The Republic of Georgia
Updated: Jul 25
Ani Vakhania was a 2018-2019 ASSE finalist from Tbilisi, Georgia, who spent her exchange year at Valdosta High School, in Valdosta, Georgia. We’ve all had a lot of fun making jokes about our Georgia-to-Georgia exchange. We had all been planning to visit her next summer but coronavirus suspended everyone’s plans.
We asked Ani to create some posts for us about her homeland, The Republic of Georgia. We hope to bring more of our exchange students and their host families on board. Enjoy the following from our dear Ani Vakhania.
The small Republic of Georgia is a country between Europe and Asia that has a history of thousands and thousands of years. It is often mistaken for Russia, because it was part of the Soviet Union. Till this day though, unfortunately, Russia has occupied 20% of Georgia. Although the country has experienced the influence from both sides, it has all merged to create a diverse, unique culture and identity. Georgia, or “Sakartvelo” (as we, Georgians, call our country) means the land of Georgians, Kartvelians; the land that has 12 parts, each offering hundreds of mesmerizing things to see, experience, taste. Doesn’t matter if you’re a beach person or a mountain person, or if you prefer small villages over big cities, Georgia has everything you might be looking for.
Here are some of the most famous places to visit:
The capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi (the name meaning “the warm place”), is also the biggest one in the country. The old city of Tbilisi, with its picturesque winding lanes, old buildings merging with new, and famously decorative balconies leaves an indelible impression of calm, comfort, and civilization, but it is also known for its bursting energetic atmosphere in the heart of the town. It is divided in two by the Mtkvari River, almost 1.5 million people living on both banks. Tbilisi is home to a great number of different churches (especially the Georgian Christian Orthodox ones), museums, parks, restaurants, café-bars; It is also the intellectual center of the country with a great number of schools and universities. The most prominent of these is Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, which was the first university in Georgia upon its founding in 1918 during the short-lived Georgian Democratic Republic. Tbilisi offers different kinds of public transportation, the fastest being the subway (Tbilisi Metro), which is great to get around from one part of the city to the other.
Overall, present day Tbilisi is a place where no one can get bored. It is an interesting mix of modern commerce and Caucasian tradition, and is rapidly changing as the country modernizes and the economy expands.
Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. It holds an important series of wall paintings, including King Tamar’s (who was a woman, but had a status of a King due to her power; the period of time she reigned is known as the Golden Age) icon in the Church of the Dormition. There is a special story behind the name of this site: the myth says that young Tamar was lost in the caves and when she was called for, she replied: “I am here, uncle” (Georgian: აქ ვარ, ძია) "ak var, dzia". Five monks still live in this mountain. Every morning at seven they ring the bell in the high arch. A part of a state heritage reserve, the extended area of Vardzia-Khertvisi has been submitted for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Gergeti Trinity Church (Georgian: წმინდა სამება - Tsminda Sameba) is a popular name for Holy Trinity Church near the village of Gergeti in Georgia. The church is situated on the right bank of the river Chkheri, at an elevation of 2170 meters (7120 feet), under Mount Kazbegi. It was built in the 14th century. As we know, it has often become a safe place for the most precious items to keep (for example, St. Nino’s Cross). Its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it a symbol for Georgia. You can now get to the top by car, but most of the people prefer to climb the steep road and it takes approximately an hour and a half to get there. There is no doubt that Gergeti Trinity Church and the Kazbegi Municipality itself have become a very popular destination for tourists over the years. If you love nature, hiking and astonishing mountains, this is the perfect place for you!
Sataplia Strict Nature Reserve is located 10 km away from the town of Kutaisi in Imereti region of Georgia. The name Sataplia can be freely translated as a "honey place" (Georgian: თაფლი, tapli means honey) and, in fact bees, used to live in small holes and caves and honey was harvested by the local population. The Natural Park Sataplia was founded in 1935 to protect recently discovered karst cave with exotic stalactites and stalagmites as well as dinosaur footprints that were found there. The reservation also features a crater of an extinct volcano and a site of remains of a man of the Stone Age. To mention shortly about the flora and fauna of the surrounding place, Mount Sataplia Colchian forest has both the alpine flora and subtropical plants. There are many tree species threatened with extinction. Jackals, foxes, squirrels, martens and badgers belong to ordinary residents of the park. Occasionally there is a Roe deer and a wolf.
The Georgian coastal city of Batumi is renowned as one of the Black Sea’s most popular and crowded resort towns. The smooth-pebble beach is long and wide, the sea is clean and good for swimming and there is plenty of entertainment in the evenings. Because of its location at the foot of Caucasus, Batumi has a subtropical climate which ensures that neither the winters are too cold nor the summers are too hot. Batumi’s eclectic mix of architecture is undoubtedly one of its main draws, so it’s always great to take a walk in the city. Along with the architecture, the other thing that is most noticeable in Batumi is a great amount of unusual sculptures and monuments. One of the most famous of them is Ali and Nino that is a continually rotating, and mesmerizing, pair of metal statues that represents the tragic separation of two lovers; Ali, a Muslim boy and Nino, a Christian Georgian princess. Batumi offers a gorgeous botanical garden, where you can spend hours and hours looking over at the beautiful landscape. There is also a dolphinarium, where you can enjoy a nice show and interact with dolphins. In conclusion, if you love the sea, Batumi is your way to go.