Georgie, cultuur

Cultural Tourism in Georgia / Europe.
Culture is one of the strongest lures to the country of Georgia. As the second nation to convert to Christianity in the 4th century, Georgia’s architectural inheritance is exceptionally rich. Not only are the churches and frescoes superb, so too are many of the settings. The 14th century Sameba church in Gergeti, stands on a mountain-top before the giant white peak of Mt Kazbek (5033 metres) like a sentinel from the past. The huge cathedral at Mtksheta sits poignantly at the confluence of the country’s two main rivers and contain magnificent frescoes dating back to the 12th century. Georgia’s cave architecture is no less engrossing, such as the thirteen story Vardzia monastery; or the ancient town of Upliszikhe carved into sandstone cliffs on the former Silk Road.
And this is just the start…
Drawing from the well of such rich artistic roots – in painting (church frescoes); music (polyphonic song); dance (traditional mountain dances) it is no surprise that Georgia offers an unusually varied blend of cultural events to its visitors, both contemporary and ancient.

***Georgia has a magnificent history of church building – dating back to the fifth century AD. These cupola domed structures are found from one side our nation to the other. Perched on mountain tops high up in the Greater Caucasus – as in Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi), or carved into sandstone hillsides, as in David Gareji. The walls are usually covered in frescos and frequently resound with the sounds of our polyphonic choirs. Stand in Tbilisi’s Sioni Cathedral on a Sunday morning and experience the sounds of a religious tradition spanning nearly two thousand years. Visit the splendid **Gelati **complex near Kutaisi (Georgia’s second city) and see a large cathedral covered floor to cupola-top with superb frescos and mosaics. Wind your way up into the remote mountain valleys of Svaneti and encounter unforgettable 12th century frescos in the most far flung churches, as well as several museums packed with elegant icons and treasures.
***Georgia recently made the headlines with the discovery of the 1.8 million year old Dmanisi hominoids in the hills just south of Tbilisi. Providing the missing link in human evolution between Africa and Europe, it also enables us Georgians to claim the first outbound tourists for Europe. Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlements pepper our landscape – leading to the fine archaeological discoveries of gold and pottery in the ancient Colchis area near the Black Sea. Fine gold artifacts were found in Gonio, and figurines and jewelry at nearby **Vani **– continue to provide a wealth of new exhibits for our museums.
***Georgians are rightly proud of their tradition of polyphonic song. Its unique, slightly dissonant style, transports the listener instantly away into the mountainscapes of pre-history. Nobody knows from where they come. The Greek historian Strabo records the multi-voiced chants of Georgians riding into battle in the 1st century BC. Most interesting of all for the visitor is to find the three-part-harmony songs completely integrated into modern culture, not only in the churches and monasteries, but also around the Georgian table.
Songs express the full range of daily emotion experienced while harvesting, courting, healing, grieving - as well as the simple celebration of nature’s beauty. Georgian choirs – like the Rustavi Choir – have been touring internationally for many decades and today other nations are catching on, forming their own local choirs dedicated to Georgian polyphony. But our music is not only ancient. Contemporary composers such as Gia Kancheli, continue to make significant contributions to the cannon of modern orchestral music. As a result Tbilisi can boast a thriving Conservatoire of Music and several excellent concert halls, like the **Philharmonia.
***With such a strong musical background it is no surprise to discover a fine opera house and company in Tbilisi, with singers and musicians frequently finding themselves cherry picked by top international companies. The magnificent neo-Moorish style Paliashvili Opera and Ballet house on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue perfectly embodies our ability to blend the European with the Asian – on stage as well as in city life beyond. The quality of our performances are a match for any in the world and the Opera provides a full calendar of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, not to mention our own composers like **Zakaria Paliashvili **– whose first opera ‘Abessalom and Eteri’ was composed in 1918.
***Georgian dance, like its polyphonic songs, remains a major cultural export. The ***Georgian State Dance Company ***tours the world for the greater part of the year. Virtually every Georgian child learns traditional dance at school and the children dance as energetically as the adults. Few of the world’s male dance traditions are as vigorous, or the female as sublime and beautifully costumed. Acrobatic leaping male dancers, clashing swords, flying sparks, daggers quivering in the floor, combine with graceful, gliding female figures. Add to this exquisitely fashioned costumes from our mountains and valleys, wild drumming, pipe and accordion – and you have a spectacle guaranteed as unforgettable. Furthermore our Georgian children’s dance companies are no less spectacular than the adults.

The Tbilisi Ballet* has recently undergone a major refurbishment – thanks to the return and inspiration of Nino Ananiashvili, former Principal Ballerina at the Bolshoi in Moscow. Performances are now of the highest quality and continue the tradition of dance forged by the former Georgian dancers like George Balanchine.
***A good way to sense the development of Georgia’s artistic tradition is to visit some of our 12th century frescos at say Mtskheta or Betania monastery, then head to Tbilisi’s Art Museum on Pushkin Street. Georgia is a nation of artists and once heralded as the ‘artists colony’ of the Soviet Union. The numerous shapes and colours of our highly varied landscape find re-expression at the hands of artists in our many modern art galleries. The Art Museum reveals the steady progression of Georgian art from the intricately carved portico stones of churches, inlayed processional crosses, exquisitely detailed cloisonné enamel pendants from the 11th century, many gold and silver icons – to the 19th and 20th century modernist paintings. In addition we have a whole room dedicated to the naïve style artist **Niko Pirosmani, **whose child-like vignettes shed powerful light onto everyday life of the l9th and early 20th centuries.
***Georgia is one of the few countries to impress the English with Shakespeare. Robert Sturua’s Rustaveli Theatre 1982 production of ‘Richard III’ created a sensation in London. Since then Georgian theatre has maintained a strong international reputation. Famous productions like ‘Don Juan’ and ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’ from the Tumanishvili Theatre; or the puppet based productions like ‘Faust’ from the intimate ‘Sardape’ (‘Basement’) Theatre; ‘Stalingrad’ by **Reso Gabriadze **– are well known to audiences in Europe and America. They are however best seen at their point of origin – in Georgia’s many theatres (Tbilisi alone has over 30).
For more information, Georgian Tourist Board :