GEORGIA: WHERE THE PAST MEETS THE  FUTURE

GEORGIA: WHERE THE PAST MEETS THE FUTURE

In an interview, H.E. Mr Archil Dzuliashvili, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Georgia to India, explains how his country is emerging as an attractive tourist destination and what makes it extraordinary.

You have set up several Georgia Visa Application Centres in India. Has there been an increase in visits from India to your country?

Yes, there is definitely an increase in travel to Georgia. It is emerging as a popular destination for tourists who are keen to explore its natural beauty, rich history,  wonderful people and experiences that are on offer. In addition to tourism, the country has always been a popular destination for students, especially those in the medical field, with many top medical universities located there.

In fact, Georgian universities have been coming to India to conduct interviews for prospective students, and we have been working with VFS Global to facilitate student admissions as part of this process. So yes, it has been most gratifying to see Georgia emerge as a favoured destination for tourism and education.

What would you say are the must-see destinations in Georgia?

Summer in Georgia traditionally remains the most exciting period, when the country sees a maximum number of its tourists and international visitors. However, it is important for Georgia to grow into an attractive and interesting tourist destination for all four seasons. Besides summer months, the winter season destinations in Georgia are very popular among lovers of skiing, who can choose among four beautiful ski resorts – Gudauri, Bakuriani, Mestia and Goderdzi.

The highest mountain peak in Georgia is Shkhara, which is 5,200 metres above sea level. The old town of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is distinguished by cobblestone paths and charming historical structures that make you feel as if you have gone back in time by several centuries. Visiting the sulphur baths in Abanotubani district is a definite must-do when you are in the city. Georgia has a rich and very ancient culture and is a country where past meets future and ancient civilisation gives a strong impetus to the modernisation of the country.

The palaces, cathedrals and gardens in Tsinandali, Mtskheta (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Gelati (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Stepantsminda and many more, like Upper Svaneti (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Tusheti regions are worth visiting for their stunning architecture and landscapes.

The country’s artefacts are well preserved in museums, which have a wealth of church treasures, particularly pre-Christian gold, art, photographs and archaeology. You can explore Vardzia, an ancient massive cave monastery, or spend a day-long wine tour in Kakheti, enjoy the coastal city of Batumi and the beaches of the Black Sea. Where else in the world can one ski on the mountain slopes and lay by the sea on the same day!

So there is a lot to explore in Georgia, you can come here any time of the year. In fact, I might add that this year is especially significant for us. On May 26, Georgia proudly celebrated Independence Day and the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first democratic republic.

How simple is the visa process for Indian travellers? How about for first-time travellers?

The visa process is fairly straightforward for all travellers as applicants can fill out the online application and submit it in person at any one of the VFS Global Visa Application Centres in five cities of India. This year, we opened more centres in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal for the convenience of applicants in those countries. With the support of VFS Global, we are looking forward to opening more centres in other cities of India as well.

How is the air connectivity between India, the UAE and Georgia?

Several airlines operate convenient flights to Georgia, such as Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Air Astana, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, and Gulf Air, to name a few. So it is a fairly convenient passage for travellers, That said, efforts are being made to introduce direct flights between India and Georgia.

What is extraordinary about Georgia as a tourist destination?

There are so many extraordinary things to explore. Visitors can enjoy the stunning rugged scenery of the mountains and forests, the serenity of the beaches and its ancient and well-preserved historical monuments and rich culture. With its fertile valleys and massive grapevines, Georgia is also the oldest wine country in the world – where wine production has been going on for the last 8,000 years! Ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method is on the List of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Georgia is a small country, but incredibly diverse in food and wine, that makes for an unforgettable experience for gourmets.

 What has been the highlight of your stay in India?

I have been in India for quite some time now, but however much time you spend here seems less. There is such a rich abundance of knowledge, culture and history that even a lifetime would fall short. I am thoroughly enjoying my time here and I look forward to immersing myself in the rich culture and heritage of India.

I hope to travel the country as much as I can. So far, I have managed to visit Goa, Amritsar, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Kochi, not just for work, but to explore and enjoy the culture and environment of those locations as well. I hope to visit more places soon and hopefully spend some more time here.

India holds a special place in our hearts since we share a sacred connection. Some of the relics of our sacred Saint Queen Ketevan were interred in St. Augustine’s Church at Goa by Portuguese Monks. Her relics were discovered during a joint archaeological excavation in 2006 and are currently on display in Georgia.

This year was especially significant, since it saw the participation of the Georgian Choir Ensemble ‘Aghsavali’ at the Third Ketevan World Sacred Music Festival, held in Goa and of the Georgian National Ballet, Sukhishvili, at Hema Malini’s Synergy, an Indo-Georgian Dance Fusion, in four cities of India. We hope to have many such cultural interactions in the future. In fact, I am confident that the ties between our two friendly nations will continue to grow stronger, especially since our relations are historically founded on rich cultural exchanges.

 

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