Georgia on my mind: history, nature vie for attention
Updated: Jun 14, 2022
Back in my early days as an Air Force officer, I was an “intercept controller” in what was then West Germany. We helped maintain radar control over West Germany, and if there was an aircraft that we could not identify, we were responsible for scrambling fighter jets to identify the aircraft, and relaying the order to shoot down if necessary. (We didn’t give the order, of course, that came from the President of the United States.)
With that training and world view always in the back of my mind, it never occurred to me that someday I would be on a bus touring a former Soviet Republic. But that’s exactly what I was doing this past summer, visiting Tbilisi and other areas in the Republic of Georgia with my husband’s college alumni group.
It was an amazing trip. There is much to see in Georgia, and several aspects really stood out to me and stayed with me since the trip.
Georgia is historic. As in, home of the Golden Fleece (yes, from Jason and the Argonauts). According to the legend, Jason retrieved the Golden Fleece from Colchis, which was a region in the southern Caucasus where Georgia is today.
Historic as in Joseph Stalin, who was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in Gori, Georgia. Today, a museum dedicated to him and his life, complete with his private train, many old newspaper articles, historical documents, and one of his death masks, stands ready to receive visitors in what looks to be a cathedral in Gori.
Historic, as in the Apostles Simon and Andrew preaching the Gospel in Georgia in the 1st Century AD. (Christianity became the state religion in 319 AD, ahead of many regions of the world). Svetitskhoveli Cathedral houses what the Eastern Orthodox Church says is the Mantle (or Robe) of Christ. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For a location that is not “Georgia on my mind” to most Americans, there’s a lot that has been going on in Georgia!
Georgia is naturally beautiful. The fast-flowing Kura River goes (speeds) through three countries (and the capital city of Tblisi) and empties into the Caspian Sea. Along the way, it cuts through the Lesser Caucasus range in a series of gorges with many rapids. The country is green and lush, with valleys and high mountains. It brings to mind the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem “Kublai Khan.”
“Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
through caverns measureless to man,
down to a sunless sea…
…And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”
And finally, Georgia is on the cusp of transformation into a modern, successful post-Cold War country—but it’s not there yet. Many parts of the cities still contain old, run down Soviet-style apartment complexes and areas that seem uninhabitable to us—though people live there. There is much poverty throughout the country. People are striving to get ahead or to stay even. Many business and government entities are working hard to change Georgia for the better, to improve the economy and the lives of their citizens. They should be applauded for their efforts, even as those efforts continue.
Tbilisi has become a hot spot for tourism, with very affordable hotel and dining rates, and there’s quite an international crowd that gathers. We had outstanding, unique cuisine and were entertained with very talented folk dancers in between our many tours. And you can't visit Georgia without sampling their renown wines and fruit drinks. In the old Soviet Union, each Republic was responsible for one element of Soviet production. Georgia was the wine cellar of the Soviet Union.
Georgia was a unique adventure for us. It was definitely worth the trip, and we learned much during our week there.