What to Bring
Dear Friends, Gamarjoba! Welcome to Georgia!
Georgia is an exotic and fascinating country, at the focal point of interest for global politics, international trade, modernity and antiquity. While the tourist industry is still in development, now is the perfect time to become acquainted with this land, its people, and traditions. The itinerary reflects a focus on the monasteries and architectural monuments of Georgia’s medieval period, yet we hope to explore all the delights of fine cuisine, beautiful countryside, traditional music and arts, and of course, the famous Georgian hospitality.
Our intention is to lead a tour that shares the sights, sounds, and history of Georgia – through visits to monasteries, churches, fortresses, modern cities, and small towns – and the people in each locale. We will meet with specialists of church frescos, architecture, liturgical chant, folk songs, folk-lore, and depending on the interests of the group, learn to sing some of the famous Georgian polyphony ourselves.
Tour package amenities…
Among the many things that Georgia is famous for, the tradition of welcoming guests is paramount. We guarantee that you will be the honored guests at several traditional supra feasts throughout the tour, both in homes and in restaurants – an occasion which calls for the best in home cooked meals, homemade wine, toasts, and song. Excellent food is a priority for the tour organizers.
In general, breakfast will be served at the guesthouses and hotels around 8am with a leisurely morning departure at around 9am. Lunches, usually at restaurants but also sometimes picnics, will be around 1-2pm, and dinners in restaurants and homes, will be around 7-8pm. All food, drinks, and of course as much house wine as you can drink are included in the tour package.
You have all secured flights to and from Georgia. I will personally pick you up at the Tbilisi airport, and we will also arrange for taxi service back to the airport for your departure.
Other helpful tips…
Dress codes in Georgia have changed radically over the past ten years and one literally sees everything. So feel free to wear whatever is comfortable for traveling in warm weather (70-90 F). Walking shoes recommended.
Visiting Georgia during the summer means packing for warm, sunny weather, but be safe and bring a sweater, light raincoat, and knit cap just in case – it may be warm during the day, but evenings can be cool, especially for our overnight stay in the high Caucasus. Temperatures in Telavi during the day will be in the upper 80s, during the evening it could be in the 50s. In the high Caucasus, it will be about the same temperatures, with less humidity, with a higher chance of summer rain.
When visiting churches and monasteries, it is appropriate for men to wear long pants and short sleeve shirts, and shoes (no sandals). It is suggested that woman wear long skirts (though wrap around skirts are often provided now outside convents), shirts that cover the shoulders, and colorful head-scarves. Being respectful of the Georgian Orthodox custom will be a priority for our pilgrim group, as we wish to cultivate a sense of respect and reverence for local traditions.
What to bring…
Sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhat, flashlight with extra batteries, small bath towel (though there will be bath towels at the guesthouses), wet toilet wipes (also available in Tbilisi), camera, mini-disc recorders or other recording devices for music/conversations, journal, insect repellant, travel board games, musical instruments, and songbooks (if you like to sing!). It is best to bring your own pharmaceuticals, but there are also many pharmacies in Georgia with over the counter drugs (we will have a supply on tour). Especially recommended is immodium or similar stomach bug medicines to get through the initial adjustment to food in a new country. There is no major disease risk in Georgia, none of my tour participants have ever gotten seriously ill. We do our best to have a constant supply of bottled water on the bus as a preventative measure.
Traversing the globe naturally takes its toll. We understand that after arriving in Tbilisi you will be quite tired, and we look forward to whisking you straight from the brand new, state-of-the-art airport to the hotel (a 20 minute drive). There are no visa requirements for visitors from most Western nations, and no entry fees for a 365 day tourist visa. Visa requirements do change on a regular basis though, so it is worth investigating before your visit. After passing through customs and baggage claim, you will find me waiting in the reception area (probably one of the only tall blond men in the area, I won’t be hard to spot!)
Luggage – Laundry
We would like to travel somewhat light, so it would be best to bring one medium sized suitcase, with a backpack/daypack for day-trips. Laundry services are available at the Tbilisi hotel, but is not covered by the tour budget. Laundry services are not typically available at the guesthouses outside of Tbilisi.
Bring something from home…
As much as we will be the honored guests while in Georgia, and treated like kings and queens as a result, Georgians will be curious to know more about us – who we are, where we’re from, and what we do – and tour participants will be equally curious. You may want to consider bringing some photos of family and friends to share. Also, Georgians love cultural interaction, so if there are any songs or games, or stories that you have from home, be thinking how you might be able to share these. Small gifts from your hometown (postcards, goodies, tapes/cds of local music, etc) are always well appreciated by the owners of guesthouses and B&B’s, local musicians and specialty guides that we have occasion to meet.
Georgian is a unique language, and therefore won’t look or sound familiar to English language speakers. It is one of sixty languages in the Caucasus language group (non Indo-European) and is the most widely spoken of the four languages in the “Kartvelian” sub-group. A small phrasebook is available via the internet at http://www.survivalgeorgian.com/ and is a valuable purchase. Many of you will be interested to tackle the beautifully scripted Georgian alphabet in order to be able to read signs around the country.
Make a connection…
If you are interested in establishing contact between your hometown and a village or city in Georgia, bring letters of invitation from your local government and we will invite local government officials to receive them. Georgians are looking to the West for friendship and support!
Internet access is available throughout Georgia. The hotel in Tbilisi will have internet. At some of the guest-houses it is not wireless, but for emergencies, guests may use the house computer.
- Telephone: see Word document
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
A few key phrases… for more, see the Useful Phrases (by Tamra Wysocki) link on georgianchant.org/monastery/bring.html
- Gamarjobat - hello
- Nakhvamdis -goodbye
- Gmadlobt -thank you
- Didi madloba -thank you very much
- Diakh -yes Ara -no
- Tu sheidzleba - please
- Tualeti -toilet Restoranti -restaurant Sastumro - hotel
- Sad aris - where is? Ratom? - why? Romeli? - which one Ra ghirs? - how much? Vin? - who?
- Es minda - I want that one
- Puri - bread Qeli - cheese Ghvino - wine
- “Tu sheidzleba, erti ghvtismshoblis troparia am sautsari lamazi da tsmindani eklesiashi sheidzleba vigalobot ?” - If it wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it be possible to sing one hymn to the Holy Theotokos in this most beautiful of holy churches?
- “Joni, tu sheidzleba, gaacheret tkveni sagaloblebi da tsavidet khachapurze, ra!” - John, will you please quit singing and let’s go get some more khachapuri (cheesebread), okay!
A final thought…
There is a saying in Georgia that “Guests come from God…” meaning that no matter who arrives on the doorstep, whether friend or foe, they must be welcomed as if they were sent from God. Hospitality is paramount in Georgia. Sometimes, this means that we change our schedule in order to accommodate extraordinary events that warrant our time. Spontaneity and the willingness to be flexible will make our tour in Georgia more enjoyable.
Please contact us if you have any questions, and we look forward to welcoming you to Caucasus Georgia. Gaumarjos! Victory!
John A Graham