Georgia of antiquity was known as the lands of Colchis, the west, and Iberia, the east. The Georgians themselves have always referred to their country as Sakartvelo, which translates as the land of the Kartvelians, the people of Central Georgia. Georgia sits on the south slopes of the greater Caucasus, stretching between the Black and Caspian seas. It is the keystone of the borderlands between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. With its towering Caucasus ranges in the north, its fertile valleys in the east, southern semi-deserts and steppes, and its tropical black sea coast, Georgia is home to a remarkable natural diversity. Roughly the size of Holland or West Virginia, Georgia hosts a wide range of climates, flora, fauna, and agricultural practice.
Georgia is one of the world’s first agrarian civilizations. Amongst many gifts to mankind, Georgia likely domesticated the first cultivated grape vines, as well as wheat, some 8,000 years ago. The western name Georgia itself comes from the Greek “Geo” for Earth and refers to those who till the land. That proud history of agriculture is celebrated in Georgia to this day.
The Georgians are an ethnically distinct people indigenous to the Caucasus and may be the foundation for many European nationalities. The oldest hominid skull, outside of Africa was found here.
This beautiful country’s place at the crossroads of the old world has been a mixed blessing for its people. The wealth of the Silk Road has flowed through Georgia, enriching its merchants and cities. But with traders came armies, writing much of Georgia’s history in blood. The Hittites, Assyrians, and Sumerians of antiquity, the Arab Caliphs and Persians Shahs, the Mongol Khanates and the Empires of Greece, Rome, and Byzantium, The Ottoman and Seljuk Turks, the peoples of the North Caucasus, and the Russians have all laid claims to Georgia. Through conquest and trade, religion and love, these forces have left indelible marks on Georgia and its people.
Georgian is part of a unique language family. The main Kartuli language is spoken across Georgia as well as two other relatives, Megrelian and Svan, spoken in the Georgian provinces of Samegrelo and Svaneti respectively. The Georgian alphabet, as well, is totally unique and one of the world’s fifteen separate writing systems. Despite the countless foreign forces that have impacted Georgia, its distinct indigenous culture thrives to this day.
Wine, or Ghvino in Georgian, is considered sacred. Georgian Qvevri, the clay vessels used for winemaking here, have been found containing fossilized cultivated grape seeds dating back to 6,000 BC. There are more than 525 indigenous varieties of wine in Georgia and a multitude of rare micro regions. One of Georgia’s distinct styles of winemaking, fermenting and aging white grapes on their skins, produces rich, tannic Amber wines. These unique varieties, methods, and flavors pair perfectly with Georgia’s beautiful cuisine. At the Supra, Georgian feast, drinking will be led by a Tamada, toastmaster, who will use eloquent, philosophical, and poetic toasts to elevate the feast and enliven the guests.
Wine in Georgia is experiencing a renaissance. Growers and winemakers, limited to home production in the Soviet days, have spent the last decade using Georgia’s unique traditions to turn the wine world on its head. We invite you to taste wines unlike any others, made by ancient monasteries, internationally renowned wineries, and individual home producers eager to share the fruits of their labour.
Together with wine, Georgia’s second claim to fame is its rich tradition of polyphonic singing. Each of Georgia’s 26 ethnic regions has their own unique harmony and texture of polyphony. These choral songs are accompanied by a wide range of instruments from small harps to bowed viols, lutes, bagpipes, accordions and drums. Traditionally structured as a three-part harmony, polyphonic songs hit chords uncommon to a western ear. The songs date back to ancient times, some to pre-Christian period. Georgia has much to offer to lovers of early and world music.
Georgian Cuisine is full of variety, changing from region to region. Georgia’s chefs and home cooks celebrate natural locally farmed seasonal produce, wild fish, game and fowl, as well as a wide range of wild foraged herbs and mushrooms. Tasting Georgia means enjoying walnut sauces, pomegranates, grilled meats, tarragon stews, and wild mushrooms, all perfumed with the herbs of untouched woodlands and the spices of the Silk Road. It is usual at a Georgian meal to have between 8-20 dishes brought out over a period of a few hours, washed down with pitchers of fresh amber wine, hauntingly beautiful polyphonic songs and philosophical toasts. Few cultures celebrate food and wine in such a regal manner as Georgians!
One fifth of the Georgia’s territory is preserved as National Parks, ranging from desert to tropical coasts, highlands, to rolling fertile valleys, and marshlands. These landscapes offer a range of unusual flora and fauna, including one of the world’s largest migration paths of raptors. Trekking and horseback riding opportunities are countless in Georgia, often with ancient villages and monasteries dotting the national parks, adding a layer of ancient culture to the local natural wonder.
Georgians had a host of pagan religions until the arrival of Christianity in the early fourth century. The missionary work of St. Andrew the First, and Simon the Canaanite, brought Christianity to Georgia in the first century, but most of Georgia remained pagan with pockets of Christianity and Judaism. In the fourth century St. Nino, famously bearing a cross fashioned out of grape vines, completed the christianization of Georgia. Today the country is 86% Eastern Christian Orthodox. But still, there are Sun Worshipping temples, Fire Worshipping temples, Mosques, Synagogues, Armenian Gregorian Churches and Catholic Cathedrals. Georgian’s are passionate about their religion but famously tolerant throughout history of other faiths in their diverse country. In the highlands of Georgia one can find rituals, and customs stemming back to pagan times that have merged with Orthodox Christianity.
The Georgians, as a people can be considered very gifted in the arts. Georgian artists have left indelible marks on theater, film, classical music, opera, and ballet. Georgia’s folk arts range from traditional fiery folk dances, to poetry and literature; from enamel work, mosaics, fresco and icon paintings to rare medieval architecture, carpets and kilimns. The Georgian arts are varied and rich. This is a treasure, waiting to be discovered.