Seeing as Georgia is in the news I felt the need to put some of my own memories down about this amazing country after a visit there a few years ago. I didn't actually know a whole lot about the region (Georgia or Armenia) and had only spoken to one person who'd been before, but after a couple of trips to the local library to read what little literature was available I decided it rather intrigued me.
Surprisingly cosmopolitan, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is home to a diverse array of museums, my particular favourite being one featuring intricate gold jewellery from antiquity; Georgia is after all the fabled 'land of the golden fleece' mentioned in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts.
The High Caucasus mountains are so remote and harsh that in winter almost the entire population of some villages move to the lowlands, leaving behind just a few to see the season out. In August there were still pockets of snow that the summer sun had not yet melted, contributing to the fresh mountain streams that gradually turned into rivers as we descended from yet another stunning high pass.
Although the 'advance of progress' means that some of the houses in the small mountain hamlets are modern, in many villages such as Dartlo and Parsma the buildings are made entirely from the surrounding rocks; with watchtowers poking into the sky from strategic positions; it was not that long ago when the Russian Imperial army marched down through the Caucasus to conquer Georgia and the watchtowers also served to help guard against other villages, in an area where feuds between the neighbouring villages are still not unheard of. The irony of modern day events certainly is not lost on me.
Armenia shares a similar Christian history with Georgia - both were among the first nations to adopt Christianity as a state religion, with Armenia claiming to be the first - and so abounds with world heritage monasteries and churches, many of which are still used today. But it was the capital Yerevan that struck me - even more cosmopolitan than Tbilisi, we sat one night eating pizza in a Soviet era plaza in front of a spectacular opera house, watching crowds assemble for a live MTV concert. The architecture here was a constant reminder of the efforts of Soviet Russia to bring 'civilisation' to its far flung provinces, but here they had eschewed the monotonous drab architecture that it was so renowned for and injected not a small helping of style and panache.
Russia’s influence is obvious everywhere yet the two nations stand alone as destinations in their own right.
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