Georgia – the land of wine and blood

The Silk Route caravans must have yearned to reach Georgia. From scorching deserts of Kyzylkum in Uzbekistan and the steppes of Azerbaijan, to finally arrive in the alpine plains, drink from its sweet spring water, bathe in its waterfalls and breathe its fresh, clean air must have reinvigorated a weary traveller. That and soaking in Tbilisi’s sulphur baths to relieve all the aches and pains from the long journey.

The sulphur baths in Tbilisi. Tbilisi was formerly known by its Persian name, Tiflis.
The hawk and the pigeon folklore that led King Vakhtang to name the city Tbilisi meaning “warm” owing to the many hot springs in this location.
Abanotubani sulphur baths in Tbilisi

With Byzantine to its West, Persia to its South, Russia to its North and China, Indus and the rest of Asia to its East, Georgia was like the entrepôt. The Caucasus became the pathway that connected these lands. Even today, its roads ferry container trucks from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Uzbekistan carrying goods across borders.

An Uzbek truck
Truck from Iran

It was also a land that was fought over many times as the neighbouring powers had vested interest in paving roads – almost like the Romans did – to march their army of soldiers or traders to take control of the land and its riches. These roads have been travelled and traded upon for centuries.

Justinian is known to have directed the caravans through the Caucasus straight to the Black Sea and even built fortifications to prevent the Persians to gain control of the Route.

The Persians (Safavids) continued their fight against Byzantine and later even the Ottomans, even though the two empires were both Islamic. Mongols and Russians came later.

To seek protection from the invaders, Georgia, that was formerly a part of the Byzantine Empire, chose to side with the “Christian West” over the “Islamic East”. In 1783, Georgia became Russian protectorate and the Russian troops travelled what is now called the Georgia Military Highway during the white regime of the Tsars as well as post October Revolution.

Georgia-Russia Friendship Monument along the Georgia Military Highway was erected in 1983 to mark 200 years since Georgia became a Russian protectorate, the two countries with shared history emerging from Orthodox Christian belief.
This off-road driving was in the Caucasus near Mount Kazbegi, very close to Georgia-Russia border. You have to experience it with Georgian musician, Niaz Diasamidze.
With fortifications came monasteries where monks felt safe to practice their religion. There are many along the Georgian Military Highway.

On 9 April, 1991, Georgia gained its independence. Following the demise of USSR, the country is reclaiming its identity by returning to its religious roots – something that was forbidden under the Soviet rule, (and which I have observed of many former Soviet bloc countries like Uzbekistan too).

Saint George, the patron saint of Georgia is venerated across Georgia. He known to have brought Christianity from Cappadocia, and probably the only patriarchal influence on the country which has since been primarily led by female saints and queens.

Saint George slaying the dragon which symbolises the devil is virtually everywhere in Georgia
Saint George statue in Liberty Square

Saint Nino is revered for bringing the grapevine cross, a symbol of Georgian Orthodox Church to Mtskheta, the former capital of Georgia. Queen Tamar is an important figure in Georgia who ruled during its Golden Age and likened to Queen Elizabeth. Mother Mary is of course most revered as per the Orthodox Christian faith.

Queen Tamar consolidated the Caucasus empire and ruled what is known as the Golden Era
Grapevine cross brought to Georgia by Saint Nino is the most holy symbol here

But well before the Silk Route which made this land rich it already was rich. In the lap of the Caucasus, the valleys were irrigated by its alpine lakes, glaciers and rivers that bring fresh water to ripen its impossibly sweet fruits like peaches, grapes, oranges, berries, watermelons, cherries, plums, figs, pomegranates and feijoas.

Paravani village is an Armenian village that is about 30km from Armenia. The people here speak in Russian with Georgians. They don’t speak the Georgian language. I will remember it for its rose tomato which tasted like a sweet fruit.
Luscious berries sweeter than candies 😋
There are so many different kinds of honey – I bought chestnut honey, strawberry honey and a dark coloured honey which must have tons of antioxidants. There is also a medicinal “milk honey”

The most significant fruits in the fruit basket are the grapes. It is believed Georgia is the birthplace of wine. The combination of altitude, sweet glacial water and temperate climate gives its grapes the right flavour. Grapevines are just about everywhere in Georgia – almost growing like weed.

Wine is considered sacred by Georgians who regard it as the blood of Christ. And because the land was fought over so many times, the Georgians have also sanctified the blood of their ancestors on their flag through the red colour of the cross.

Black grapes and pomegranates growing in the back garden
Grapes growing by the side of the road
The Georgian flag with white for chastity and red for blood; the crosses denote the country’s religious beliefs

Life is too short to drink water; drink wine instead ~ a Georgian belief.

Georgian wine production in quevri is proprietary methodology and patented by the country which no other country can replicate. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – the 3 major markets consume nearly 75% of Georgia’s wine, which means some of us have no choice but to travel to this magnificent land which I think is the land of blood and wine.

Quevri jars that were used by Medieval Georgians to make wine
Kakheti region is known for wineries for both mass produced wines and in traditional quevry
Wine production has grown in Georgia and now mechanised
An unauthentic wine ice cream

5 comments

  1. Brilliant stuff!!! The history is so fascinating, and I love the religious artworks. What a fascinating country this is! Thanks for sharing it with those of us who haven’t got here YET! (I stress the yet because I will so get here one day!!! Lol)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anna – I so hope you can buddy. It is not on anyone tour destination but what a shame that is. You inspired me to complete my post. I am yet to write a few more. Thank you for being on the other side.

      Liked by 1 person

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