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Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic

Enclosed high valleys, wide basins, health spas with famous mineral waters, caves and waterfalls combine in this land of varied landscapes and striking beauty. With its stone houses built around vine-draped courtyards, and winding streets, the capital, Tbilisi, has a lively, Mediterranean atmosphere. Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia in the far northwest of Georgia, was until civil unrest began a relaxed, sunny port/resort, renowned for its beaches fringed with palms and eucalyptus trees, lively open-air cafes and cosmopolitan population.

Practical Information

Area: 69 700 km² (26 911 miles²)

Capital: Tbilisi. Population: 1.5 million

Population: 5 million

Currency: Lari (GEL) = 100 tetri

Government: Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Tipping: For service in restaurants, cafes or taxis, the bill is usually rounded up.

Time zone: GMT + 4

Languages: Georgian

Additional descriptions

Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic: Social customs

Georgians pride themselves on their reputation for gregariousness and hospitality. Visitors sitting in restaurants are likely to be offered drinks by complete strangers. They will then be invited to raiseRead more (and empty) their glasses in response to an endless string of elaborate toasts, preferably interpolating a few suitably enthusiastic toasts of their own into the sequence. Smoking is widespread. Visitors may also be entertained in private homes. On such occasions, gifts such as chocolates, flowers or alcohol are well received. On social occasions foreign women will find themselves the object of immense flattery. Those finding such attentions oppressive should avoid giving any hint of encouragement. Appropriate clothing should be worn when entering a church; visitors should ensure they are not wearing shorts and women should cover their heads. Visitors should also be aware that street crime is far from uncommon. Anyone travelling in the republic should be cautious when venturing out after dark, carry as few valuables as possible, and beware of the risk of being robbed and possibly attacked.

Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic: Food and local specialties

According to Georgian legend, when God was distributing land among the peoples of the world, the Georgians were so busy eating and drinking that they lost their place in the queue and there was no landRead more left for them. But when they invited God to join the party, he enjoyed himself so immensely he gave them all the choicest bits of land he had been saving for himself. Georgians pride themselves, with some justification, on being the bons viveurs of the former Soviet Union, and their culinary tradition has survived better than most the dead hand of Soviet mass-catering. The cuisine makes extensive use of walnuts, which are used to thicken soups and sauces (anything including the word satsivi will be served in a rich sauce flavoured with herbs, garlic, walnuts and egg). Cafes, restaurants and street-food traditions are all better established in Georgia than in many of the other former Soviet republics, and the markets are full of locally grown fruit and vegetables. Privately-run restaurants, cafes and bars, which began to thrive during the Gorbachev period, were badly hit by the post-independence breakdown of civil order, but in recent times have begun to bounce back. The future looks bright. Things to know: Over 500 original varieties of grape are grown here, more than any other country. Both red and white wine is produced in Georgia. The national specialties are: Walnuts feature in sauces and soups. They are also used in desserts, coated in caramelised sugar, gozinaki, or in churchkhela, when they are threaded on string then dipped in thickened, sweetened grape juice which is subsequently dried into chewy, flavoursome ‘candles’. Lobio (bean and walnut salad). Marinated aubergines, pkhali, made from young spinach leaves pounded together with spices. Khachapuri, consisting of layers of flat bread alternated with melting cheese. Basturma (cured meat and assorted fresh and pickled vegetables). Kindzmareuli, a fruity, red wine, is reputed to have been Stalin’s favourite tipple. Akhasheni and Teliani are two of the commoner red wines, fruity and dry respectively. Tsinandali is a dry white wine, as is Gurdzhaani.

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