Monday, April 30, 2007
In the realm of books, Lonely Planet produces a guide to Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan, Odyssey Illustrated Guides carries a guide to Georgia and Bradt has a Georgian guidebook. Maps and phrasebooks are also readily available for those interested.
There are several websites filled with information on Georgia, among them the Georgian Department of Tourism, Yahoo! Travel, and a great place called Adventures Great and Small. If the blogging scene is how you get your information, check out Travel to Georgia, myrussiablog's Georgia on My Mind post, describing in beautiful words and pictures her visit last year; the Georgia & South Caucasus blog; Where on Earth's Georgia section; and, for our Swedish readers, Allt om Georgien.
Tbilisi International Airport is serviced by several major airlines including British Airways and Lufthansa, as well as regional operators. Nonstop service to Tbilisi can be found from London, Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Athens, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and several regional airports.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
This wine is made from Rkatsiteli grapes (Georgian რქაწითელი; literally "red stem"). This is one of the oldest variety of grapes in Georgia, with archaeologists having unearthed examples in clay jars from the 3rd millenium BC. Recently Rkatsiteli grapes have been planted in Eastern Europe, the Finger Lakes region of New York and Australia.
It has a semi-sweet flavor with light fruit tones and a straw color that darkens as the wine ages. Alazani white wine goes well with fruit, nuts and deserts.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Just last Saturday Weinhaus Tbilisi hosted an evening of traditional Georgian food and drink featuring a film about the nation of Georgia and wine cellarers on hand to answer questions.
You can visit Weinhaus Tbilisi at Humboldtstraße 23, at the intersection of Wielandstraße in Hannover. The shop is open Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm and on Saturdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Like most European scales, the Georgian scale can be broken down into octaves, though the spacing of the tones is different.
Much of traditional Georgian folk music centers around the supra; among traditional favorites are Zamtari, a song about winter commemorating ancestors, and Mravalzhamier, a hymn of joy. Dance music, love ballads, work songs, traveling songs and sacred music – of both liturgical and folk varieties – can also be found in the Georgian tradition.
Different regions of Georgia are known for different musical styles: In Racha and Ajara, male vocalists are accompanied by bagpipes. In Samegrelo and Guria, dissonance, high pitches and yodeling-like vocals called krimanchuli are characteristic. The isolated Svaneti region may have the oldest traditions, with irregular harmonies a middle voice leading two supporting voices.
The music of Kakheti may be the most famous Georgian variety, with the Kakhetian-style patriotic song Chakrulo being carried on the Golden Record of the Voyager spacecraft. Kakhetian music is characterized by a simple bass part with two soloists singing on top and playing off one another. The melodies of Kakheti alternate between recitative sections with highly poetic lyrics and ornate cascading flourishes.
The Hasidic Cappella performing traditional Georgian music
Three men from the Rustavi group playing the dhol, a traditional drum
Another trio from Rustavi, performing an instrumental
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The city was and still is a very diverse place, with the Sunni mosque and the synagogue are located next to each other in the Abanotubani bath district, the place where King Vakhtang’s falcon fell, in the process revealing to him the hot springs that led him to build on this site. Not far away is the Metekhi Church of the Assumption (pictured above, next to Vakhtang’s statute). The original building was constructed by Tbilisi’s founder, though the Mongols destroyed this structure; the current church was built by King Demetre Tavdadebuli in the 13th century.
In modern times Tbilisi has served as the capital of the sort-lived Transcaucasian Federation (1918) and the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921). Since 1991 it has once again served as the capital of an independent Republic of Georgia.
Each October Tbilisi residents celebrate Tbilisoba, a festival commemorating the founding of their city.
Monday, April 23, 2007
(If you have trouble viewing this image of the Georgian alphabet, please click on it to see it more clearly on a white background.)
There have been several requests for more information on the Georgian language (kartuli ena or ქართული ენა).
Georgian is spoken by 3.9 million people in Georgia itself and by another half million Georgians living abroad, mostly in Iran, Russia, Turkey, Europe and the US. The other South Caucasian languages (see below) are spoken by over 600,000 people.
The oldest example of Georgian writing is an inscription in a church in Bethlehem from AD 430. While the left-to-right direction of the writing, the order of the letters and many of the letters themselves all show Greek influences, the Georgian alphabet also has elements of the Persian and Syriac alphabets. Georgian tradition attributes the invention of the Georgian alphabet to Parnavaz I of Iberia in the 3rd century BC, though some scholars have suggested that the alphabet only came together as a result of the influence of Christianity. The modern version of the alphabet, called Mkhedruli (მხედრული, "military"), first appeared in the eleventh century; it was used only for non-religious purposes until the eighteenth century, when it completely replaced older variations. It has thirty three letters.
The oldest surviving text in Georgian dates from the 5th century AD, The Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik (Tsamebay tsmindisa Shushanikisi, dedoplisa) by Iakob Tsurtaveli. The Georgian national epic, The Knight in the Panther's Skin (Vepkhistqaosani) dates from the 12th century (pictured below).
Georgian is a member of the South Caucasian or Kartvelian family of languages, which also includes Gruzinic, a dialect spoken by Georgia's Jewish community, which is usually mutually intelligible to Georgian speakers; Megrelian, spoken in northwest Georgia; Svan, also spoken in northwest Georgia; and Laz, spoken on the southeast shore of the Black Sea.
The South Caucasian group has no known connections to other languages, not even the North Caucasian group. Some linguists have suggested that the South Caucasian group is part of the larger Nostratic language family, but the idea has not received widespread acceptance. Likewise, certain grammatical similarities with Basque, including the case system, have led some linguists to suggest a connection, though the resemblance is mostly superficial.
Of the other South Caucasian languages, Mingrelian has been written with the Georgian alphabet since 1864. The language has only flourished in written form in the period from 1930 to 1938, when the Megrelians enjoyed some cultural autonomy, and after 1989. The Laz language enjoyed similar flourishing in written form between 1927 and 1937, and today in modern Turkey, though now utilizing the Latin alphabet. As Laz speakers integrate into mainstream Turkish society, however, the language is dying out. Gruzinic, spoken by the Jewish community, is often written with the Hebrew alphabet.
There are a variety of online resources for those interested in further information on the Georgian language, among them an Online Georgian Grammar, a Georgian-English, English-Georgian Dictionary and good website on the Georgian Language & Alphabet.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (pictured above), along with the other heads of state, was on hand for the event. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who was elected the first president of GUAM, told reporters "I am firmly convinced that our region has great potential and that it will become one of the most promising regions in modern Europe. This concerns not only energy or transport projects."
A new name was also coined for the group, the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, though the GUAM moniker is likely to also remain in usage.
Ukrainians holding a rally in support of the Republic of Georgia.
Friday, April 20, 2007
In 2000 the first version of the show, called The Legend of Tamar, toured in the United States. The Los Angeles Times called it "sensational," The New York Times "spectacular" and The New York Post "a feast of riches for eye and ear." In 2001 and 2002, Georgian Legend debuted in Europe, with an audience of 150,000 and over 100,000 CDs sold in a few months. The same program toured in Russia and China and will to tour in France and Germany in 2007 with Legends of the Storm.
An amazing and innovative video of Legends of the Storm
The Erisioni Ensemble in action
Khvanchkara is a red wine made from Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli grapes (pictured below), cultivated in the western region of Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti (above). Khvanchkara is fermented in a traditional manner in open oak vats with wild yeast from the vineyard were it was developed. Special boards are used to keep the skins submerged during the fermentation process and when the wine is taken from its skins only that which drains freely is used.
The wine has a dark ruby color and a strong bouquet, with some of the wild yeast noticeable when it is first poured. The taste is harmonious and velvety with a raspberry flavor and subtle oak tones resulting from the fermentation process. The finish is sweet and lingers.
Khvanchkara has port-like qualities without fortification or sugar added, making it perfect for spicy foods, fresh fruit, cheeses, desserts and cigars.
Khvanchkara red wine contains 10.5 - 12.0% alcohol, 3 - 5 % sugar and has 5.0 - 7.0 % titrated acidity. It has been produced since 1907.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Legend has it that Nino received the Grapevine Cross from the Virgin Mary and bound it together with her own hair. This was the cross Nino brought with her when she came to evangelize the Georgians. The Grapevine Cross is recognizable by its slightly drooping horizontal arms.
Tradition holds that the original cross of St. Nino was kept at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (see right) in Mtskheta until 541. During the Persian invasions, it was taken to Armenia and stayed there until David the Builder recovered the Armenian city of Ani from the Muslims in 1124 and returned the cross to Mtskheta. In the 14th century King Vakhtang III enshrined the cross in a special reliquary, decorated with scenes from the life of St. Nino. During subsequent Persian and Ottoman invasion, the cross was taken to the Gergeti Trinity Church, then to Ananuri (seen below) in highland Georgia, and eventually to Moscow. In 1801, the Georgian emigre prince George Bagration presented it to Tsar Alexander I who returned it to Georgia in 1802 after Georgia's incorporation into the Russian Empire. Since then, the cross has been kept in the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The event was organized by the National Aeronautics Federation of Georgia, the Governor of Kakheti, the Department of Tourism and the Department of Sports.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Pirosmani is a naturally semi-sweet red wine. It is made from the Saperavi grape variety cultivated in the Kardanakhi village in the Alazani Valley of the Kakheti region. The wine is fermented in clay jars buried in the ground, an ancient Kakhetian technology of wine-making.
Pirosmani wine begins with a deep purple color, though in its 4th and 5th years it begins to develop a softer burgundy tone. It has a rich fruity scent of blackberry and blackcurrant, and can also have touches of black pepper when young. The flavor is rich with ripe berry flavors that slide easily over the palate and are enhanced by the sweetness of the wine. The finish is soft but strong, still full of rich fruit and sweetness.
Pirosmani wine contains 10.5-12% alcohol, 1.5-2.5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity.
This Georgian wine is named after Niko Pirosmanashvili (1862-1918), known as Pirosmani (Georgian: ნიკო ფიროსმანაშვილი). A primitivist painter, he often depicted animals and people with food. He is also known in Russia for a romantic encounter with a French actress who visited his town; Pirosmanashvili was deeply in love with her and to prove it he bought her enough flowers to fill the square in front of her hotel window, driving himself bankrupt in the process. The story became famous when it was recounted in a poem by Andrei Voznesensky, and later in a hit song by Alla Pugacheva. Pirosmani was also the subject of a short film by director Sergei Parajanov entitled "Arabesques on the Pirosmani Theme."
Monday, April 16, 2007
The supra is usually held at a single long table, or a string of tables running end to end. Foods of all kinds and generous quantities of Georgian wine are kept in supply at all times.
The festivities are led by a toastmaster called the tamada. His task is to not only to propose the toasts but also to blend the enthusiasm and camaraderie of banqueting with moments of reflection and tranquility. He must have the skills of an orator, a poet, a philosopher, a social commentator and a singer all rolled into one.
The toasts are given in a specific order: the first is to peace, the second to parents, then to siblings, to the deceased (especially friends and relatives of those present), to life (especially the lives of the children of those recently departed), and then to love and friendship. Only after this litany of traditional toasts has been given is the tamada free to add his own toasts, as befit the occasion. When the tamada is finished with toasts on the topics of his choice, then guests, with his permission, may offer their own. (Starting on a new topic without the tamada’s permission is a major social gaffe.) As the night progresses, successive speakers attempt to one-up each other, with a sort of oratory contest developing.
Particular customs accompany some of the toasts. During the toast to the dead, for example, the tamada usually pours some wine on bread and crosses himself, praying that God be merciful to the souls of the departed.
Because a supra is not only a social event, but also a spiritual one, toasts are usually accompanied by a direct appeal to the divine: God, help us in all our deeds! Toasts at a supra are never negative and wine is only drunk when toasts are given, so it is the tamada’s task to ensure that the toasts come with proper spacing and regularity. When drinking a toast all of the men stand and drink their wine in silence.
After each toast is given, a song is sung by everyone present, a song chosen by the tamada, whose selection must artfully reinforce the message of each toast. Georgian drinking songs are usually melodious, polyphonic and complicated, though well-known to the Georgian people.
If there is space, folk dancing will also be included at a supra.
The night ends with the tamada proposing a toast to the patron saints of the Georgian people and one of the men then toasts the tamada himself.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Dimi white wine comes from small areas in the Imereti region of western Georgia (seen above and below). Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Lazica and to Persians as Lazistan, this area was home to the early Georgian kingdom of Egrisi (Georgian: ეგრისი), which flourished between the 6th century BC and the 7th century AD. The Pitsunda Cathedral is one of oldest monuments of the Georgian Christian architecture constructed by King Bagrat III of the Bagrationi Royal House in the 5th century.
Dimi white wine is made from the Tsolikauri and Krakhuna grape varieties and is produced using an old local technique of fermenting the grape pulp to which some quantity of grapes husks is added. The wine is the color of dark straw and has a harmoniously fruity flavor with a savory astringency. Dimi contains 10.5-13.0% alcohol and has 6.5-8.0% titrated acidity.
Saperavi grapes originated in the Kakheti region of Georgia, but are now grown throught the country, with Australian growers recenty trying the variety as well. These grapes are capable of surviving extremely cold winters, and are thus popular in high altitudes and inland regions.
Wines made from saperavi grapes have a strong flavor and texture, which makes them a natural pairing for a variety of Georgian cuisine, including game dishes or hearty winter foods.
A Georgian drinking from a traditional drinking horn, a khantsi.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
This blog exists to share the joys of Georgian wine as well as the the culture and country that continue to produce this European treasure.