Georgia Vs. Georgia: Two Sites Rivaling For Tourist Attention
Many times at immigration and customs counters, U.S. travelers have had to confirm whether they are leaving for Georgia the country or Georgia the state. Such a situation undoubtedly surprises anyone who has never heard of a second Georgia before. Yes, the state of Georgia has a twin—a small country in Europe nestled at the boundary of Russia and bounded by the Black Sea on one side.
The beautiful country of Georgia is rich in history and culture, besides being a former Soviet nation and the birth country of deceased Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin. However, another thing is evident between these two Georgias besides having a common name: They are both tourism hotspots and rivals. Before we examine why Georgia the country and Georgia the state are in a tug of war for tourist attention, let’s learn how they came to share a name.
What’s in the Name Georgia?
Surprisingly, the name is believed to have a common source: the British.
When it comes to the country, the name originated from the Russian word Gruzia derived from Turkish and Persian versions, Gurju and Gorj. The British couldn’t keep up with the name Gruzia. Instead, they replaced it with Georgia, although it’s not well known when they started using it. It’s believed to be sometime during the late Middle Ages.
The native Georgians, however, refer to their nation as Sakartvelo and themselves as Kartveli. A theory exists that Europeans may have named the country after their beloved patron saint, Saint George. Long before the Roman Christian martyr and warrior, this name was associated with the powerful pagan cult “Tetri Giorgi”(White George), and throughout the history, Giorgi (George) has been the No. 1 most popular men’s name in the country.
Georgia the state was named after King George II of England, as per the stipulations of the charter the king granted the state in 1733. The suffix “ia” is of Greek origin and means “state of.”
Mountains Worth Exploring
Both Georgias boast stunningly beautiful mountain landscapes that have had tourists consistently add these places to their annual travel bucket lists.
The famous Blue Ridge Mountains sprawl across eight U.S. states, including Georgia. The mountains’ blue haze has won the admiration of millions of visitors who have driven along its scenic parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, dubbed American’s favorite drive, opens to a world of adventure, admiration and unforgettable memories. From a higher elevation, you can see the mountains’ famous blue color, said to originate from the isoprene released by the trees covering the mountains and their gorges. Also popular in these mountains are waterfalls, miles of hiking trails and a huge selection of wildlife, including wild turkeys, elk and black bears.
The mountainous regions of Georgia the country, including Tusheti, Svaneti, Khevsureti, Racha and Bakhmaro, are a great addition to the tourism of Georgia and offer some of the best scenery in Europe. Here, the wild nature, ancient fortifications and breathtaking landscapes will leave you speechless and yet yearning for more. They are ideal places for Georgia visitors who can’t end a trip without taking on a trail.
In these high mountains of Georgia, you will also encounter villages that have maintained ancient traditions with a combination of Christianity. Some villagers still live in ancient towers, and you will undoubtedly love their hospitality and delicious cuisines.
You certainly don’t want to leave without driving along the famous, thrilling and also nerve-jangling road to Tusheti (Abano Pass) featured in BBC’s episodes of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Whereas it’s easy to compare the Abano Pass with the Blue Ridge Parkway due to the fantastic views they offer, the Abano Pass’s adrenaline rush is unsurpassed. It’s the only way to access the remote villages of Tusheti via a vehicle (which must be a four-wheel drive), and although it’s nerve-wracking, you can’t help but love the scenery along this car path. The steep climbs, roadside waterfalls, expansive greenery and high-standing ridges are an unforgettable sight.
Home Places to Popular Beverages
Something else special about the two Georgias is that they are cradlelands of beverages acclaimed around the world. Who would want to miss out on a trip to the birthplace of famous products?
It’s hard to imagine a soul that has not tasted a Coca-Cola beverage, but did you know that Georgia houses the Coca-Cola headquarters, besides being the brand’s birthplace? Coca-Cola was born in 1886 out of the curiosity of Dr. John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist from Georgia’s capital, Atlanta. Pemberton mixed his flavored syrup with carbonated water at a local pharmacy to produce a beverage acclaimed as excellent by those who savored it. The pharmacist’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, named the product and designed its logo that still exists today. Coca-Cola beverages, though no longer owned by Pemberton’s family, account for more than 1.5 billion daily servings.
On the other hand, the country of Georgia is the cradleland of wine and a top travel destination for wine connoisseurs. Georgia’s winemaking tradition is the oldest, dating back 80 centuries. You will especially love to savor wines made in Kakheti—the country’s center of winemaking. Here, wine is aged in special structures known as kvevris, giving the drink its distinctive taste that you won’t be able to resist pairing with a bite of a traditional Georgian dish.
Georgia is also home to Chacha, a famous, potent brandy unique to the country. Chacha is made from solid remains of grapes, including seeds, stems and skins, collected from the winemaking process. The remains are aged and distilled to produce a clear drink characterized by a dried fruit aroma and whose alcohol content ranges between 40 and 60 percent. Chacha is commercially and family-produced in Georgia.
Harbors of Architectural Wonders
Whether architecture drives you crazy or not, you can’t afford to miss out on the architectural masterpieces owned by the state and country of Georgia.
One of the largest structures in the U.S. and centuries-old buildings sitting in the state of Georgia are a true depiction of architectural prowess hidden in this region. Other outstanding architectural masterpieces include the new CULC Georgia Tech building with long glass panels, the Georgian Terrace hotel and the old City Hall in Brunswick built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.
In midtown Atlanta, you will find the impressive skyscraper of the Bank of America Plaza, which happens to be the 10th and 60th largest building in the U.S. and the world, respectively. You won’t want to leave Georgia without taking a peek at the Swan House in Atlanta and the Cathedral St. John the Baptist in Savannah.
Some of the top vacation spots in the country of Georgia are its pieces of architecture. The country’s ancient architecture dates back to as far as the fifth century, now represented by ruins of fortresses and worship places, including a Zoroastrian temple and orthodox church buildings.
Decorative and artistic architecture took shape in Georgia around the 11th century, with churches constructed earlier being reconstructed during this era. The Kvatakhevi Church founded in 1126 still stands firm today and remains a top attraction site in Georgia. Gelati Monastery, built in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia, is featured in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Modern interventions of architecture greatly contribute to the tourism of Georgia. They include the modern parliament building designed into a massive concrete and glass bubble and Bank of Georgia Headquarters building in Tbilisi, famed for its unconventional design resembling piled bricks. To experience ultramodern architecture in Georgia, visit the Rest Stops in Gori, Prosecutor’s Office in Tbilisi, Sarpi Border Checkpoint, the fuel station + McDonald building in Batumi and the Airport Building at Mestia.
Expect generous portions and big-hearted hospitality when eating out in the Southern state of Georgia. Locals in the South don’t joke around when preparing BBQ, which is usually juicy meats served with a selection of sauces. The other staple, fried chicken, is accompanied by mac ‘n’ cheese, fried okra and collard greens.
Other Southern dishes whose deliciousness you will live to remember are biscuits and gravy and shrimp and grits. Nonetheless, brace yourself for oppressive summers in the South, but that’s where Coca-Cola comes in.
You can’t resist the charms of a place where visitors are treated like nobles. This is what you get when you visit Georgia the country. Georgians here have a reputation of utmost friendliness to their guests, whom they believe are a gift from God. Be sure to visit a Georgian home with an empty stomach. Guests are treated to drinks and dishes, and it’s almost an abomination to refuse to eat at your host’s house.
Just like Southerners, Georgians are always eager to make guests love their country, traditions and customs. They will show you around while proudly telling you stories about Georgian heroes, nobles and artists. The locals are also unbelievably helpful, so don’t worry if you lose your way; someone a few meters away is ready to help you out. Georgians also have a habit of taking their visitors with them wherever they go, whether it be a celebration, festival or wedding.
Winters in Georgia are utterly obstinate, with some regions in the country being completely inaccessible. It’s impossible to visit Tusheti via road during winter, as the Albano Pass is impassable due to mudslides and snow. Besides, the nomadic Tusheti villagers migrate to the lowlands during winter, leaving the mountains to the wild fauna and flora.
The two Georgias have enough reasons to rival for the attention of tourists. They both boast a plethora of must-visit attractions, including fantastic buildings and mountain ridges. However, Georgia the country takes the cake when it comes to hospitality among the natives and unusual, yet picturesque, architectural designs, while Georgia the state has some of the best food in the world. So, as you explore the wonders of either Georgia, don’t hold back from adding these beautiful vacation spots to your travel bucket list.