Georgia may still be a mysterious and underrated travel destination. At the intersection of Europe and Asia, the country is home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. It’s famous for Vardzia, a sprawling cave monastery dating to the 12th century, and the ancient wine-growing region Kakheti. Its capital, Tbilisi, is famous for the diverse architecture and mazelike, cobblestone streets of its old town. As you might be able to figure out already, Georgia has a lot to offer. Here are more interesting facts about Georgia to help stir your curiosity!
1. Georgia is home to the first Europeans
An archaeological expedition to a site in Dmanisi found the oldest human skulls belonging to a couple, Zezva and Mzia. At 1.8 million years old, it provides evidence that Georgia may be home to one of the oldest communities, as well as the very first Europeans. Four other fossil skeletons were subsequently found, and they are seen as the earliest known human presence in the Caucasus, as well as an important link between African and European ancestors.
2. The locals don’t call their country Georgia
Georgians call their country Sakartvelo and refer to themselves as Kartveli. The name consists of two parts: Kartvel, which refers to an inhabitant of the central Georgian region of Kartli, and the circumfix sa-o which stands for ‘land where the Kartveli live’. To date, it is unclear where the name Georgia comes from. Is it from St George, the patron saint of the country; or Georgi, or derived from the Persian and Turkish version of the name George, Gorj/Gurju? We may never know!
3. It is one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth
Georgia has climates ranging from subtropical, to semi-desert, and even alpine. As you can imagine, its 12 different climate zones have spawned an incredible diversity of landscapes and wildlife. There are about 5,601 species of animals, and many of these species are endemic. Georgia also has 49 different types of soil, making it very conducive for different types of agriculture.
4. It is the birthplace of wine
Love a good wine? We all have Georgia to thank for it. They have been making and perfecting the art of winemaking for at least 8,000 years! But one of the most interesting facts about Georgia is that this discovery was entirely accidental. Some Georgians found that by burying earthenware vessels (called qvevri) filled with grape juice over winter, it would turn into wine. Today, this ancient Georgian tradition of Qvevri winemaking is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List!
5. It is home to the world’s deepest cave
At 2,212 meters deep, Veryovkina Cave is the deepest cave on earth. It took half a century and about 30 expeditions for cave explorers to reach its record depth, and experts still think that there is more to be discovered. It is a physically testing cave with many dangerous sections, some just wide enough to squeeze one’s body through. Three years ago, the team almost drowned in a sudden flood that happened at the bottom camp.
6. Europe’s highest settlement is here
Sitting in the mountainous region of Svaneti at a jaw dropping 2,100 metres above sea level, the ancient villages of Ushguli are the highest altitude settlements of Europe. Here, against the snowy backdrop of Mount Shkhara, medieval stone towers stand like an immovable brigade. The air is cool and thin. The nearest town, almost 50 kilometres away, is cut off by snow from October to April, which puts the local community in virtual isolation for half of the year. In recent years, Ushguli has seen a sharp increase of summer vacationers, all hoping to experience a culture on the edge of time before it’s too late.
7. There is a recording of a traditional Georgian song in space
A recording of Chakrulo, a Georgian folk song that dramatizes battle preparations, was sent into space as part of the Voyager Golden Records in 1977. The Golden Record has 115 images encoded in analogue form, different natural sounds, traditional music from different countries, and spoken greetings in 59 languages. It’s like a message in a bottle, for any prospective life forms to find.