Georgia: Safe destination "off the beaten track"
Georgia, located on the threshold between Europe and Asia, is a small, sparsely populated country with about 4 million inhabitants on 57,000 square kilometers. The former Soviet Republic lies on the Black Sea. Georgia borders Turkey and Armenia in the south, Azerbaijan in the east and the high Caucasus mountains seem a natural border with Russia in the north.
Georgia was a popular travel destination even in the Soviet era. Not only known as the birthplace of Stalin, but also, due to the geographical location on the Black Sea, a longing destination for many Russians.
Today Georgia is a country that is developing rapidly. Young Georgians in particular see the future of the country much more in the European Union than under the protective hand of Russia. Restrictive and highly successful measures have been taken against corruption and the shadow economy since 2003. In the corruption index published annually by Transparency International, Georgia was 15 years ago behind countries like Uganda; in 2018 it was already well ahead of Italy, Croatia and Hungary. Georgia is now considered a role model in the fight against corruption worldwide. Crime is practically not an issue! The Georgians are proud that their country is safe. The police are well equipped and patrol a lot. From my personal experience, I can say that there are no arbitrary or unjustified penalties on the part of the executive, but if a fine is due, it cannot be paid in cash to the police officer, but only to the bank.
Georgia is also making good economic progress. The Baltic States are a role model here. Georgia is business-friendly and the degree of digitization is sometimes much higher than it is the case in Austria, for example. Visiting the office is efficient, the official channels are short, transparent and mostly digital.
Money and prices
The Georgian currency is Lari (GEL = Georgian Lari). 10 lari are currently (February 2021) approx. € 2.50. The price level is low compared to Central Europe. A delicious traditional Georgian meal in a nice restaurant costs between 7 and 14 lari (between 2 and 4 €). Drinks are very cheap, there is a tea for 3 and a cool beer for 5 Lari. Everyday things in Georgia are quite cheap for Central European conditions. This is not the case for the Georgians themselves. Half of the Georgians work in agriculture, but only generate 10% of the gross domestic product. Most of the farmers are self-sufficient farmers and sell what is left at local markets or trade products with people in the village. So it is not surprising that the average income in Georgia is around US $ 400 and thus behind countries such as Syria or Mongolia.
Citizens of most countries in the world do NOT need a visa to enter Georgia.
Eat and drink
Georgian food is hearty and far from low in calories. Meat is prominently represented on the country's menus, from veal to lamb, poultry and game, everything is served. Fish is also popular in Georgia and can be found on almost every menu. Vegetarians will love the salads and the many dough variations filled with cheese, potatoes and vegetables. The national dish in Georgia is khinkhali, dumplings, similar to our Carinthian pasta, filled with minced meat, cheese or a cheese / potato mixture.
The Georgians claim to be the inventors of wine. The tradition goes back over 8,000 years. The oldest seeds from cultivated vines were found in Georgia and date back to 6000 BC. Dated BC. Of the 4,000 grape varieties worldwide, 500 come from Georgia. 60 - 70% of the acreage is reserved for red wines. The Georgian way of making wine has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. The grapes are mashed with feet or pressed using roller mills. The juice is stored together with the mash in large clay pots (Kwewri) buried in the ground and ripens there. The wine can be stored in the clay jugs with a capacity of up to 50 years without being damaged.
Beer is also brewed and enjoyed in Georgia. Most breweries are quite young and sell their varieties in the region. The national drink in Georgia is the Chacha. The schnapps was originally a by-product of winegrowing and is made from pomace. Virtually everyone who has a piece of land at their disposal burns their own chacha. Everyone has their own recipe and dates, mandarins, raspberries and other fruits are added during the production. After the distillation process, the schnapps has about 70 percent alcohol by volume and is then diluted with water, more or less (usually less ...).
Toasts are inextricably linked to Georgian culture. Depending on the region, but also on special traditions in the family, there are toasts to God, friends, peace, the family, the mountains and much more. The head of the family recites this, then it is toasted and drunk together. You are often invited to a glass of wine or chacha, especially outside the larger cities. People are very warm - hearted and offended if you don't follow their invitations. But be careful: rarely a schnapps in Georgia has the usual 40%, usually between 50 and 60%.