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Ananuri, a 16th- & 17th-century fortress city, near Tbilisi

Described variously as part of Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, Georgia has long been a flash point for cultural and geographical collision. Its culture is ancient and built around a vast variety of influences; its people are a mix of traditional and very modern; and the food is legendary.

Its weather and landscape are a meeting of east and west. Its history is a lengthy list of empires rising and falling, of invasions, skirmishes, massacres and wars. But it is also a nation of survival, and of great natural, cultural and gastronomic beauty.

Georgia is a newly independent nation, and while living conditions are improving, they're not yet at the Western standards desired by the government. Tourist facilities outside of the capital, Tbilisi, are not highly developed and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Despite this, and despite an area in the north of the country being basically off-limits due to separatist control, terrorist activity and an abundance of land mines, Georgia presents a proud face to the world. And as civil unrest calms, the world is beginning to notice.

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