Georgia Travel Guide
If you think the Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal at JFK Airport looks cool, then check out these images of a new airport building just opened in Mestia, Georgia. As you may be able to tell from the snow and mountains, we're talking about the country of Georgia here, not the US state. Mestia is in the Caucasus Mountains, on the northern border of Georgia nearby Russia, and apparently it's looking to inject a little life into its tourism with a fancy-dancy designer terminal.
The building, constructed in only three months, comes from the Berlin-based architecture firm Jurgen Mayer H. It's simply gorgeous and it reminds us of the Zaha Hadid ski jump in Austria. Of course it looks small and light enough to push around like a sled on that snow, but we're enamored nonetheless.
The only question now is...what is there in Mestia (aside from this airport terminal) to actually make tourists want to fly into it?
The fifteen individual nations that emerged when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 have provided a tantalizing opportunity for travelers ever since, with an abundance of cultural treasures to discover that had formerly been off-limits to most foreigners. Georgia, for one, is a particularly intriguing destination due to its eclectic cultural makeup, with both Eastern European and Southwest Asian influences informing its music, dance, architecture, and world-renowned cuisine.
Unfortunately, it looks like much of Georgia will be off-limits to travelers for the foreseeable future. Violent clashes between Georgian and Russian troops over the breakaway region of South Ossetia erupted on Friday and intensified over the weekend, causing waves of civilians to abandon their homes to seek shelter elsewhere until the fighting subsides.
Details are just now emerging on the extent of the fighting. Russian forces are reportedly now in control of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, while the city of Gori, which technically lies outside the disputed province, has been bombarded by Russian planes in an intense air campaign. Furthermore, the Russian government announced it is moving a portion of its Black Sea fleet to the port of Ochamchira.
Most of these locations are off the normal tourist path, except for Gori. The city is well known across the former Soviet Union as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and it's one of the few places on the continent where one will find a well-preserved statue of the brutal leader (pictured) as well as a museum dedicated to his life. Other, less controversial attractions include the Gori Fortress, thought to date back more than 1,000 years. Here's hoping peace returns to the region soon so people can get back to traveling and exchanging ideas and good will.
· Complete Coverage of the South Ossetian Conflict [The New York Times]
· Georgia Overview and Travel Warning [Lonely Planet]
· Things to Do in Gori [Virtual Tourist]
· Dangerous Travel Coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: World 66]
The nation of Georgia was an unseen casualty of the break-up of the USSR: The once glamorous vacation destination was crippled by civil wars, and no province was hit worst than the Black Sea coastal state of Abkhazia. But tourists are trickling back to its beachside resorts, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor which revisits the country that's as well known in eastern Europe as it is unknown in the US.
Russian tourists go to the Black Sea for the same reasons Americans go to Florida: It's warm, there's a lot of water and you don't need a passport. Abkhazia is technically still divided between local separatists and Russian troops--in fact, officials blamed two recent bombings on Georgian police who they say wanted to discourage tourism--but hotel owners hope to eventually draw back the estimated 6 million tourists who used to vacation here.