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Anton Chekhov who was considered to be among worlds greatest writers of short fiction famously exclaimed: “in Georgia nature astonished one to the point of madness and despair.”
“I saw marvellous things”, he wrote in his letter to his friend in 1988, "all I experienced seems a dream, and I can't believe it. I saw the sea in all its vastness , the Caucasian shore, mountains, mountains, mountains… it’s a poetry, marvellous fantastic story...”
Amazed by the delicious abundance of its land, Famous French traveler Sir John Chardin wrote about Georgia in 1686: “we may truly say that there is no country where a Man may have an opportunity to fare better than in this.”
American author and Nobel Prize winner John Ernst Steinbeck commented (1947): “ it is a magical place, Georgia, and it becomes dream-like the moment you have left it”.
Caucasus is not only geo political bridge between east and west. The region came into existence about twenty-five million years ago, when the African-Arabian and Eurasian land masses collided. in the broadest sense the new region was still a mix of two old landmasses - and all the plants and animals each contained. As a United Nations report on genetic diversity notes, “ This unique situation has made it possible for the Caucasus to be a bridge between eastern and western flora… This explains why, in some areas of Caucasus, species of European or Asian origin grow next to [native] species, adapted to continental, Mediterenean and subtropical climates.” (Tasting The Past.
Despite being no bigger than Ireland, the country’s frontiers encompass everything from subtropical rainforest to alpine glaciers to desert plains, and thanks to its strategic location along the fabled silk road to Asia, has played host to travelers, traders and tourists alike for the better part of a millennium“. (Darra Goldstein).
The nature of Georgia offers an incredible variety of landscapes, flora and fauna. Nearly one third of the area of the country is occupied with forest concentrated mainly in the mountains. The eastern foothills have extensive coniferous and boreal forest. In the west of Georgia, wooded areas hug the Black Sea coast. The woods of the Black Sea coast are especially rich and varied. There you can see alpine and subalpine meadows, a magnificent variety of herbs, and even subtropical rainforest. Relic pines are frequently found there too.
Endemic flora of Georgian nature includes approximately 2,600 species of fungi. Most notably, the nature of Georgia is bountiful where fruits and vegetables are concerned.
Georgian nature features a river system which comprises nearly 25 thousand rivers and tributaries. They are fed mainly by thawed snow and glacial waters, underground aquifers and atmospheric precipitation.
Over two thousand mineral and thermal springs as well as deposits of therapeutic mud are located in Georgia.
UNESCO lists some of outstanding examples of an exceptional landscapes in Georgia but, as Peakvisor notes, when it comes to its mountains country is fit for any grandeur name. The whole region, which has an area of 170,000 square miles (440,000 square km), is predominantly mountainous. Caucasus is great California-size divide between the Middle East and Asia. Home to 7,742 named mountains in the area The Caucasus are beautiful mountains filled with forests, snow-capped peaks and Alpine lakes.
A member of a British expedition that explored the mountains in 1874 wrote that in "in appearance and inaccessibility and in boldness of form they are beyond the Alps, and probably when they are better known, they will be thought grander and more majestic than the Alps."
The Western Caucasus has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site based upon its diversity of geology, ecosystems, and species. It is recognized as the "only large mountain area in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact, containing extensive tracts of undisturbed mountain forests unique on the European scale."
Central Caucasus features Europe’s highest peaks by a considerable margin. There are 200 peaks over 4,000m, 30 over 4,500m and seven over 5,000m, including the granddaddy, Mt Elbrus (5,642m). Mont Blanc, the highest in Western Europe at 4807m, is exceeded by 15 Caucasus peaks.
Georgia is a country full of fascinating complexities. Lodged at the crossing point between Europe, Middle East and Asia and called The Edge of Empires, with torrid past and tangled geo-political settings, Georgia presents a captivating case of civilisational belonging and cultural identity.
Perhaps it is symbolic that the region came into existence about twenty-five million years ago, when the African-Arabian and Eurasian land masses collided. Being a battle-feild of world power collision has been an extraordinarily dominating theme during the dazzlingly long history of this country and resulting scars have also been extraordinarily deep. As one British author described, at the heart of the Caucasus mountains this is one of the most coveted and fought-over countries on earth.
But there is another dimension in these epochal battles of getting torn between the influences of East and West - influences of geopolitics but even more so of values, aspirations and cultural identities. Georgia’s history is a dramatic reflection of the great civilisational battle between East and West, or, maybe, between perceptions of invading and liberating centres, that has been compared to Shakespear’s history plays in fast-forward mode (International Affairs in their review of the book “The Edge of Empires”).
And the revealing question here is how did Georgia choose (when, indeed, it had a power of choice) and form the centre of its alliance?
Financial Times reflected that History of Georgia is an emotional story of why this nation “looks so longingly to the West”. On the other hand, there are deep roots, undeniable past and powerful forces pulling to the other side that this small country needs to endure not in the main realm of Euorope but at the far edge of it.
How is Georgia seen from outside? Peter Nasmyth in his book “Georgia - In The Mountains Of Poetry” calls Georgia “Asian country with European beginnings” where “East had become resiliently Christian”. “The Caucasus always represented a line of mutability between the Asian and European culture… It's always interesting to ask a Georgian whether he’s European or Asian. More often than not he’ll stop and think with his European mind, then give an answer with his Asian heart, which will depend more often than not who is doing the asking.
But do Georgians see themselves the same way? Survival of their own ethnic and cultural identity is where the biggest loyalty and allegiance of Georgian people reside. However, when narrowing down “complex lense of civilizational identity”(Jacinta O’Hagan, Discourses of Civilizational identity) to concepts such as “the West”, “East” or “Islam”, Georgia identifies itself to its core with “the West” (whatever it means). And answers are in the long history.
Nothing in this world can let you lose yourself and find yourself all at once. Nothing, except travel.
The emotions evoked by the gift of travel are an accumulation like no other. A perfect balance is struck between chaos and harmony, the known and the unknown, the present and the past.
The spectrum of emotions unlocked by travel might just deepen your understanding of self, others, and the world around you. Here is a look at some of the key emotions travel will awaken within you.
From searching for flights to finding inspiration on Pinterest, and booking your out-of-this-world accommodation, every step of the travel process is an excitement-fueled entity. The culmination of which seems almost too much for one person to bear.
As the excitement bubbles up inside you, your body keeps you aware of the small doses of adrenalin you are blessing yourself with. When you click that “book” button, when you eat new food for the first time, when you tick off that bucket list landmark; excitement will be there around every corner.
As you wander, you will start to wonder. Exploring new cultures and fascinating locations will leave you with more questions than answers, as it should be.
Curiosity didn’t actually kill the cat, it leads him to discover more than he ever dreamed of! Being curious is how we learn more about the world around us, and eventually, more about our place in that complicated world. Be curious enough to find a thread that ties you to the past or seek out similarities between you and even the most foreign-seeming cultures.
As you wake up on a crisp morning and wander out of your remote cabin, enveloped by the nothingness around, you will stand captivated. Similarly, climbing up the steps at Westminster station to see Big Ben towering above you; you will stand captivated. A childlike sense of astonishment makes you feel small in the great wide world but further fuels the drive to see more.
Whether it is your first or 100th time experiencing travel, there will always be something to be captivated by. Whether it is the grandeur of the tallest building, or the smallest wildflower springing back to life after the snow melts; stand back and soak in the magic.
Being grateful is the emotion to end all emotions. Traveling isn’t always as easy and worry-free as one might like, but if you can stand back at the end of the day and feel gratitude for the experience as a whole, you have won. Feeling gratitude is more powerful than any adversity and traveling spoils you with opportunities for this powerful emotion. A stranger pointing you in the right direction, a day of good weather, and learning something new; all reasons for gratitude.
All things considered, traveling should come with a warning label:
Emotions include but are not limited to the abovementioned. Travelers will return changed; for the better.
By Louise Pieterse.
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