you are well fed and entertained. Just make sure you raise a glass and say “Gaumarjos” which means “cheers” in Georgian.
4. There are 12 different climate zones
With climates ranging from subtropical to semi-desert and even alpine, Georgia is one of the most ecologically diverse countries on the planet.
5. The world’s deepest cave is found in Georgia
If you’re interested in caves, you’ll love the Veryovkina Cave which is hidden amidst the Gagra Mountain range of the western Caucasus region. This cave reaches a depth of 2,212 metres and is the deepest cave on earth!
6. The Caucasus is Europe’s highest mountain range
Most people just assume that the Alps are the highest mountain range in Europe but that’s not actually true! The Caucasus Mountains which stretch along the border between Georgia and Russia are actually higher. The highest peak is in Russia, but Georgia’s highest mountain, Shkhara which stands at 5,193 metres, is still roughly 400 metres higher than France’s Mont Blanc.
7. You can live in Europe’s highest settlement here
Situated in the mountainous region of Svaneti, the ancient villages which make up Ushguli are the highest altitude settlements of Europe, at a staggering 2,100 metres above sea level. The stunning landscapes make it easy to see why they chose to settle here!
8. The name of the capital Tbilisi derives from the Georgian word for warm
While the climate of Tbilisi is subtropical, it can still get quite cool in the winter so that’s not what gave it this warm name. It is actually due to the natural hot springs that were discovered in the 5th century.
9. It’s home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites
The impressive cathedral complex known as the Gelati Monastery, the ancient city and former capital of Mtskheta, and the mountainous region of Upper Svaneti have all made it on the list, and there are many more on the tentative list.
Photo Credit: Nene Samnashvili
10. It has its own unique language
The Georgian language has a unique influence from Greek and Iranian languages which has resulted in its very own alphabet. There have been three different iterations of the language throughout its history, but the language that is used today is made up of 33 letters.
11. Georgia’s Jewish community is one of the oldest in the world
Divided into two groups, Georgian Jews have lived in the country for approximately 2,600 years, while Ashkenazi Jews came in the 19th century.
12. It’s known for its polyphonic music
Polyphonic music is choral folk music sung by 2 or more people, and the traditions pre-date the introduction of Christianity in Georgia (early 4th century AD).
13. Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia
He was born in the city of Gori back in 1878 which at the time was part of the Russian Empire. There is now a museum dedicated to Stalin in Gori that glorifies his life (yes, glorifies!).
14. Georgians have a different name for their country
The locals call it Sakartvelo and call themselves Kartveli, which most probably derives from a central region in Georgia – Kartli. There is also some debate as to where the name Georgia comes from; is it from St George, the patron saint of this country; or Georgi, the Greek name for agricultural tribes; or the Persian-Arabic word Gurg, meaning land of wolves? We may never know for sure!
15. Georgia is a very safe country to visit
It was rated the 7th safest country to visit in the world in 2017, just make sure to stay away from certain areas along the Russian border.