A staple discussion in my World Tourism class is the location and culture of the different countries, using the IATA Traffic Conference areas as reference points. When we study Georgia, I always emphasize to my students that we are discussing Georgia, the country, and not the US state.
This is because, here in the Philippines, the more popular “Georgia” is the US state, as proven by that time when I assigned a student to do “a report on the capital of Georgia,” because we were discussing the countries on the fringes of the Asian continent. To my surprise, the student made a very comprehensive report on Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, the US state.
Georgia, the country, is a former Soviet republic and is located right where Asia ends and the continent of Europe begins. It is bounded by the Black Sea to the west, by Russia to the north, and by Turkey to the south. It is home to the famous and scenic Caucasus Mountains.
Just the other day, I was invited by my dear friend Pat Alberto, president of Philippine IATA Agents Travel Association (PIATA) to a Familiarization Session conducted by Nini Murvanidze and Melano Mindiashvili, representatives of Porta, the leading tour operator in Georgia. Also at the event, which had the metro’s leading travel agents in attendance, were Georgia’s Honorary Consul to the Philippines, Buddy Cunanan. Marjorie Custodio and Jackie Junio, both officers of Qatar Airways, made sure that we all knew that their airline offers the most direct flight from Manila to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.
What I immediately found really impressive was the country’s burgeoning tourism industry. With a population of only 3.5 million, 1.5 million of which live in Tbilisi, Georgia attracted 8 million tourists last year, which is definitely better than what our country has achieved in tourist arrivals, so far. I guess its being connected to many other countries gives it the edge over ours, which is an archipelago.
I asked the presentor what the number one tourist attraction in their country was and, without batting an eyelash, she immediately pointed to the Caucasus Mountains. These scenic mountains stretch between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea and include Mount Elbrus, the highest in Europe. Among these mountains is nestled Georgia, providing the visitor a picturesque scene from any viewing angle, certainly a most effective antidote to any form of stress!
On behalf of the foodies, I also asked for the country’s most popular delicacy. They immediately passed around the room a tray of Churchkhela, a dessert made of chocolate strips and garnished with walnuts; not too sweet, and perfect for a light afternoon snack.
Another thing I found interesting was their flag, all white with five red crosses, a big one dividing it into four sections and a small one in each section. So, I asked what all the crosses were for. The four sections signified the areas in Georgia that have now been united through Christianity, which is practiced by 80 percent of its population, thus the crosses.
Tbilisi is a beautiful city on the banks of the Kura River. The old section of the city is famous for the Narikala Fortress and the Tiflis Baths, a very popular destination for Europeans during the Middle Ages. The houses have maintained their typically “Georgian look”—wooden balconies and tiled roofs, set amidst narrow, paved streets. There are cozy cafes where one can take leisurely and stimulating snacks in. There are also quite a number of exclusive fashion boutiques which highlight the country’s biggest and most popular annual event, Fashion Week, where Georgian designers share the stage with the world’s biggest names in fashion.
We were introduced to other interesting destinations in the country: Batumi is a fashionable sea resort, Stephantsminda is for lovers of nature, with its awesome mountains and fresh clean air, and there’s the wine region of Kakheti.
I’m sure there are many other interesting things to do and places to see, which is why I have added to my bucket list, a visit to Georgia, the country.
For feedback, I’m at [email protected]YOUR weekend CHUCKLE
TWO RULES ON KEEPING YOUR MARRIAGE: Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, shut up!
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