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General information about Georgia:

Hardly any other country except for Georgia has experienced such a great number of assaults and still been able to preserve so many of its characteristic features and its unspoilt naturalness. Numerous churches and fortifications bear witness to the country’s restless and sorrowful historic past. Georgia's recorded history dates back more than 2000 years. The recently discovered Dmanisi hominid in the foothills of the lesser Caucasus, provides a remarkable 1.8 million year old link with first European humankind’s earliest transitions. After the Stone Age, humans started settling on Georgian territory even more intensively. Since those ancient times, humans have always inhabited Georgian land. Georgian language is one of the oldest living languages in the world. It is over 2,000 years old with own distinctive alphabet. Georgian writing was first seen in the 5th century. The first examples include inscriptions in the Georgian monastery of the Holy Cross in Palestine, in the Bethlehem desert (Bir-ell-Katt), as well as those in the Sioni Church of Bolnisi, south of Tbilisi. Georgia has historically found itself on the margins of great empires – its territory a desirable land for the great Asian empires, from the Arabs to Tamerlane, from the Mongols to the Ottomans from at least the 1st century B.C. through the 18th century. Despite numerous invasions and wars Georgia managed to unite during X-XII I centuries. David Aghmashenebeli (the Builder, 1089-1125), Georgia's greatest and most prominent king, unified Georgia in the 12th century. This period of Georgia’s golden age – also the rule of Queen Tamar (1184-1213) – was a time of cultural renaissance, monastery building, fresco and ornament design. Richly decorated churches sprang up across the newly unified nation – some even high up in the mountains. The last conqueror, Russia, started annexation of Georgia in 1801 and finished it in 1917. Georgia spent almost 200 years of its recent history being part of the Russian empire: first as Russia's province (guberniya), then as a Soviet republic. Also during this time, it retained its language, culture, and distinctive qualities. 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia declared independence from the U.S.S.R. 1992 Georgia became the 179th member of the UN various international and regional organizations.

Geography / Climate of Georgia:

Georgia has a rich scenic variety: it lies mostly in the Caucasus Mountains, and its northern boundary to Russia is partly defined by the Greater Caucasus range. The Lesser Caucasus range, which runs parallel to the Turkish and Armenian borders, and the Surami and Imereti ranges, which connect the Greater Caucasus and the Lesser Caucasus, create natural barriers that are partly responsible for cultural and linguistic differences among regions. The largest river is the Mtkvari. The Rioni River, the largest river in western Georgia, has its origin in the Greater Caucasus and empties into the Black Sea at the port of Poti. Georgia’s climate is warm and pleasant. It is determined in big part by the mountains of the Greater Caucasus, which keep cold northern winds away from Georgia and the Black Sea. Winters are short and mild. The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the country's small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly separating Eastern and Western parts of the country. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range plays an important role in moderating Georgia's climate and protects the country from the penetration of colder air masses from the north. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from the influence of dry and hot air masses from the south as well. Much of western Georgia lies within the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1000–4000 mm. (39–157 inches). The climate of the region varies significantly with elevation and while much of the lowland areas of western Georgia are relatively warm throughout the year, the foothills and mountainous areas experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters (snow cover often exceeds 2 meters in many regions). Adjara is the wettest region of the Caucasus, where the geo clima 4 small Mt. geo clima 5 small Mtirala rainforest, east of Kobuleti receives around 4500 mm (177 inches) of precipitation per year. Midwinter average temperature in West Georgia is 5 C and the midsummer average is 22C. Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region's weather patterns are influenced both by dry, Central Asian/Caspian air masses from the east and humid, Black Sea air masses from the west. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea is often blocked by several mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti). Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400–1600 mm (16–63 inches). The wettest periods generally occur during Spring and Autumn while Winter and the Summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers (especially in the low-lying areas) and relatively cold winters. As in the western parts of the country, elevation plays an important role in eastern Georgia where climatic conditions above 1500 meters are considerably colder than in the low-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2000 meters frequently experience frost even during the summer months. The average temperature in summer here is 20-24 degrees of Celsius, in winter 2-4 degrees of Celsius. Humidity is lower.

Religion:

Tradition has it that Christianity came to Georgia in AD 330 when St Nino, a holy slave women from Cappadocia, cured the Iberian Queen Nana of a strange illness, thus gaining her confidence. Nana’s husband, King Mirian, was subsequently converted during a hunter trip when suddenly enveloped in darkness; he called upon the Christian God who restored the light. Numerous other legends surround this period. One concerns the erection of a church in the city of Mtskheta where the central pillar of the church, too large to be raised by any human means, was suddenly lifted into the air and set in place by divine intervention. The distinctive shape of the Georgian Orthodox cross is also ascribed to St Nino, who upon entering Georgia took two vine branches and tied them into a cross with strands of her own hair. The history of Georgian church architecture has been completed and distinctive. The early christian temples such as thoseat Bolnisi and Urbnisi (both 5th century), are magnificent basilicas. Georgian architectural monuments of the 11th-13th centuries can still be seen today. Georgians have always had the reputation of being highly tolerant of other peoples and religions. Tbilisi boasts a Christian cathedral, a mosque and a synagogue all within walking distance of each other. A number of Jewish communities exist throughout Georgia. The cities of Kutaisi and Tbilisi have large communities and synagogues. Islam is widely practiced throughout Georgia. Communities of Azerbaijanis have lived in Georgia for centuries. In the autonomous republics of Ajara and Abkhazia many people follow Islam, having absorbed it from the Turks during their dominion over these territories. Armenians too comprise part of the ethnic make-up of Georgia. Their church is also autocephalous and varies in points of doctrine and ritual from Orthodox Church.

Georgian Character:

The Georgians are said to be the most hospitality people on Earth, with strong traditions of chivalry and codes of personal honor. They believe that guests come from God. Friendship is prized highest among all the virtues. It is celebrated in the great national epic in the, The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli and which provides an insight into daily life, in which a person’s worth is judged not by how much money he or she has in his pocket but how many friends he has. The Georgians are proud, passionate and fiercely individualistic, yet deeply connected with each other through a shared sense of belonging to a greater Georgian family. Women are highly esteemed in the society and are accorded a respect endowed with great courtliness. The statue of Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda) that stands in the hills above Tbilisi perhaps best symbolizes the national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine with which she greets her friends and in her right is a sword to draw against her enemies.

Georgian language and alphabet:

The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian group of Iberian-Caucasian languages. It is one of the oldest of the living languages. The Assyrian manuscript "A book of peoples and countries", written in the fifth century, contains a note that of 73 peoples then known only 14 had a written language. Among these Georgians are mentioned (Latin, Slavic-Cyrillic, Arabian, Indian, Chines, Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, Greek, Georgian, Armenian, Jewish, Mongolian and Syrian). The Georgians have their alphabet, the number of letters being the same of sounds, thus spelling and pronunciation are identical. Handwriting and printing are similar. This makes Georgian orthography one of the simplest and most perfect in the world. The Georgian written language was created under the king Parnavaz (III century AD).

Visa information:

Visitors of many nations can come and stay in Georgia without any visa requirement. A passport valid for at least 6 months is required for all nationalities. There is no visa needed for stays up to 360 days for nationals of: The European Union; United States of America; Canada; Japan; Switzerland; Lichtenstein; Norway; Israel; The Holy See; Principality of Andorra; San-Marino; Republic of Iceland; United Arab Emirates; State of Kuwait; South Korea; State of Qatar; Kingdom of Bahrain; Oman; Turkey.

Representative of nations required visa to enter country can apply for it either in the Georgian consulates in their countries or upon the arrival at the Tbilisi International Airport or at the following checkpoints on the border with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey: Sarpi and Vale checkpoints on the border of Turkey, Matsimi and Tsiteli Khidi( Red Bridge) on the border of Azerbaijan and Sadakhlo on the border of Armenia. Warning: Currently Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not under the control of the central government. Thus travelling to these regions is not advisable, because security is not guaranteed. Travelling throughout the territory of Georgia with Abkhazian visa is also prohibited. For detailed information about visa classification and visa fees please visit www.mfa.gov.ge www.mfa.gov.ge

Georgian money:

National Currency of Georgia is the Georgian Lari or GEL that consist of 100 Tetris. It has been the national currency of Georgia since 1995. There are 1, 2, 5, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Lari banknotes. Coins are used in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 Tetris. There are also 1 and 2 Lari coins. All payments can be made either in cash or by credit cards. Almost all the restaurants, shops and hotels accept credit cards. Georgian Lari or GEL can easily be converted to all the leading currencies of the world. Georgia has been a member of the International Monetary Fund since 1997. Visitors of the country can purchase local currency in banks and currency exchange points which are plentiful around the country. For more information about exchange rates visit: www.nbg.gov.ge

Transport in Georgia:

Get by air: Thanks to its geographical location it is easy to arrive to Georgia on any kind of transportation. Flights from the centre of Europe take only 3-4 hours. Non-stop flights to Tbilisi are available from: Aktau; Alma-Ata, Amsterdam, Athens, Baku, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kharkov, Kiev, London, Minsk, Munich, Paris, Prague, Riga, Tel-Aviv, Vienna, Yerevan. Daily flights are available from Kiev, Munich, Istanbul and Baku. From other cities there are flights two, three or four times a week. Different international airports connect Tbilisi to other cities of the world. You can use service of International as well as Georgian National Air Companies like: Air Baltic; Airzena - Georgian Airways; Aerosvit; Arkia; Armavia; Austrian Airlines; Azal - Azerbaijan irlines; Belavia - Belarusian Airlines; BMI; Czech Airlines; Lufthansa; Scat – Kazakh Airlines; Sky Georgia; Turkish Airlines; UM Airlines - Ukrainian Airlines; Travel by Bus: Daily buses to Tbilisi depart from Baku, Istanbul, Ankara, Trabzon and Yerevan. There are everyday departures from the different cites of Armenia: Yerevan, Vanadzori, Stepanavi, Gumri, Artek, Spitak; Azerbaijan: Baku (available from 07:30 am till 15:00 pm); Turkey: Istanbul, Trabzon (available from 10:00 am till 15:00 pm). From Athens buses depart several times a week. Buses run from the central bus stations of every city where one can get all detailed information about the exact departure time. Travel by Train: International connections are available from Azerbaijan and Armenia. Trains from Baku are available every day, prices range between $40 and $50. The main railway station in Armenia, the Sasuntsi Davit Station is located on Tigran Mets Avenue, near the metro station of the same name. A second railway station in Yerevan, called Arabkir Station, is located above the Cascade. For more information visit the website: www.railway.ge Travel by Car: You can get to Georgia by car from Europe as well as from Asia. The historically famous Silk Road crosses the country. Georgia has highways connecting it directly to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. To cross the border from these three countries is free of charges. Travel by Sea: One of the options for getting to Georgia is by sea. There are two main sea ports in Georgia: Batumi and Poti. Batumi port: is a remarkable port of the country. It is of universal type – receiving and sending all types of sea vessels and serving passengers in high standards. A fast boats conduct regular sailing routes. Ferries service passengers traveling between Batumi and Ilychevsk. The passengers coming to Georgia for short trips do the sightseeing not only in Batumi (Botanical Garden, Gonio Fortress, Seaside park, museums) but Kutaisi as well (Bagrati Cathedral, Gelati Monastery, Motsameta). The ships are served by local maritime firms and tourist agencies. More information can be found on: www.medcruise.com or: www.batumiport.com Ferries to Poti port: depart from Ukrainian ports Ilyichevsk and Odessa. The ferry is equipped with comfortable cabins for passengers. Departures are every Tuesday and voyage takes just several hours. More information can be found on: www.potiseaport.com The principal ports of the Black Sea are Odessa and Sevastopol in Ukraine; Poti and Batumi in Georgia; Novorossiysk in Russia; Constanta in Romania; Burgas and Varna in Bulgaria; Ereğli, Samsun, Sinop and Trabzon in Turkey. Subway: In the capital city of Georgia – Tbilisi, you can use a metro (underground). Tbilisi Metro operates from 6 am until 12 pm and serves approximately 300 00 people a day. There are two main line with 22 metro stations, in almost every district of the city. Fare for traveling by metro is just 0.5 GEL. One can get one entry coin for 0.4 GEL or buy a plastic card the price of which varies according the number of entries. Tbilisi Metro has two lines and includes 22 stations. Then construction of the 23rd station "University "is in progress. Almost all the stations are underground, only two of them –"Electrode" and "Didube" create 3 km. district up on the ground. Yellow buses: Another mean of transportation in Tbilisi is so called yellow buses. Fare for traveling is 0.5 GEL. You also can travel on mini-buses by catching them by raising your hand and asking to stop on any place you need on their route. The maximum fare for mini-buses is 0.5 GEL. Since February 1, 2009 the bus and subway fare is paid via control-cash devices. Paying straight to the bus driver of the buses is banned. The cash device doesn’t give change so the fare should be exactly paid. Travelling ticket should be obtained as soon as the passenger gets on the bus. You’ll be charged with 5 GEL if you travel without a ticket. Every passenger using the travelling card travels at a discount. The traveling cards are sold in every subway stations. The passenger pays 2 GEL and recharges the card according to the desired amount. Taxi: Taxi is the fastest way of relocation in Tbilisi. It is the only public transport that is available during 24 hours. You can use taxi service any time of day and night by stopping it in the street or calling up on the phone.