New Mayor of Kutaisi

New Mayor of Kutaisi, Giorgi Chigvaria born in 1980 in Kutaisi is Associated Prof. in Akaki Tsereteli State University in the Department of Social Sciences.
In 1997–2002 he finished the faculty of History, specialty: History of Eastern Countries. In 2002-2003 he was a researcher and language teacher of ‘Ankara University’ in Turkey. In 2010 he got PhD degree in History (Title of the dissertation – “Geopolitics of Turkey in 1990s of 20th century’’). As for work experience, during the last period he worked as the Vice-Governor of Imereti region.
At last, his wife, Tamta Popkhadze works in Akaki Tsereteli State University, Faculty of Humanities, Center of Languages as English language teacher. Tamta is also PhD student and studies Contrastive Linguistics.

Mr Chigvaria is one of our two Joint Presidents, who we welcome and  send our best wishes to him for his time while in office.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Mayor of Kutaisi

Mayor of Newport – Christmas Party in aid of the Mayor’s Charities

NKTA members and friends enjoyed a wonderful evening last night at the Mayor of Newport’s Christmas Party held at Junction 28 restaurant. The annual event was held in aid of the Mayor’s Charities.

Those present, all had an excellent time and it was good for NKTA to support our President the Mayor of Newport.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mayor of Newport – Christmas Party in aid of the Mayor’s Charities

Reviving Rugby Ties between Newport Rugby Club and Kutaisi Rugby Club

Recently Newport was visited by 2 members of the Kutaisi Rugby Club, the visit was hosted by Newport Rugby Club and saw the club members attend both a local match but also the Wales V Georgia match within the Principality Stadium.

Newport Rugby and Kutaisi Rugby Clubs are looking to revive ties among one another. As part of their visit to the city, they met with His Worshipful, The Mayor of Newport (Cllr David Fouweather), hosted by NKTA (Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association) and Newport City Council.

Our visitors were kindly welcomed to the Mayor’s parlour for light refreshments and discussion before undertaking a brief tour of the Civic Centre and chance to admire the famous murals.

Below is the Newport RFC article noting the visit :

KUTAISI VISITORS ENJOY NEWPORT HOSPITALITY

By John Barrett | 23/11/2017

 

Newport RFC bid farewell to our two Georgian guests from AIA RC Kutaisi this morning, as they set off for home after a week’s stay in the city. Dimitri Pularia (manager of the AIA rugby school) who was also here 19 years ago, and David Nemsadze (AIA’s S&C coach) had time out to visit the Principality Stadium and the Centre of Excellence at the Vale, together with watching Newport RFC defeat Ebbw Vale last Sunday. During their stay they experienced rugby at all levels from the regional game to schools and also witnessed training sessions.

The highlight of the trip was at Cardiff last Saturday when Georgia went down narrowly against Wales. David’s brother, Giorgi, was lock forward in the Georgian pack and it was his match jersey that David presented to Newport, Wales and Lions legend, Brian Price last night, on behalf of the club (pictured).

The Black and Ambers are famous world-wide and are delighted to make rugby links with AIA RC Kutaisi. It is hoped that Newport RFC will be able to tour Kutaisi in the future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Reviving Rugby Ties between Newport Rugby Club and Kutaisi Rugby Club

Wardrop Strategic Dialogue at Lancaster House 24th Oct 2017

The Chair (Sonia Fisher) of Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association (NKTA) attended the Wardrop Discussions as invited by the Georgian Embassy based in London.

Ms Fisher was invited to provide a brief presentation noting the activities and work of NKTA.  She was joined by the two other twining organisations along with many other organisations and businesses.

The theme of the day was centred around  ‘People to People-Culture and Education Pillar’  

 

 

Please find notes as written by Ms Fisher

The following areas are split into a number of areas that being

  • Education
  • International Higher Education Links
  • Culture and Creativity
  • Professional Development of health/ Bio-Medical Professionals
  • Twinning
  • British Georgian Society

EDUCATION –

 English Language learning and teaching:

 Objective: Outline new areas of focus, including more and wider access to English learning opportunities at the community level, and increased teacher development programmes.

International Higher Education links:

Objective: Understand and explore education links in higher education, science and research, particularly international student mobility, and including the Study in Georgia campaign.

CULTURE AND CREATIVITY:

Objective: Discuss opportunities for further capacity building in the arts/creative industry sector, with a focus on SMEs, the media as creative industry and festival development.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTH/BIO-MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS:

Objective : Share an overview of he collaboration with the British Medical Journal on professional development schemes for health and bio-medical professionals.

TWINNING:

Objective:   To better understand priorities , future plans and scope for further                             cooperation in the 3 UK -Georgia twinning schemes.

BRITISH GEORGIAN SOCIETY.

Objective: Share an overview of the British Georgian Society and the society’s plans.

 

EDUCATION:

  • There are new areas of focus – access to early language
  • British Council to help institutions in Georgia -widening the access beyond cities.
  • Aim to build stronger educational links/UK/Georgia.
  • Partnership with the Ministry of Education.
  • 3000 English language teachers engaged by the British Council.
  • Teacher/Education programme in Georgia. Links for continuous development.
  • Promotion of English language throughout primary schools.
  • Ministers of Justice /Ministry of Science in Georgia to extend English language teaching which is a priority.
  • Training the trainers.
  • An international Education Centre to be established with funding for students – with English language a priority.
  • There is an aim to strengthen English language teaching and British Council ready to co-ordinate.
  • Open foundation – British Council to provide support.

 

International Higher Education Links:

  • Scholarships available for Georgian students particularly scientific students.
  • Many projects which can be implemented and it is an ambitious plan attractive to foreign students.
  • 25 programmes for Higher Education which will give students the Diploma in International Education.  High quality with Quality Assurance attached.
  • Joint Degree programmes with foreign universities – accredited programmes.
  • Cooperation already with USA and France.
  • Double degree / Masters degree programmes.
  • A large campus to be developed in Kutaisi to attract foreign students.
  • A need to expand additional programmes.
  • Inform UK Universities that this opportunity is there!
  • Further UK cooperation required :-
  • Teaching of English
  • Vocational education.
  • Staffing exchanges

 

International Education Centre:- Funding by Georgian Government.

  • Network with UK Universities required.
  • International cooperation and training needed to improve quality assurance mechanisms in Georgia.
  • Scientific opportunities to be established in Georgia and exchange programmes for research students . Georgia offers cooperation with UK.

 

 Georgia Regional Hub: for Education .- Director of Education , Professor Rebecca Hughes.

  • Innovative Centres which are interesting to teachers.
  • Keen to support international credit mobility.
  • Erasmus British Council  to act as agent. Expansion needed – student .staff exchange.
  • ‘Go International Go Live’ Programme being launched by the British Council.
  • Already 20 universities have signed up and probably all universities will sign up to the programme.

 

CULTURE AND CREATIVITY.- Nick Dodds Executive Director Festivals and Events Ent.

  • Strong cultural links . Institute of Creative Georgia / creative industry strategy.
  • Focus on creative industries.
  • Value of creative sector in UK = £24 Billion.
  • This important sector in UK could be a valuable sector in Georgia.
  • Festival events in UK are increasing in popularity .
  • British Council supports publicity of Arts Centres. and the broad range of festivals which are an important part of the mix.

 

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTH/BIO-MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

  • Collaboration with the British Medical Journal on professional development schemes for health and biomedical professionals.
  • British Medical Journal is not a big organisation. British Council has helped with the translation in Georgia.
  • It is an immediate resource for current information but the challenge is cultural and need to resolve to get it embedded .  BMJ are looking for partners to assist.

 

TWINNING:

  • Each representative of the Twinning Associations gave an account of their recent and future plans .
  • The Georgian representatives thanked all three Twinning associations for their work and were impressed with the amount of activity which took place between the two countries.  It was appreciated how important these links were to Georgia.

 

BRITISH GEORGIAN SOCIETY.

  • Reported details of their current membership, Many events organised but mainly in London . Hope to organise events outside of London so wider membership can attend.
  • Re education – Will  fund  individuals who are BGS members for research in Georgia.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Wardrop Strategic Dialogue at Lancaster House 24th Oct 2017

Thank you Vera for 20 Years Service as NKTA Secretary

Tonight at our general meeting, the members thanked Vera Brown for her dedication and service as secretary for the association. Vera served as Secretary for over 20yrs and  who stood down at the AGM  back in July.

Thank you for your Service to the organisation Vera, your contribution is hugely appreciated.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Thank you Vera for 20 Years Service as NKTA Secretary

A Report on the Visit to Newport by the Mayor of Kutaisi Mr Shota Murgulia, Georgian Ambassador to the UK – Tamar Beruchashvili, Teona Shekiladze, David Tsitaishvili, Vladimer Jghamadze and David Megrelishvili.

Sunday 18th June – Wednesday 21st June 2017

Between Sunday 18th June and Wednesday 21st June Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association along with partners at :

  • Newport City Council
  • Newport Live
  • Coleg Gwent
  • Gol Cymru
  • South Wales Fire and Rescue Services
  • Gwent Police

welcomed a delegation lead by the Mayor of Kutaisi and the Georgian Ambassador to the UK.

Sunday 18th June

The Georgian visitors arrived on the inaugural direct flight from Kutaisi Airport to London.

The Mayoral party was late coming through customs and after hugs and photographs, the guests were transported to Wales. The evening and visit fell in the middle of the hottest spell of weather in Britain for forty years. Sonia (Our Chairperson) was waiting to welcome the visitors on behalf of the Association and then we left our tired friends to recover from their long journey.

Monday 19th June – Visit to Gwent Police and Malpas Road Fire Stations and Cardiff 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary, Sonia and Phil Rogers met our refreshed visitors and they were joined by
Newport West Assembly Member Jayne Bryant. Together, they took the visitors on a
conducted tour of the Gwent Police Headquarters and the Fire & Rescue Station at Malpas.
Both visits were planned with the help of Police Superintendent Glyn Fernquest who organised a fascinating programme which included demonstrations of the latest police and
fire fighting techniques and equipment.

After lunch at The Priory, Rosemary took our friends to the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff where International Officer Al Davies gave them an informative tour of the building. He explained the links that have recently been formed between the Assembly and the Georgian Parliament, links which were instigated by Rosemary when she was the
Assembly’s Presiding Officer.

The visitors enjoyed an afternoon and evening exploring Wales’ capital city before returning to Caerleon. Later that evening the Georgian Ambassador to the UK, H.E. Tamar Beruchshvili and Embassy Counsellor Ekaterine Kokaia arrived at The Priory to participate in the visit by the Mayor and his colleagues

Tuesday 20th June – The Civic Centre, International Sports Village Visit, and Kutaisi Walk  

 

Our Georgian guests were welcomed to Newport Civic Centre by the Mayor and
Mayoress of Newport, Cllr. and Mrs. David Fouweather, Newport City Leader Cllr. Debbie
Wilcox, Deputy Leader Cllr. Mark Whitcutt, Chief Executive Officer Mr Will Godfrey and other senior officers and NKTA member Cllr.Gail Giles. Also present were Coleg Gwent Campus Director and NKTA member Keith Backhouse, Dr. Shirley Egley from the University of South Wales (USW), Trustee of the Wales Football Team’s Official Charity GOL Tim Hartley, Rosemary and Derek Butler, and Sonia our organisation’s chairperson.

The City Council Leader Debbie Wilcox gave a presentation of the management and development of Newport at this time. She was optimistic about the future of the city while stressing that financial restraints are still paramount. Mayor Murgulia and Ambassador Beruchshvili both asked questions and thanked the Leader for her interesting presentation. Sonia added her thanks on behalf of the Association.

Campus Director Keith Backhouse, Dr. Shirley Egley and Tim Hartley then outlined their
plans to strengthen links between the two cities. Keith Backhouse explained that following Coleg Gwent’s participation in the 2016 civic visit to Kutaisi, he and a group of staff and students from the College’s School of Care intend to return in October and provide practical help to the City’s `Bridge Centre ` for children in need.

Tim Hartley reported that GOL’s aim is to help the local community in any country where the Wales International Football Team plays an away match and, as Wales will be
playing in Georgia in October, he and several fellow GOL members, are keen to assist
Coleg Gwent in their project. Dr. Egley explained that she and her colleagues at USW’s
School of Education are exploring ways to rebuild the long established links between the
city’s two Universities now that the University of Wales Newport has been merged into the
USW.

The formal part of the morning ended with a buffet lunch where we were joined by NKTA
Executive members Vera Brown and Cllr. Stephen Marshall. After speeches, exchange of
gifts, and photographs the visit to the Civic Centre concluded with a tour of the Civic Centre’s magnificent murals.

 

 

In the afternoon Rosemary, Derek, Stephen, and Phil took the Georgian visitors to the Newport Sports Village where they were welcomed by Director Steve Ward. Newport’s sports facilities are outstanding and central to the Olympic training of both UK and overseas athletes. Steve guided us round the gymnasium, velodrome, swimming pool and other facilities and explained how they are administered.

The Newport Rugby Club 

Next stop was Newport Rugby Club where Museum Director John Barrett showed the
visitors the gifts that have been donated by Kutaisi Rugby Club over the past 25 years
including a crystal rugby ball donated by KRC during the first ever visit to Kutaisi by
Newport’s civic leaders in 1989. Other gifts to the Newport club include a dagger donated by two KRC trainers and a translator when they were hosted by NRC for four weeks in 1998. Mayor Shota Murgulia formally handed John Barrett a letter addressed to the NRC Club Directors requesting a further strengthening of links between the two Clubs together with a bottle of Georgian wine. In return, John presented the Mayor with a NRC tie.

Kutaisi Walk 

 

There were two more stops during this busy afternoon – first to Kutaisi Walk where the
visitors admired the plaque in Georgian, Welsh and English commemorating the 20th
anniversary of the twinning and then to the city centre to see the recently opened Friars
Walk development.

This was the hottest day in Wales since 1976 and although everyone who participated in the day’s programme enjoyed it, by late afternoon we were all pleased to have a short break before the Farewell Dinner at The Priory that evening.

Tuesday Evening – The Dinner 

The evening was a huge success and started with a drinks reception in the hotel garden.
Those attending included our seven distinguished Georgian guests, the Mayor and Leader
of Newport City Council, Dr. Stephen and Eithne Hunter, Caroline McLachlan, Keith
Backhouse, Peter Landers, Cllr Stephen Marshall, Alice Butler-Bright, Clare Munro, Nerys
Lines, Phil Rogers, Sonia, Rosemary and Derek Butler. Toasts were drunk and speeches made, there was a constant noise of chatter and at the end of the evening we drifted into the garden and continued our friendly discussions long into the night.

Wednesday 21st June – National Assembly Visit and Departing For Home. 

The Ambassador departed for formal discussions at the National Assembly for Wales. The
Association is delighted that the Ambassador chose to visit Newport and we look forward to welcoming her again in the future.
As our ever welcome guests prepared to leave we all agreed that the Mayoral visit had been
both worthwhile and enjoyable and a number of useful contacts had been made that can be built on in future. Finally we waved goodbye to our friends as they set off for a short visit to London before flying home on the 22nd.

 

Writeup by Derek Butler – Edited by Cllr Stephen Marshall

Pics Taken by Cllr Stephen Marshall, Derek Butler, David Megrelishvili and Her Excellency Tamar Beruchashvili

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Report on the Visit to Newport by the Mayor of Kutaisi Mr Shota Murgulia, Georgian Ambassador to the UK – Tamar Beruchashvili, Teona Shekiladze, David Tsitaishvili, Vladimer Jghamadze and David Megrelishvili.

Georgian Studies Day 2016

Members and guests of Georgian Studies Day 2016

Members and guests of Georgian Studies Day 2016

On Thursday 3rd November members of the Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association travelled to London to participate in 29th Annual Georgian Studies Day, held at The University of  Westminster. The day consisted of keynote speakers followed by detailed papers on the theme of Healthcare in Georgia.

The day was led by Dr Tamara Dragadze one of the organisers of the event. The Keynote Address was given by Her Excellency Tamar Beruchasvli the recently appointed Georgian Ambassador in the UK. She took as her theme “Healthcare – One of The State’s Major Priorities.” She firstly emphasised that Georgia is looking to the west and hoping to strengthen ties with both the EU and NATO.

 

15046235_10157807892970370_32281234_n

Her Excellency Tamar Beruchasvli The new Ambassador to the UK, giving her keynote address to those present.

As part of the continuing westernisation of the country the national priorities include overcoming corruption and developing the education and healthcare systems. Most important of the statistics she reported about healthcare is that there is a basic healthcare system which reaches the entire population 90% through the state provided system and 10% who have opted for private insurance.

The funding for the system is state managed but the provision is largely private provision and it is seen as being a true public private partnership with many of the attributes of the best of the west European systems.

Following the Ambassador Professor Amiran Gamkrelidze Director of The National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health gave a wide ranging and comprehensive survey of the work being done in Georgia to address health issues. Progress is being made in many areas and health screening for the more common cancers has become a reality through not on a scale to match the western democracies.

A slightly surprising statistic that he shared was that while there is a good ratio of doctors in the population, there is a shortage of qualified and experienced nurses and this is an area of medical education that needs to be developed.

After the Professor’s overview the rest of the contributions in the pre-Lunch period and the first part of the afternoon session were more technical in context – through no less interesting – covering Cancer Screening, Tuberculosis Management, Occupational Health, Haematology Training, Mental Health Services, Traditional Health And A Fascinating Paper On Bacteriophagic Treatments.

As the afternoon progressed the papers turned to more accessible subjects, Georgian Healing Songs, Spas and Health Resorts and promoting a healthy lifestyle by hiking.

For us the most arresting part of the day came just before we started on the excellent wine provided by the Embassy.

These were the reports by The Twinning Groups from Newcastle Bristol and Newport. Sonia, speaking for us,  gave a very positive report on the civic leaders delegation and the football project. It was illustrated by a slide presentation prepared by Stephen Marshall.

The British Georgian academic and activist community is a small and but very proactive group.

15049746_10157807892710370_2084827707_n

Her Excellency Tamar Beruchasvli (Georgian Ambassador to the UK) and  Sonia Fisher (Chair of NKTA)

15046427_10157807892630370_814084433_n

Participants of Georgian Studies Day including members of NKTA – Sonia Fisher (L) Catherine Philpott and Stephen Marshall (R) with Her Excellency Tamar Beruchasvli (The Georgian Ambassador to the UK)

The Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association, alone among the twinning groups without active financial support from the local authority has much of which to be proud. It was good to feel able to stand alongside the academics and activists and know that we are doing such a good job.

 

The following was written by NKTA Member Peter Landers

Editor’s note

Georgian Studies Day celebrated its 29th annual day event on 3rd November at the University of Westminster, London.

The day celebrates the academic, cultural, and social links between our two countries, as well as listen to the work done by both British and Georgian countries throughout that year.

The day normally focuses on a theme, this year’s theme was ‘Healthcare in Georgia’

Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association is invited to present a report to participants as part of the twinning associations. NKTA is one of 3 twinning associations, the other two being Bristol- Tbilisi and Newcastle – Akhaltsikhe.

For any more info – please do not hesitate to contact us via our Facebook page via https://www.facebook.com/NewportKutaisi/?fref=ts

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Georgian Studies Day 2016

Newport Host Kutaisi Youth Mascots for Wales v Georgia Football

At the beginning of October Nikoloz Rukhadze, Baaka Gibradze and Givi Mukbaniani came to Newport by an invitation given by Gôl Cymru, the Welsh Football Association and hosted by NKTA.

A full programme of activities was planned in Newport, Cardiff and Barry, ending with a visit to London via Windsor, before returning to Kutaisi.
The invitation was to attend the Georgia v Wales 2018 World Football Cup qualifier’s match on Sunday 9th October. They were to act as mascots by escorting the Georgian team on to the field at the start of the game.

Beforehand they experienced a week of many exciting adventures and meetings with Newport Civic representatives and others who live & work in the city of Newport.

 Arriving in Newport after a long journey by air and road their first experience was to receive hospitality at Newport County Football ground to watch a Newport v Swansea game resulting in a score of Newport 1 Swansea City 2.

Next day the Georgian guests toured central Newport

14641950_1870623399827980_4271666867372507653_n14680744_1870623603161293_8894534241995619115_n 14716197_1870624166494570_9194145692516294559_n 14702418_1870623786494608_8494289746522996555_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Newport Cllr. David Atwell & the Mayoress Mrs David Atwell.

14590527_1867038286853158_7423649339963480751_n 14590032_1867037133519940_4586955057128551024_o

14494687_1867037556853231_7771582072739712012_n

Newport’s South Wales Argus newspaper covered the boys’ visit.

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/14784511.Kutaisi_residents_visit_twin_city_of_Newport_ahead_of_Georgia_match/?ref=fbshr

After the visit to the Civic Centre they experienced a Tree Top Adventure at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, a local 5* hotel that gave the visitors this amazing and exciting experience.

 

14495364_1867084570181863_3474062311115345924_n

14611160_1867084523515201_8315978717902950505_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening was spent with Stephen Marshall at Super Bowl playing two games of bowling and two games of Laser Quest.

 14642156_1868653020025018_1887558179862260700_n

On Thursday a visit was made to the Gwent Police Department to meet with Chief Supt. Glyn Fernquest.

14517478_1868626456694341_7459729539534829885_n14650607_1870622119828108_4181916311475490029_n

Following day a visit to Coleg Gwent where they attended a training session with the Newport Dragons Youth Rugby team and later to Usk College’s equestrian centre and small animal department.

14656244_1868623326694654_8389314427493829633_n 14656249_1868623263361327_8268109101266229120_n

That evening a meal with NKTA Chair, Sonia Fisher, Dame Rosemary and Derek Butler and Nerys Hughes at the New Inn, Langstone.

14716297_1870626036494383_2919014198864227137_n

On Saturday, with David Collins of Gôl, the group visited Barry Island, a very popular seaside resort in South Wales.

14690900_1870625909827729_6311488457304282385_n14563550_1868627356694251_3134190457802400593_n

Then Sunday 9th October – the day of the final event – Wales v Georgia match in Cardiff. Givi and Baaka were the official mascot escorts walking on to the pitch escorting the Georgian National team.

Watch what the boys said about the match and visit overall – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsA9tPCXLfc

The Georgian team acknowledged the support of the Georgian visitors. They had spotted the Georgian flags during the warm up and came over to the stand to clap the Georgian boys, to the huge delight of Givi, Baaka and Niko.

14563359_1868863946670592_539497820779428136_n

So WALES 1 GEORGIA 1 it was!

14650462_1868863906670596_1107151559343474841_n 14650455_1868869743336679_8467573075625036430_n

 

BBC  “Good Morning Wales” programme referred to the match on Sunday and how Wales has closer links to Georgia than many people in Wales realise. It mentioned Newport’s links with Kutaisi and featured the comparison with Welsh and Georgian choirs by playing a short recording of a Georgian choir. The caves in Kutaisi were also mentioned. The programme presenter interviewed a Welsh football fan and Georgian football fans, Gôl’s David Collins and Nikoloz Rukhadze. It was very exciting for NKTA, as an Association, to be given such a high profile by the BBC.

 

After the match Neil Dymock, from Gôl, took them to Windsor for an overnight stay but before leaving the next day they visited the castle, travelling on to central London for a sightseeing tour, returning to Kutaisi the day after.

NKTA would like to thank Gôl Cymru for their sponsorship and making this visit possible. Also to everyone involved who gave their support.

Nikoloz Rukhadze, Baaka Gibradze and Givi Mukbaniani will remember their visit forever.

 

Please look at Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association Facebook page where you will find many more photographs from the week’s events.

The past week has been amazing thank you for all who followed the adventures of our Georgian guests…..” from FB Page.

We are always looking for new people to get involved – you don’t have to have visited Georgia, but have an interest in the country, its culture and people – the rest will flow from there.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Newport Host Kutaisi Youth Mascots for Wales v Georgia Football

Travelling to Georgia – A Young Person’s Perspective


My name is Luke Jones, and I work in Newport, South Wales, which is twinned with Kutaisi in Georgia. When I was asked to write about my recent visit to Georgia, I jumped at the opportunity to share my experience of this beautiful nation in the South Caucasus.

13939507_10210145857820965_6141499454171901194_n

Three Days In and Around Tbilisi

 

I visited Georgia in summer 2016 as part of a tour of the three Caucasian nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I feel obliged as a British tourist to comment on the Georgian weather in August before going any further, and it will not surprise anyone from Newport to learn that my partner and I found Tbilisi in mid-August to be swelteringly hot. This in itself did not stop us seeing the best of this ancient, vivid, patchwork city, but it did leave us frustrated at just how easily the locals coped with it as we downed bottles of water compulsively (incidentally, the tap water in Tbilisi is perfectly safe to drink).

The first impression we had of Tbilisi and Georgia was of a confident and outward looking nation, one that is reaching out for links across the world, while still remaining true to its proud established traditions like the Georgian Orthodox Church. Arriving at Europe Square, we first caught a glimpse of the picturesque skyline of Tbilisi, which encapsulates this spirit of marrying old and new in one panorama, featuring the cable car to the citadel at Narikala Fortress; the Peace Bridge; and the Presidential Palace, facing the statue of Vakhtang I Gorgasali, 5th century founder of Tbilisi; and the uniquely Georgian tetra conch spires of the Sioni and Sameba Cathedrals.

Tbilisi is burgeoning in confidence and is increasingly receptive to tourists from around the world – we heard a far wider range of languages spoken in streets like Afkhazi Street than anywhere else in the Caucasus. This increase in visitors carries with it the inevitable benefits and drawbacks; however I am confident that Tbilisi will not lose any of its charm in the future as more and more tourists, for example from Western Europe and North America, choose to visit.

13932761_10210145863141098_1476403125298177016_n

If there is one thing that does capture the essence of Tbilisi – and Georgia more widely – it is spirituality. Georgia is proud of being one of the first Christian nations in the world, and is equally proud of its beautiful and ancient alphabet, something students of grammar will be excited to learn has no genders and no capital letters. The plethora of individual yet interwoven churches in the city reminds the visitor of a time of relics, ritual and reverence. The Sioni Cathedral is a highlight, rebuilt by King David the Builder and legendary home of the cross of St Nino. This church is particularly beautiful at night, lit up like most of the city in a warm and confident yellow ochre. In Tbilisi, we also managed to visit a living mosque and peaceful synagogue, and were welcomed wherever we visited.

Initially when we decided to visit Georgia in 3 days, Gori was always going to be on the list of places to see. As a former student of modern history, I felt an urge to visit the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. However, after speaking to a Georgian online, the ancient city of Mtskheta was recommended to us instead, and I am glad that we did this as part of our whistle-stop 3 days. Mtskheta has it all – stunning views, tourist trading and haggling, and more spirituality. Particularly awe-inspiring were the views of two valleys, carved by wide rivers, winding towards us and meeting at the foot of the mountain topped by the Jvari Monastery, the 6th century church built around the wooden cross of St Nino, a World Heritage Site and place of pilgrimage in Georgia. Not only do rivers meet at Mtskheta, however; we also witnessed the meeting of countless families here, as wedding parties appeared to queue up to receive blessings or nuptials at the holy site. Never have I seen so many wedding dresses in one place on one day – Cardiff on a Saturday night, haven for hen parties, is as nothing by comparison. It was also here that we found that as well as spirituality and respect for custom and tradition, Georgians are not squeamish about heights, straddling walls that teeter over a rocky precipice, and taking photos of the views beyond, with zero qualms. We also learned that the frequent honking of car horns in the Caucasus are not done in anger – it is tradition to make as much noise and fanfare with beeping when a wedding party passes as possible.

13906758_10210145905542158_397836753636321471_n

If you’re visiting Tbilisi and Mtskheta over just a few days, or in a season where it’s just too hot to contemplate a marshrutka (minibus), then I would recommend taking in a hop-on hop-off tour which covers all of the above in one day. This comes with a free bottle of water – something I welcomed and polished off within seconds – and an interesting commentary in English, with enough time to get off the (air-conditioned) bus and explore sights on your own.

As well as spirituality, history plays a big role in any visit to Georgia. I would recommend the National Museum of Georgia for a walk-through of Georgian history with a particular focus on the ancient, but also a moving and intense exhibition about recent history. The former Parliament building and Opera House lie on a street with a fascinating variety of architectural styles and eras represented in stone (the Parliament of Georgia now sits in Kutaisi).

Chiming with full performance at 12noon and 7pm daily, the clock at the Gabriadze puppet theatre in the Old Town is a not-so historical gem that is nevertheless charming and cute, and definitely worth seeing. It looks like something straight out of Harry Potter, and it made me smile.

As young people visiting Georgia, we were pleased after a long day of sight-seeing to wander down some streets in the very centre of the capital, which were buzzing with a lively atmosphere, which seems to have carefully cultivated a sophisticated feel with a cosmopolitan array of bars and restaurants, with a few exceptions. This area is however a bit pricey for Georgia (still however only what you would expect to pay in Wales for a meal or a drink).

13900065_10210145934382879_6751270629932105163_n

For homely and even more reasonably-priced Georgian cooking, I would recommend taking a walk up past the Rike park (be prepared to be out of breath, as the hills are challenging even for a valleys boy like me) and Avlabari metro station, to find some restaurants serving carb-tastic khachapuri, with delicious Georgian wine, sides, water and a dessert, for two people for less than £20. The Georgian wine is something special, with the red wine being the highlight, but the white wines being the novelty, arriving as they are a dark amber colour, due to the uniquely Georgian methods of fermenting grapes, where basically everything goes in to the pot (unsurprisingly, this adds to the strength of Georgian wines).

Getting around Tbilisi, and making connections to other parts of the country like Kutaisi, was an easy business, due to the friendliness and approachability of the locals, even the metro staff. When we left Georgia, we did so via an overnight train, and I was at first disappointed that I would be waving goodbye to Tbilisi after dark, missing the dramatic inner city scenery in full glory. However, even at night the scene is a magnificent one, with Mother Georgia on the horizon as we left and headed south standing as a reminder of Georgian hospitality. Holding out her sword in one hand for enemies, and a cup of wine in her other hand to toast visitors, she raised a strange mix of emotions in me: guilt for only being able to spend 3 days in Georgia, and hope and determination to revisit this dramatic, mountainous and ancient country once again in the future.

13962563_10210145942463081_3345922700635442450_n

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Travelling to Georgia – A Young Person’s Perspective

Chair’s Annual Report 2015-16

The Chair’s Annual Report for the year 2015-16, showcasing a summary of the work the association has done this past year.

    ANNUAL REPORT 2015-2016

Please click the above link in order to view the annual report 2015-16 (file is in PDF format)

Thank you all for such a fantastic year and hope to have an even bigger and better one next year (2016-17)

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Chair’s Annual Report 2015-16