Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Primer on Georgia (Michael's on vacation!)

So I went on vacation and finally have something to write about. For the next few entries, my blog is going to feature stuff about Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Georgia being the country and not the state. I should probably write about Kyrgyzstan first, but I’m in Georgia now, so it’s fresh. First a short introduction to Georgia.

Georgia is a small country located in the Caucuses. Is it Europe? Is it Asia? No one seems to know. (Even when I was given my Peace Corps assignment, I remember wondering this. Okay, Central Asia. So Bulguria and Ukraine are out. What about Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan? When asked, people don’t really know. They see themselves more European, but overall they are the Caucuses.) They are technically in Europe, but they are Caucus people. That’s important to know.

Also, here I should note that everything I know about Georgia I learned from being here, talking to people, reading Lonely Planet, and skimming wikipedia. So this is definitely not well researched.

Anyway, Georgia is a small country. There’s about 5 million people here. 3.5 million are Georgians, and 1.5 million are others. That includes Armenians, Turks, Russians, Azeris, etc. However, even all Georgians are not all the same. Some are different nationalities like Svans and Megrellians. Georgia shares borders with Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. It also has a big coast on the Black Sea. However, the country is only a few hundred kilometers wide, and in the past two weeks, I’ve been able to make it to within miles of Turkey (really like 100 yards away), Russia, and Armenia.

Georgia is Christian. Wait, they are a democratic with freedom of religion. But they are a Christian nation. Those 3.5 million Georgians, pretty much all of them are Georgian Orthodox. And everywhere you go, it shows. If there is a hill overlooking a town here, there is a cross or a church or both prominently sitting on top. The mosques and other religious places are hidden away. When you pass by a church, people cross themselves. Wearing crosses is very popular. How this actually translates into practice, I’m not sure. But the display of religious here is important.

Georgians like to drink. The main things they drink are wine, beer, vodka, and chacha. Chacha is a homemade liquor made from grapes, after they are finished making their homemade wine. They seem to drink all three major categories of alcohol: beer, liquor, and wine. And a lot of it is homemade. They also have an interesting way of going about it that I’ll cover later on.

Georgians speak Georgian. Georgian not like any other language in the world. That’s not entirely true. People here speak different versions of Georgian like Megrellian, Georgian, or Svani. However, Georgia has its own alphabet and it has its own language branch. Yeah, like Germanic covers English, Germany, etc. Latin has Spanish, French, Italian. Slavic has tons of languages. Georgian is a whole language branch for like six million people. Crazy. The older generation (up to about 30 maybe?) all knows Russian from when they were in the Soviet Union. The younger generation is learning English instead, trying to bring it closer to the West, but possibly excluding its regional neighbors.

In addition to these facts, I will soon elaborate on mineral water, mountain landscapes, the Black Sea, and a civil war. And once again, none of this is well researched. Any wrong information is an honest mistake. I’ve just had an amazing time learning and exploring this wonderful country, and I hope more people are able to learn about it.

And just for fun, a picture or two:

Church on a hill

Georgian alphabet.

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