Georgia – where east meets west and west meets east

Georgia is a beautiful country, especially at this time of year in the early stages of autumn.

Much of it lies in the Caucasus Mountains. Rivers have cut down through the rock to create deep valleys, the sides and ridges covered in mixed deciduous woodland and pine forest.

These valleys control all the major road routes through Georgia and dictate where people live and work.

At the same time the country’s recent history has a huge impact on the landscape.

You can be driving in late, shadowy sunshine, winding a colourful road surrounded by the oranges and yellows and greens of woods and forests and orchards and then you come into a large town. When the Soviet Union collapsed the local economies collapsed at the same time. Suddenly local industry could not get parts and raw materials and more distant markets in Russia disappeared. So now factories lie rusting and the people who worked in them have to scratch a living by selling produce from the road side like honey

or sweet bread or homemade liquor or making home-deliveries on a simple trolley. Maybe the birth of Amazon!

Homes in the countryside tend to be single-storey and quite basic, set amongst mature fruit trees against a backdrop of turning autumn.

In the towns ghastly, tired, cement-built apartment blocks, constructed in the 50s in the Soviet era, house the people and the workforce. These sentinels stand out above the bungalows and detached homes of the more affluent suburbs.

Tbilisi is an attractive, modern, cosmopolitan city. There is bit of a buzz about the place with the beat of music clubs mixing it with the clatter of glitzy restaurants and local eateries and bars. The centre is dotted with historic sites and churches alongside modern government buildings constructed with glass to signify the new climate of openness.

Outside the capital life is hard. Little has changed since the Soviet era. But progress is being made. New building is taking place in the mountains to develop the infant ski industry. A new motorway is being constructed to the west of Tbilisi. Tourism may well be the way forward for many.

Georgia is good place to visit, particularly Tbilisi.. Hotels are good, food is hearty and tasty, eating out is cheap, beer and wine are excellent and inexpensive. People are unused to foreign visitors and can appear suspicious, but they do crack into smiles and laughter if approached and engaged.

The air is clean, the scenery magnificent and it is what it says on the tin – the place where east meets west, where Asia meets Europe. Well worth a visit.

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