‘The hospitality drew me back’: the joy of the Caucasus
29 August, 2017
‘The hospitality drew me back’: the joy of the Caucasus
Georgian culture is distinguished by rare traditions of hospitality. For centuries Georgian people developed traditions of hospitality, love and boundless respect for guests. “Every guest is God-sent” - says a famous Georgian proverb.

These unique sense of hospitality and diverse nature makes Georgia very attractive country to tourists and explorers throughout the world.

This time a well-known British edition The Guardian publishes an interview with Levison Wood about his trip over the Caucasus mountains.

Levison Wood is a British Army officer and
explorer who is best known for his extended walking expeditions in Africa, Asia, and Central America.

In 2015, he walked the length of the Himalayas, from Afghanistan in the west to Bhutan in the east. He has also undertaken numerous other overland journeys including a foot crossing of Madagascar and mountain climbing in Iraq. He documents his journeys through books, documentaries, and photography.

Here we offer you an interview with Levison Wood by Rachel Dixon, who works on travel and features at The Guardian:

I spent three months crossing the Caucasus from Europe to Asia. My 2,600-mile journey started in Sochi, Russia, and took me through Chechnya, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to Iran. Unlike my previous adventures (walking the length of the Nile, the Himalayas and the Americas), this trip wasn’t all on foot. I travelled the way locals do, walking, riding, taking donkey carts and hitchhiking. The hitchhiking was a reminder of my first visit to the region, as a 22-year-old backpacker along the Silk Road.

On that 2004 journey, I was sleeping on a village bench when some men approached. One, Gocha, insisted I stay with him. When we got to his house, out came a bottle of vodka. When it was empty, out came another one. He wouldn’t let me leave for three days! Eventually I climbed out of the window and did a runner. When I went back 13 years later, he immediately said: “Ah, Englishman.” And then, of course, he opened another bottle…
Traditional Georgian khachapuri bread.

That hospitality was what drew me back. Georgians have a saying: “A stranger will never die of hunger.” The food is amazing: my favourite dish was khachapuri, Georgian cheesy bread that’s great with local wine. I slept in all kinds of places: shepherds’ caves, locals’ floors and the odd hotel. One memorable place was a cave that turned out to be an ancient tomb – I’d slept among the old graves.

The landscape is very diverse, but it’s the cultural diversity that really stands out. One valley will be Christian, the next Muslim, and there are more than 50 ethnic groups – Dagestan alone has about 35. I started my journey in April, when it was -40C in the mountains. By the time I got to Iran in July, it was 45C! May and June are lovely times to go, as is early autumn.
Mud volcano at Gobustan in Azerbaijan.

The most dangerous part was trying to climb Mount Elbrus in southern Russia. It’s Europe’s highest mountain at 5,642 metres; I got to 4,900 metres and had to turn back in hurricane-strength winds. The most magical moment was waking up in Azerbaijan’s Gobustan desert, a world heritage site with 6,000 rock engravings, and gazing at the mud volcanoes through the mist.
Nariqala Fortress and the Abanotubani quarter, Tbilisi.

Anyone could do this journey, or at least part of it. Georgia and Azerbaijan have comfortable hotels but don’t see many western tourists: you could go on a two-week holiday and not see a single one. In certain parts of Russia and Iran, you have to accept that you will be followed by the secret police or given a government minder. In Russia I was trailed by the FSB (the former KGB).

If you only visit one city in the Caucasus, make it Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. It is an incredible place that has come on in leaps and bounds in the past decade. There are historic sites such as Narikala fortress, and a hipster quarter where you can get a nice coffee. You can take day trips into the mountains and go skiing at Gudauri.
Tabriz, old bazaar, Iran

It was fascinating to see how technology has changed lives in Iran. The government can try to ban Facebook and Twitter, but people find a way around it. They go to parties and on dates – society is opening up. For traditional shopping, you can’t beat Tabriz, one of Iran’s former capitals. It has the biggest covered bazaar in the world, and is the place to buy Persian rugs, jewellery, spices and much more.

After the Chechen wars in the 1990s, Grozny, the capital, was bulldozed and started again from scratch. Today, it looks like Dubai. I stayed in the five-star Grozny City hotel, which opened in 2011 – a place like that was unthinkable in 2004.

Author: Rachel Dixon

Related stories:

A foreign traveler offers a guide to trekking in Caucasus

VOGUE: 5 Reasons to Explore the Mountains of Georgia

Other Stories
What to take for a trip to Tbilisi – Tips from  New York Times
Lots of tourists arrive in Georgia, Tbilisi, especially in summer, when tourist season is in its peak. But not everyone knows which items to take with during the trip to Tbilisi.
Archeological artifacts found during rehabilitation works of Gudiashvili Square, Tbilisi
Recently a new discovery has been made in a historic Gudiashvili Square, located in the heart of Tbilisi, near Liberty Square.
Georgian specialists to rehabilitate abandoned Oshki dome in Tao-Klarjeti
A group of Georgian specialists and scientists have been sent to Tao-Klarjeti, a historic province that used to belong to Georgia
Discovery of the largest and oldest Basilica in Georgia
In Georgia, it was a sensation when an archeological expedition unearthed Doloshopi Basilica in Kakheti region, that is considered to be the oldest within the country.
Euronews advices travelers to visit spectacular Prometheus caves in Georgia
Summer season is the best time to travel in Georgia and explore some of the most distinguished sites. Fortunately, there are lots of places in Georgia to visit.
Horce race festival of Tusheti Region captured by Polish photographer
The Polish photographer Magdalena Konik is a frequent visitor of Georgia and is interested in exploring both traditions and sites of the country.
National Tourism Administration develops hiking trails in Georgia
Georgia is well known for it diverse nature and a plenty of places for hiking and camping.
Top 10 magical lakes to visit in Georgia
Summer is approaching, and everyone seeks for the places to chill out in the lap of nature far from the city noise and pollution.
The Guardian names Georgia as an alternative to the Alps
Georgia’s unique beauty and exotic wild nature has attracted the attention of the numerous international publications already.
Forbes: Why Georgia is the next great food and wine destination
Georgian culture, traditions and hospitality often attract the attention of the leading international media.
10 castle villages of Georgia’s Tusheti Region to be studied and rehabilitated
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced launching of inventory and study works in 10 castle villages of Tusheti,
From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world
As it is widely known, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.
National Geographic to cover stories about Georgia and promote tourism industry
Georgian National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and sustainable development of Georgia
How to Toast in Tbilisi: Georgian Food Is Nothing Without Supra
Georgian” supra” or so called tradition of feasting is not a novelty for foreigners
Most charming historic buildings of Tbilisi - A trip through the city’s past
Tbilisi, Georgia’s beautiful capital, is distinguished by a number of features making the city a unique
Story of Georgian oda houses in Samegrelo told through photos
Samegrelo, one of the richest and most beautiful regions of Georgia, is distinguished by many unique features
National Geographic explores Georgia’s ex-Soviet spa resorts
National Geographic has recently visited Georgia’s crumbling ex-Soviet spa resorts.
The Independent on Svaneti: How to hike through most remote region in Georgia
Svaneti, Georgia’s remote highland has always been quite an attractive place for the tourists and foreign visitors
Inaugural Experts name Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018
Well-known travel website tripexpert.com has named Georgia’s capital Tbilisi Best Emerging Destination 2018.
Georgia’s Goderdzi resort turned into vanilla ice cream “wonderland” by pink snow
Recently Georgia’s latest ski resort Goderdzi was covered with pink snow creating the association of giant vanilla ice-cream.
Unknown medieval monastery ruins discovered in Georgia
Ruins of a previously unknown medieval monastery have been discovered in Georgia’s south.
National Geographic Traveler Names Batumi in Top 10 Tourist Cities in Europe
Georgia’s seaside city of Batumi, the capital of Adjara Region is becoming more and more attractive for the tourists
Georgia’s David Gareji complex among 7 most endangered heritage sites in Europe
Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organization in Europe, and the European Investment Bank Institute
Mesmerizing view of Ushba Mount captured in Georgia’s Svaneti Region
It is impossible to visit highlands of Georgia and stay unimpressed.
CENN gives recommendations to Georgian government on road constructions in remote highlands
CENN is a non-governmental organisation working to protect their environment fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucuses.
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate