The birthplace of wine, a cave city and a unique alphabet – for these and other fun and interesting Georgia country facts, read on. Georgia may be little known but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to the bizarre and fascinating. We’d like to broaden your horizons before you visit this extraordinary country.
1. But first, where is it?
Georgia sits at a strategic crossroads between Europe and Asia. Black Sea beaches and the soaring Caucasus Mountain Range are just some of the country’s natural charms.
But it is Georgia’s strategic location on the ancient Silk Road trade route, which has had neighbouring countries and empires eyeing the destination for centuries.
Turkey, Russia and the former Persian empire all wanted a slice of the Georgian cake. Later, Russia annexed the country in the 19th century. It was only much later that Georgia gained its independence from the Soviet Union.
2. The locals don’t call their country Georgia
Peculiarly, the locals don’t call their homeland Georgia. The local Georgians refer to their country as Saqartvelo or საქართველო, in the local language.
The origins of the name Georgia are also largely unknown. One suggestion, however, is that, during the Middle Ages, Christians believed that St. George was the patron saint of the country. Evidently, the name stuck.
3. It’s home to one of Europe’s oldest cities
That city is Kutaisi, in the west of the country. Today it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
A very long time ago, Kutaisi was the capital of the Kingdom of Colchis from the second millennium BC. Needless to say, the city has survived the ravages of time and conflict.
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4. It’s the birthplace of wine
Wine lovers rejoice! Georgian labels may not be lining your cellar, but the country is in fact considered the birthplace of wine. As far back as 8000 years ago, Georgians are said to have started producing wine, but in their own special way.
Word has it that the origins of their wine production were entirely accidental. Some lucky soul poured grape juice into a qvevri, an earthenware jar, and buried it in a shallow pit. The result? A glass or two of Georgia’s finest.
Today, UNESCO has included this ancient Georgian tradition of Qvevri winemaking on their Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.
Oenophiles best make a beeline for the Kakheti valley, where 70% of Georgian grapes are grown.
5. Explore a 6000-room cave city
Move over Cappadocia. Georgia has its own other-worldly cave town: Vardzia, a fortress-monastery-palace complex carved out of and under the Erusheti Mountain in the south.
In the 13th century, Georgia’s Queen Tamar ordered the construction of the site as a refuge against the raiding Mongol Empire.
Upon completion, it boasted a staggering 13 levels of 6000 rooms (complete with bakery, church and wine cellars), a self-sustaining irrigation system and royal apartments. Sadly, just a century later, an earthquake destroyed more than two-thirds of the city.
The good news, however, is that visitors can today explore the still-intact parts of the underground city. Don’t forget your camera – it’s truly remarkable.
6. A trio of UNESCO World Heritage sites
Small in size, but a giant in historic stature. Georgia has no fewer than three UNESCO World Heritage sites:
- Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery
- The former capital of Mtskheta, a significant stop on the Silk Road of old
- The ancient villages and towers of the Svaneti region in the Caucasus Mountains
7. The Georgian language is used nowhere else on earth
It may be the official and primary language, but learning how to say hello and thank you in Georgian won’t get you far anywhere else in the world.
Georgian has many different dialects and its alphabet is unique to anything else you’ll see internationally. Like the rest of Georgia, it is ancient and dates back to the mid-4th century. This is a tough one to wrap your tongue around, but take heart in the fact that many young Georgians speak English better than Russian.
8. It’s ecologically diverse
Another of our favourite fun facts about Georgia is that it earns a spot amongst the world’s most ecologically diverse regions. The country’s 12 climate zones have spawned an incredible diversity of landscapes and wildlife.
Outdoors enthusiasts will adore an opportunity to hit the ski slopes and hike canyons, while wildlife lovers can spot wolves, lynx and bears in the forest.
9. And speaking of the ski slopes…
Move over Swiss Alps. Georgia’s premier ski resort, Gudauri, has become a hotspot for heli-skiing.
If you’re looking for a powder rush away from the crowds, head up high in Georgia, one of Europe’s most underrated ski destinations.
To be fair, underrated is an apt word to describe the wealth of hidden treasures you’ll uncover in Georgia. There are a surprising array of interesting Georgia country facts waiting to be discovered. Best of all, there is one way to uncover them all – visit asap.
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Have you visited Georgia? What fun or interesting Georgia country facts do you know? We’d love to hear your fun facts about Georgia in the comments below…