In the world, only 14 peoples have their own written language. One of them is Georgian. The Georgian language has a unique alphabetic system, one of the few that is used by thousands of the world’s most diverse languages.

Georgian writing  is considered one of the oldest alphabets in the world. He had three stages of development: in the third century BC. BC, the first Georgian alphabet “Mrgvlovani” or “Asomtavruli” was created in  III century AD J. – C. – the alphabet “Nuskhuri” and in the XIth century – the Georgian writing again, now in its last, was replaced by the writing of “Mkhedruli”. “Mkhedruli” proved to be the most perfect among all other types of Georgian writing, it acquired its final appearance in the 15 th century AD. The letters of these three alphabets, which designate the same sounds, are very different from each other.

As we have already noted, the creation of the Georgian alphabet, the Georgian historical tradition associated in the name of King Farnavaz ( III century BC), but the scientifically confirmed sensational discovery of archaeologists in Georgia, who discovered the country’s oldest inscription in 2016, has completely transformed the history of Georgian writing.

The inscriptions on the altar were discovered during excavations on Mount Grakliani, near Igoeti village, 40 kilometers from Tbilisi. At first, the age of inscription would have been estimated at 7 or 8 centuries BC. The date is set as precisely as possible. An American laboratory confirmed that the inscription was made in the late 11th and early 10th century BC.

This means that in fact, the writing appeared on the territory of Georgia three thousand years ago. The inscription has not been deciphered yet, but experts suggest that since it was made on the altar base, it is related to religion. The meaning of such messages at that time belonged only to priests. If it is proved that the inscription made in Grakliani  is an alphabet, it turns out that the ancient inhabitants of Grakliani began to write 200 years earlier than the Phoenicians.

The modern Georgian alphabet is based on a strict phonological principle: each phoneme corresponds to a single strictly defined grapheme. In modern Georgian script, 33 letters are used. In the 19th century, during the spelling reform, these letters were removed from the alphabet for which, according to the reformers, there was no more sound match in Georgian. 8 letters were seized, 5 of which belonged to the former Georgian and 3 were borrowed later.

Georgians view the Georgian alphabetic system as a unique national treasure and an integral part of national self-identification. All three types of Georgian script – “Mrgvlovani”, “Nuskhuri” and the modern “Mkhedruli” – are on UNESCO  Intangible Cultural Heritage List. (2016)

Rtveli is an annual autumn grape harvest festival in Georgia. Georgia has always had a special relationship with wine and winemaking. Not surprisingly, the Rtveli grape harvest is one of the most important events for every citizen of the country.

The holiday of Rtveli is traditionally family and community. On Rtveli, the whole big family is going to the house, all the relatives. Friends and neighbors come. And everyone will find work. After all, grapes need to be harvested very quickly – when the berries have already gained the right amount of sugar, but the rains have not yet begun. People enjoy the grape harvest together and make new wine.

The time of  Rtveli depends on the date of harvest in specific areas of Georgia. There is no single time for it: although Georgia is a small country, the climate in its different parts varies significantly. For example, in Eastern Georgia, Rtveli takes place earlier than in Western Georgia, as a rule, in September, as early frosts can strike, and the grapes will disappear. But in the West they sometimes celebrate in the middle, and even at the end of October. In addition, the date depends on how the summer was: if it’s very dry and hot, then the celebration happens earlier, if it’s cool, then the winemakers wait until the last harvest.

The main motive of Rtveli is harvesting. Similar autumn holidays exist in almost every culture in which the role of agriculture is great. And everywhere this holiday is unique. Rtveli also has his own flavor, which makes him not just a tradition, but an occasion for thousands of people to come to Georgia every year to take part in this beautiful celebration.

They pick berries from morning to evening. Juice is poured into huge ceramic jugs buried in the ground – they are called “Qvevri” and left to roam. Rtveli lasts several days, and every evening ends with feasts with the performance of folk songs and dances. Not only wine is made from grapes harvested during the Rtveli period. Chacha is made from grape pulp. And from the juice – “Pelamushi” and “Churchkhela”, natural Georgian sweets.

Of course, it is no coincidence that the harvest festival in Georgia is dedicated specifically to grapes. Georgia is considered the birthplace of cultural viticulture. Viticulture and winemaking is one of the areas where Georgians, among the few, have the right to claim the role of pioneers. Aeschylus and Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo wrote about the developed winemaking in the territory of modern Georgia. Their testimonies are confirmed by ancient Assyrian sources. It was on the territory of Georgia that traces of the vine were discovered, numbering … 15 million (!) years.

The attitude towards the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine is especially reverent. No wonder they say that sweat should pour over the vineyard – then the harvest will be truly worthy. Grape cultivation is the oldest layer of the general culture of the nation, which has absorbed mores, traditions, tastes, rules of behavior. It is no accident that it is generally accepted that many features of the national spirit are reflected in wine.

It is no coincidence that connoisseurs make choices not only from factory wines, but also wines from households. Each family in the village has its own secret of making wine. This is a whole art that is passed down from generation to generation. One of the traditional ways of making wine is aging – Qvevri clay jug, according to the decision of UNESCO, since 2013, Qvevri  included in the list of untouchable cultural heritage of mankind.

Today, when interest in Georgia is extremely high, many options for tours to this country are offered. It’s practically impossible to get to the Rtveli holiday “from the side” without a travel agency, for this you need to have friends who want to invite travelers to a family celebration. Anyone who wants to visit the wine-growing regions and feel the special flavor of the Georgian feast should have a rest in Georgia in September-early October in order to get to the colorful and cheerful holiday – Rtveli.

Every tourist before making a trip to a foreign country is firstly planning in details not only his route and the upcoming tour, but also takes care of the financial matters. Today we will tell you in detail what currency it is optimal to take when traveling to Georgia, as well as help you to orient correctly in searching for the main currency exchange offices and banks operating in Tbilisi.

Georgian National Currency

Like in most Soviet republics, Georgia before the collapse of the Soviet Union and restoration of the independence used the Soviet ruble. However, in October 1995, with the establishment of an independent republic, the National Bank of Georgia put into circulation the Georgian national currency called “lari”. Since then lari has become the sole legal tender currency in the whole Georgia. The word “lari”, selected for the monetary unit of Georgian national currency is an old Georgian word meaning “treasure” or “property”. 1 lari consists of 100 “tetri” – another old Georgian monetary term used from the 13th century.

On the international currency market lari is referred to as GEL. Nowadays in circulation are banknotes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 GEL, as well as coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 tetri, and 1, 2 and 10 GEL.

The Georgian national currency is designed with an emphasis on the cultural heritage of the country. For example, on the front side of 1 GEL banknotes is portrayed Nico Pirosmanishvili notorious Georgian artist, amidst beautiful scenery. The portrait of Ivane Javakhishvili, a prominent Georgian academician, is depicted on 5 GEL banknotes. 10 GEL banknotes are issued with a portrait of Akaki Tsereteli, a prominent Georgian poet and a noticeable member of the new Georgian literature. 200 GEL banknotes featuring the image of Abkhazia and the inscriptions in the Georgian, Russian and Abkhaz languages are also interesting.

As mentioned above, in accordance with the Georgian legislation, all goods and services must be paid in local currency (GEL). Keep in mind that for the payment of foreign currency due penalty of 500 GEL. Therefore, to avoid problems, be sure to pay for goods and services in local currency. Keep in mind that in case of any payment in foreign currencies is owed a penalty of 500 GEL. Therefore, to avoid problems, be sure to pay for goods and services in the local currency.

Useful Tips for Tourists

In Georgia, like in any civilized country, problems with currency exchange will not occur. The most common currency in Georgia are US dollars, euros and rubles. Among less common currencies can be listed the Armenian dram, the Turkish lira, the Ukrainian hryvna, which can be exchanged in the main banks in the capital. You can exchange foreign currencies in many banks and specialized exchange offices, which are scattered all over Tbilisi. Currency exchange offices are mainly located near the metro stations (branches of Bank of Georgia), nearby hotels, large shopping malls and stores.

Currency exchange is available in the specialized exchange offices and banks. Banks are usually open on weekdays from 9: 00 to 17: 30-18: 00, and from 09:00-14:00 on Saturdays. Exchange offices are usually open until late evening. When exchanging money in banks be sure to bring ID card, whereas in the specialized exchange offices the presentation of ID is not necessary. Some of exchange office owners are putting high rates on signs, but often it does not correspond to reality. If you want to exchange currency in the exchange office instead of bank, it would be prudent to ask about the final sum in advance, and only then make the operation.

In Tbilisi and other major cities ATMs accepting foreign cards are widespread, but almost most of them when converting currency into GEL charge a commission of about 2% -3%, which is extremely disadvantageous. In the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, you can use VISA, EuroCard, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro credit cards in major hotels and supermarkets, again the fees are applied, which is not profitable from a financial point of view. Large banks accept traveler’s checks.

In private shops, hotels, and especially in provincial areas this type of payment is almost impossible. Therefore, going beyond the capital or major cities, you should better have a supply of local money in cash.

US dollars in Georgia have the advantage. Thus, the most profitable way from the financial point of view to come to Georgia is having the US dollars in cash. If you come from the CIS countries (Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus etc.) we recommend first to exchange the local currency at your home country into dollars or euros, and only then exchange USD or EUR into GEL in Georgia.  Georgian currency is heavily dependent on the world currency leaders, the rates can vary significantly even during the day.

Banks in Georgia

Virtually any currency can be exchanged in banks. In addition, you can learn about the current rates in Georgia in advance without leaving your home. We present a list of central banks and their websites. The information about the numerous branches and their addresses you can find on the official websites presented below. The websites of the banks also provide information about the current GEL rate in relation to foreign currencies. It’s also possible to convert money online using exchange calculators.

Nowadays, in light of recent tragic events, when the global security and peace is at risk of terrorist attacks affecting and depriving thousands of human lives, it is very important to make the right choice not only between numerous resorts, hotels and excursions, but also to take into consideration the level of security of the country you are going to spend your holidays. We want to draw your attention towards more detailed information and some interesting statistics concerning Georgia’s security level.

Overview

Georgia is a country where the tourist security level is so high that you can easily take a stroll through the streets of the beautiful city of Tbilisi, or travel across the country, even if it’s long after midnight.
Official sources also confirm this fact: according to the results of a sociological survey conducted by one of the most reputable companies in the world – GALLUP World, Georgia has taken one of the leading places on the level of security in the country according to the residents of the country, gaining 91.5 points. It is also interesting that the indices are equal both among men and among the representatives of the beautiful half of humanity: to 93% of men and 90% women walking late at night is absolutely safe! Comparing with Europe, where an average of this index was equal to 65 points, there is no doubt left any longer.

Despite the fact that Georgia is famous for its amazing wines it is forbidden to consume alcoholic beverages on the streets and in the parks. Smoking in public places is prohibited as well, which also contributes to raising the overall level of safety in the country.

Undoubtedly, the Georgians are renowned for centuries for their hospitality and cherished treat towards their guests. In the country tourist security is protected at the state level. The National Tourism Administration of Georgia established free “hotline” for tourists – 0 800 800 909. Immediately after crossing the border each tourist is given the number through which you can get all the necessary information about hotels, food courts and restaurants , attractions, museums , transport, upcoming festivals and events. Professional operators provide information in English, Russian and French.

According to the results of another survey conducted by the experts of the European Union, Georgia has won the title of one of the safest countries in Europe, along with such countries as Singapore, Austria, Denmark and Norway.

Another symbol of security in the country are unique in their kind transparent police stations made of glass. Police cars are patrolling the city day-and-night, and if you have come across any problems, you can safely turn to friendly and, most importantly, non-corrupt police officers: they will show you the right way and may even give you a lift. Never try to bribe a policeman: the fight against corruption is conducted at the state level and is considered a criminal offense.

Of course, as in any other country no one is immune from petty pickpockets and robbers that’s why you should not neglect the standard safety rules, namely it is worth keeping large amounts of cash on your credit card, avoid wearing eye-catching jewellery or other expensive beauty accessories while visiting overcrowded places. Important documents or other valuable items you can always leave in special safes, which most hotels offer either free or for a small fee.

Roads and Transport

Driving in the country is right hand. In towns, the speed limit is 60 km/h, in other parts – 80 km/h. There is a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence. In Georgia, wearing seat belts is mandatory. Since Georgia is situated in 4 climate zones simultaneously, intense rains and heavy snowfalls at higher altitudes can often make it difficult to travel. If you are traveling outside of Tbilisi, make sure that your vehicle is equipped accordingly.

The country has a well-developed infrastructure and transport links between settlements and major tourist centers. If you are <a free and independent tourist>, you can easily organize your trip across the country by minibuses, buses, trains and even airplanes.

Food and Water

The generous nature of Georgia gave her an abundance of herbs and spices, juicy fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and soft cheeses. Simple and at the same time exquisite gastronomy is one of the reasons why tourists love the country so much.

You can also completely forget about the problems associated with drinking water: there is an abundance of healthy mineral water. However, for the sake of safety, before drinking the water from the tap it is better to boil.

Hotlines in Georgia

Unified phone of emergency services -112

Holidays are an integral part of the culture and history of any country. In Georgia, a country with a rich history and culture, there is the abundant number of holidays and festivals. We will tell you about the most interesting and important state and national holidays in Georgia, about their history and traditions of the celebration, as well as provide information on public holiday days and red-letter days in 2019.

St. George’s Day – 23  November

St George’s Day, or Giorgoba, is celebrated on November 23 each year, in memory of the torture of St. George the Victorious during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in 303 BC. As one of the patrons of Georgia St. George is the most revered and honored saint and great martyr in Georgia. According to local belief, he was a relative of St. Nino, who turned Georgia into Christianity and bequeathed to her descendants to honor the memory of the great Martyr, who stood up for all Christians and as a result was subjected to a terrible death. Since ancient times, many churches that bear the name of St. George were built in Georgia. In the Middle Ages in different parts of Georgia, 365 chapels commemorating the name of St. George were built, just exactly as the number of days in a year.

This holiday is not only one of the most important religious Christian holidays in Georgia, but also equated to the public holidays, which means that the whole country is having a rest on this day. 23d of November is a non-working day in Georgia. In all the churches of the country, solemn liturgies are held, people celebrate this holiday with their families over richly covered tables where wine and toasts flow like water. But the luckiest ones are those with the name George: they get most of the attention and gifts in honor of their name-day.

St. George is honored among Catholics, Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches. According to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, he is depicted as part of the iconographic emblem as a rider on a horse slaying the dragon or snake. In Georgia, the image of St. George is embodied in the state coat of arms. The same motif is widespread in the religious paintings, icons, souvenirs and trinkets that can be found in almost every Georgian church.

Georgia’s Independence Day – 26  May

Holidays in GeorgiaGeorgia marks the celebration of the Independence Day on May, 26. The date is associated with the creation of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1918. In the early 19th century Georgia became part of the vast Russian empire. After the Revolution of 1917, Georgia became an independent country and declared itself the Democratic Republic on May, 26 in 1918. In 1921,  became part of the Soviet Republic.
Georgia gained its independence for the second time after the collapse of the Soviet Union on April 9, 1991.  The Independence Day is brightly celebrated across the country with military parades, fireworks, concerts, fairs and official ceremonies.
The 9 April and 26 May are red-letter days in Georgia.

Mtskhetoba – Svetitskhovloba – 14 October

Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba – the ancient capital of Georgia and its legendary cathedral – on the 14th of October. The main hero of the celebration is the great Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli, built in the 4th century during the reign of King Mirian III, the first Christian ruler of Georgia, who was converted to Christianity through St. Nino – the preacher of the Christ doctrine.

The place for construction of the cathedral was not chosen randomly. Legend has it that on Mount Mtskheta, at the burial site of Saint Chiton, in which Jesus was executed, a sacred cedar had grown; it streamed with sacred myrrh which was healing people from diseases. The people called the cedar as “life-giving pillar” or Svetitskhoveli in Georgian. King Mirian III decided to build the first Georgian church at the place of the sacred cedar, and later the church took its name and was called from then on as Svetitskhoveli. Every year in the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli a solemn liturgy with the participation of the Patriarch of All Georgia is held. After the worship, a mass baptism of people at the confluence of the Kura (Mtkvari) and Aragvi rivers takes place.

Mtskhetoba attracts people from all corners of Georgia. Tourists are very lucky to get to this festival, because Mtskheta – the ancient capital of Georgia – is transformed into one big happy holiday town, where folk dances, performances, contests, fairs replace each other.

New Year and Christmas – 31  December – 7 January

Tbilisi new yearNew Year is the most favorite secular holiday in Georgia, which is celebrated with gaiety and scope inherent only to the Georgians. The Georgians are one of the most hospitable people in the world, and it is easy to prove: on the New Year’s Eve every self-respecting host lays a table which is literally breaking from a variety of traditional dishes and viands. On a Georgian New Year table are necessarily present satsivi, khachapuri, lobio, roast suckling pig, homemade cheeses, pickles, gozinaki (nuts and honey) and churchhella. There is a sign that the more sweets will be on the table, the more successful will be the coming year.

In Georgia, there are a number of symbols and beliefs related to the New Year. Worldwide people decorate fir tree as a symbol of the New Year. Georgia is no exception: Tbilisi is brightly decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, angels’ figures, Star of Bethlehem, palm branches, which symbolize the peace. However, in Georgia from through centuries there has been an interesting tradition to cut “chichilaki” from a walnut branch. “Chichilaki” is traditionally decorated with dried fruit, nuts and sweets, and then after the holidays is burnt. According to the belief, along with its smoke and ashes all the troubles and problems that have accumulated over the year fade away.

In Georgian families is widespread another tradition connected with the first guest called “mekvle”. It is believed that the first guest should be a kind and healthy person, preferably from among the close friends or relatives, and in this case, the year will be full of happiness and prosperity. Today “mekvle” is also associated with Santa Claus who brings gifts to children! New Year is celebrated in Georgia from the 31  December to 2  January.

The Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates the Christmas on the 7  January, as it is customary, for example, in Russia or Armenia. This is an important and solemn holiday for the country, as the Christianity to Georgia is not just a religion, but also the main component of its culture and history. On the day of the Nativity of the Lord in all the churches of the country are held solemn liturgies, the people go out to the streets and together with the priests sing church songs. These massive walks called “Alilo” play a central role in a unique celebration of Christmas in Georgia. Dressed as shepherds, marchers congratulate each other and raise money for charity.

The list of public holidays and days-off in Georgia in 2019

December, 31-January, 2 – New Year
January, 19 – Epiphany
March, 3- Mother’s Day
March, 8 – International Women’s Day
April, 9 – Day of Georgian Unity
April, 16 – Orthodox Easter
May, 9 – Victory Day
May, 12 – St. Andrew’s Day
May, 26 – Independence Day
August, 28 – Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
October, 14 – Mtskhetoba – Svetitskhovloba
November, 23 – St George’s Day

Christian faith

The Christian faith is an integral part of the Georgian culture and history. Different branches of art, such as architecture, literature, art and religious music – a unique church choral singing called Georgian polyphony, which can be heard only in the Georgian churches, have descended and developed exactly on the basis of Christianity. The proof of that are numerous ancient temples and churches with old icons and frescoes, which were built and created in Georgia with the adoption of Christianity and survived from time immemorial, attracting thousands of tourists from around the world. Today we want to tell you about the history of the adoption of Christianity in Georgia and introduce you with the main Christian ceremony -the sacrament of baptism in Georgia.

 The Adoption of Christianity in Georgia

Georgia is one of the first countries in the world, that adopted Christianity as the state religion. The adoption of Christianity in Georgia is widely associated with the name of St. Nino, thanks to which the teaching of Christ spread throughout the ancient Iberia. In 337 AD, during the reign of King Mirian III, Christianity was declared the state religion of Iberia, or Kartli as Georgia was called in ancient times.

Christmas in Georgia – as well as throughout the Christian world – is one of the most important and revered holidays of the year. Although in this country, perhaps, more than in any other, many original, interesting and beautiful traditions of celebrating Christmas have been noticed.

And the reason is obvious: Georgia is a real Klondike of original Georgian nationalities, each with its own original and beautiful customs. Therefore, the mysterious feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is celebrated in Georgia on the night of January 7, dazzles on this multi ethnic land with an enviable variety of traditions.

Gudauri ski resort is deservedly called the winter capital of Georgia. All the necessary conditions for quality and exciting winter holidays are created here. Gudauri is the newest and leading winter sports destination not only in Georgia but also throughout the entire Caucasus. While Bakuriani is more family orientated resort and is best suitable for beginners, Gudauri ski resort is a real paradise for professional athletes who want to experience the adrenaline of freeride, speedriding, heli-skiing, paragliding or just to enjoy a high-quality skiing and snowboarding.

The famous ski resort of Bakuriani is one of the most affordable and decent resorts in Georgia. Not inferior in quality to its European fellows, it is oriented for both fans of outdoor activities and professional athletes. Located just 2-2.5 hours drive from Tbilisi and Kutaisi, Bakuriani is an excellent place for relaxation, regardless of the season. Choosing Bakuriani, you can fully enjoy the crystal-clear mountain-pine air, which will have a curative effect on your body and thanks to well-developed infrastructure and a wide range of entertainments your stay will be remembered for a long time! Cableways, ski jumps, ski slopes, cross-country skiing, horse rides, horse-drawn sleighs and snowmobiles, quad biking, paragliding and helicopters, bars, a bowling alley and spa facilities: all of the above-mentioned entertainments can be found in Bakuriani.

Winter is a special season in Georgia with locals and foreigners awaiting its arrival with equal enthusiasm. Yes, this cold period of the year is associated with snow, hot drinks, Christmas, presents and of course winter holidays. And now, with the development of tourism industry in Georgia, the country has a number of winter resorts to offer holidaymakers, skiers and snowboarders. Each mountainous region of Georgia has its own unique conditions, nature and landscape. So, before you plan your winter vacation, let us introduce Georgia’s ski resorts so you can choose where to best spend your leisure time.