Janine Kilroy, UK
Here is a story that I wrote to a friend on our return from Georgia:
Georgia was really exceptionally absorbing. We were with a small group touring just a few of the very old monastery churches, covered in frescoes reaching back to 6th century, our guides (one American and one Georgian) being passionate about orthodox monastic chant, which is indeed very beautiful.
One travels in the traces of a long, vigorous and violent history in that old, old country, whose legends include the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece, colourful early Christian saints, and valiant struggles against Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Mongols and Turks, not to mention more modern times.
The high Caucasus snow-covered peaks are tremendous, the wooded river gorges, the grassy plains and the profusion of wild flowers of every hue, just everywhere, were incredibly beautiful. We were starting to cope with the strange alphabet just as it was time to leave!
And there is much to discover in Tbilisi, where old and crumbling dignity is mixed with the brash and modern, the tangle of dangling electric wires over dark narrow streets, against very good floodlighting of the fortress, cathedrals and dramatic rocks cradling the river.
And every particularly ugly building is blamed on the Soviets and part of the reaction against that drabness is to introduce colour everywhere. Also all the churches, themselves full of colour, are always open with people evidently very engaged in the revival of spiritual and religious freedom. History and traditions have huge importance for all the Georgians we met.