Exploring the Caucasus

Caucasus! The name evokes a sense of complexity, mystery, a bit of tension, danger even… And where is it, exactly? In Europe? Asia? Somewhere in between?

Exploring Caucasus

Tomorrow I’m delving into a new region of the world. New to me, that is. It’s a region I’ve been drawn to for quite some time, so I’m very excited for this upcoming journey and to be exploring Caucasus. I’ll be completely free – all on my own, with nothing organised other than flights. I’ll not even bring my trusty old Mac along.

When I sit down at a sidewalk cafe, I don’t want to look at the screen and get slightly lost in the virtual world as I’m wont to do. I want to look at the landscape and the people, the way they dress, the way they walk (will the girls clamber about in impossibly high heels down cobbled hills like they do in Kiev?) I want to smell the air (will it remind me of Eastern Europe of old, like Skopje did – that peculiar combination of exhaust, tobacco and …) I want to listen to the music of the Georgian language, and eavesdrop on anyone speaking more familiar languages. I want to take in the atmosphere, unconstrained by mod tech (will I feel like I’m back in the USSR, like I did in Transdniestr?)

So no Mac, no iPad, just a notebook, a paper one. And a pen. Getting back to basics. It worked very well before. (And it will probably work wonders for my slightly weary wrists as well.) Only allowance to mod tech is a mobile, so expect Instagrams. And if cyber withdrawal rears its head, well… there must be Internet cafes still, right?

Exploring Caucasus – where?

Tbilisi, Georgia

 

I’ll begin in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, home country of the world’s most infamous dictator, one Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, born in Gori in 1878.

What? Who? Infamous, you say? Never heard of the man.

With a name like that – and a desire to rule the world, or at least the Soviet Union – better do like film stars and acquire an alias. Let’s see, what would be a good name for a Soviet dictator, I imagine young Iosif must have pondered. Something strong, strong like … steel. That’s it! Iosif Steel. Or, as they say in Russian, Stalin.

I said I have nothing organised. There is one thing, however. I’ve filed an application for a visa to Abkhazia (north-west on the map above) and am eagerly anticipating a positive response. Nothing yet, though. No word at all, as a matter of fact. Cross your fingers for me, my lovelies.

I’ve also got my eyes on the UNESCO-listed monastery Svaneti, just look at that gorgeous landscape in the bottom photo. And you know I’ve a weak spot for World Heritage.

Geography

So, where is it? Abkhazia? Georgia? The Caucasus? Well, boundaries can be many things: geographical, cultural, linguistic, historical, political, more or less random borders created by former colonisers…

All the three Caucasian countries participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. (If you’re American, you might not have heard of this annual music fest. Let’s just say its infamy is almost on a par with said dictator. Almost.) So, if Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia participate in Eurovision, does it mean they’re European countries? One would think so. But, oddly, Israel is in as well. And if memory serves, Morocco once was, too. And no one would claim either of those countries as European.

Sticking with geographical boundaries, when I was in school, we learned that the border between Europe and Asia went along the Ural Mountains, well east of the Caucasus. But it’s not as easy as all that. The boundary isn’t merely a straight, or even straightish, line from north to south. Up north by the Arctic Ocean, it begins at the Urals – but then it curves west, as far west as Istanbul in the south. It’s all quite confusing. The three countries are often described as transcontinental.

In the end, I think how the countries identify themselves is what matters. All three are members of the Council of Europe, presumably because they want to. Armenia even holds the current chairmanship of the Council.

Coruldi lakes panorama, Svaneti, Georgia

So long! Or, as they say in Georgian, ცოტა ხნის – pronounced ts’ota khnis. Or so Google Translate tells me. I’ll be sure to verify.

Map by Wikipedia Commons, Tbilisi sketch by giveawayboy, and Svaneti panorama by Spyros Petrogiannis

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32 Responses to “Exploring the Caucasus”

  1. Marlys 19 June 2013 2047 #

    Sounds like a right adventure – no trusty ol’ Mac! But that’s the way to get to know a “new” country. Very little is known of these places, so looking forward to your reportages.
    Marlys recently posted..Themed London Walks: Poetry in Motion Part 2

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2013 1042 #

      Yes, I don’t know much either, so quite excited :)

  2. Vera 19 June 2013 2054 #

    Sounds exciting! Looking forward to hearing more. This is a region I’m not familiar with at all. Didn’t even know that “Stalin” means “steel” and that it was an alias… Thank god at least I know the Eurovision Song Contest;)… Have lots of fun!
    Vera recently posted..8 Awesome Travel Apps You Need to Download

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2013 1046 #

      Thanks. I expect I’ll have lots to say when I return. Always good to know Eurovision … :)

  3. Vera Marie Badertscher 20 June 2013 0027 #

    See if you can find any literature to introduce the readers of A Traveler’s Library to the area, what do you say? I’m feeling totally ignorant. So Abkazia, which I’ve never heard of, is a separate country — not part of Georgia? You’re a bold and brave travler. Looking forward to your reports.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Afghanistan Fragmented in New Book by Masha Hamilton

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2013 1043 #

      The only books I’ve read about the region so far haven’t been translated into English, I think, but I’ll keep my eyes open :)

  4. Dan 20 June 2013 0037 #

    Sounds like a great adventure. I’ll be sure to follow it closely
    Dan recently posted..Australia – West MacDonnell Ranges

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2013 1043 #

      Thanks, Dan :)

  5. Katie 20 June 2013 0056 #

    Having spent a couple months in the region last year, I’ll be curious to hear your impressions of it all!
    Katie recently posted..Why Capital One Isn’t So Great for Travelers

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2013 1044 #

      Oh yes, of course. You’re practically an expert on this part of the world, Katie. :)

  6. Salika Jay 20 June 2013 1135 #

    Looks like you’ve planned to not plan the trip :) That’s how a great adventure starts. Hope you’ll get a positive response for visa and explore Caucasus.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Welcome To Middle-Earth

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2132 #

      Thanks :)

  7. Laurel 20 June 2013 1408 #

    Looking forward to hearing about Caucasus. I’ve hardly heard anything about it.
    Laurel recently posted..How to Live and Eat Like a Local in Mostviertel Austria

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2132 #

      You’re not alone in that :)

  8. Hope you enjoy your computerless trip. Most of us wouldn’t know what to do!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2133 #

      It will be a challenge, I’m sure.

  9. Leigh 22 June 2013 0332 #

    Love the sound of this adventure. You should be able to dig up some good Georgian wine with a little luck. I’ve looked at bike trips that cover off this part of the world – so maybe one day. And I agree a break from the computer is grand, I have a 2 week break the first 2 weeks of July when I head to Baffin Island in the Arctic. And that to me sounds like a real hliday.
    Leigh recently posted..Visiting Nova Scotia? Don’t Miss Peggy’s Cove

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2134 #

      Baffin Island, now that’s exotic, Leigh.

  10. Andrea 22 June 2013 1645 #

    I’ve heard really good things about Georgia – enjoy!
    Andrea recently posted..Yes, Sir In the South

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2134 #

      I will, thanks.

  11. Mette - Italian Notes 23 June 2013 1428 #

    Sounds challenging in every way – and very exciting too. Hope you enjoy it.
    Mette – Italian Notes recently posted..Cocullo snake festival

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2135 #

      My thoughts exactly :)

  12. Abby 25 June 2013 0456 #

    How exciting! So much history… I visited the Black Sea area for the first time pretty recently. It was a huge cultural change for me, and I loved every minute!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2136 #

      The Black Sea is quite exciting, isn’t it… – I’m drawn to the eastern parts of it.

  13. Edit 26 June 2013 1306 #

    I definitely know that eastern-european feeling, actually I’m from Hungary and we’ve heard a lot of Dzhugashvili, but we have had several dictators during the years, and it isn’t all over….

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 June 2013 2130 #

      No, it seems there’s still issues to sort out in Hungary, too. Hope it will all work out. Thanks for stopping by, Edit.

  14. Ljoma Tsjabajev 11 September 2013 1220 #

    Kjære Sophie!
    Du liker min emland Kaukasus og jeg elsker Norge!
    Dette er en veldig, veldig fin!
    Jeg er en norsk for 4 år, og stolt av det.
    Nå bor jeg på min arbeidsplass i Praha (Jeg er reporter i Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty – Tsjetsjenske utgave). Men i Norge jeg reiser ofte.

    Hvis du har lyst å reise på Nord-Kaukasus, vil jeg og mine kolleger can hjelpe deg, du vil bli ønsket velkommen med våre venner.

    Vi er veldig glade for din hobby. Din venn og landsmann Ljoma.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 September 2013 1610 #

      Hei Ljoma,

      Jeg synes dette er en fascinerende del av verden og vil gjerne besøke Nord-Kaukasus ved en senere anledning, så tusen takk for tilbudet. Høres også ut som du har en spennende jobb. Hyggelig å høre fra deg :)

  15. Megan 3 December 2013 1658 #

    I’m SOOOO glad I came across your blog and this post particularly. Georgia is near the top of my list of places I want to travel and take up temporary residence. I’ve been wanting to find travel blogs to read about personal experiences in the country and break out of my guide books. So, I’m very happy and going through all of the posts about Georgia. :)
    Megan recently posted..Photo Essay – A Little German Village

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 December 2013 2215 #

      Thank you – and so glad you’re drawn to this part of the world. It’s lovely. Two other bloggers who have written about Georgia is http://www.meganstarr.com and katieaune.com

  16. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs 29 December 2013 2148 #

    Great post about Caucasus region, it is so complicated and mixed up. I’m very glad I have been travelling there myself and get a chance to make my own mind about it :)
    Marysia @ My Travel Affairs recently posted..Friday Lens Affair #47

  17. Madagascar vacations 6 March 2014 1433 #

    I’ve never heard about Caucasus until today! shame on me!

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