Georgia is known as the Peach State, but it's also the country's top producer of pecans, peanuts, and vidalia onions. The state's onions are considered some of the sweetest in the world.Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, is a former Soviet republic that’s home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. It’s famous for Vardzia, a sprawling cave monastery dating to the 12th century, and the ancient wine-growing region Kakheti. The capital, Tbilisi, is known for the diverse architecture and mazelike, cobblestone streets of its old town.
Georgia may be south of the Carolinas, but it shares a lot of common ties, culture, and style. It’s a gracious southern state loaded with important history that runs from the first colonies through the Civil War and into the modern era of Civil Rights. Grand old cities like Savannah embody this southern charm, while the mountainous north has more of an Appalachian, folksy vibe. No matter where you go in Georgia, however, you can expect a warm welcome.
Without a doubt, the finest time of year throughout Georgia is the fall. Temperatures are a wonderfully crisp 60°F to 70°F from the end of September until the middle of November. Very little rain falls during this season, ensuring plenty of blue skies to go with the amazing change of color from all the hardwood trees in the state.
Spring is just as lovely, too, when the dogwoods and azaleas bloom between April and May. The temperatures are a balmy 75°F to 80°F, with just enough spring showers to freshen up the grass and get the trees and bushes in bloom again. As a bonus, spring is also one of the low seasons for tourism so there are often great deals on hotels right through to the beginning of June.
Fall can be a little crowded because the weather is so fine, but linger into the beginning of winter and room rates drop again. In reality, any time of year is good for a trip to Georgia. You can often get a week of sunny 65°F days in December at the beach. It’s just a matter of luck.
Currency: Georgian lari
Official language: Georgian
In 1731, Georgia was established to serve as a buffer between the Spanish territory of Florida and the booming tobacco state of South Carolina. The English king commanded General James Edward Oglethorpe to create a new colony modeled after England, but without Catholicism, slaves, or liquor. It wasn’t until the first African slaves arrived in 1750 that Georgia’s economy began to thrive.
The colony quickly divided into two distinct regions. The eastern coast lowlands prospered with huge rice, tobacco, cotton, and indigo plantations that helped create the wealthy towns of Savannah and Charlestown. The farmers who did not own slaves moved inland to the hills. They remained poor and were called ‘up country’ folk by the richer ‘low country’ folk along the shorelines.
The residents of Georgia sided with the patriots to declare war on the English. They gave General Cornwallis, the British commander, a tough time in Charlestown by building Fort Moultrie to protect the valuable harbor. In the years that followed independence, African slaves did almost all of the labor on Georgian plantations. That changed in 1793 when Georgian Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin outside of Savannah. Huge plantations gave way to small farms with fewer slaves.
Georgia was one of the first states to secede from the Union in 1861. The Civil War that resulted was fought hard in Georgia. Union General Sherman’s famous March to the Sea cut a swath of devastation across the central and eastern regions, burning Atlanta to the ground and taking Savannah soon after. The destruction and devastation was immense and can still be relived today in one of the many historical museums or monuments.
Racial tension and segregation became a normal way of life in Georgia after the Civil War. Though most of the violence of the Civil Rights Movement happened in neighboring states, Georgia was slow to accept change. It wasn’t until native Jimmy Carter became President that Georgia truly began to embrace equality. Today, Atlanta is one of the country’s most popular and successful cities for African Americans, which make up more than half the city’s population.
Southern culture runs deep in Georgia. Major events like slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement have all shaped the modern face of this state’s people. They are typically very religious and known for their good manners and hospitality.
Much of Georgia’s economy comes from forestry, and its cuisine has many local flavors such as grits, peaches, cornbread, and seafood. Georgia has always played a starring role in American pop culture as a representative of the South. From Gone with the Wind to Sherman’s March through Atlanta, there is a certain romanticism about the low country region. Georgia has also birthed some impressive musical talent over the years, including Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, and rockers R.E.M.
In general, Georgia enjoys mild weather all year round. The average annual temperature in Atlanta is around 70°F. Summers tend to be hot and humid throughout most of the state, with daytime highs hovering in the upper 80’s (°F) and into the low 90’s (°F) from June to August. In the mountains, the temperatures are about 5 to 10°F cooler all year round. Rain falls frequently in summer and throughout the whole year in general.
Winters are pleasantly mild with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F. In the mountains, it can be a bit colder with even an occasional snowfall. Spring and fall are both excellent seasons in Georgia, with temperatures sticking in the comfortable 70°F range and lots of pretty scenery.
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter Georgia generally must first obtain a Georgian visa, which is placed in the traveler's passport (a visa blank) or is issued electronically (electronic visa).
While you can tour the country by bus or rent a car from Avis or Europcar, it's a better idea to book a driver through a reliable outfitter. The mountain roads are steep, the local drivers unpredictable, and the wine plentiful. Plus, most visitors find Georgian, which has no roots in any language spoken outside of the area, impenetrable—and Russian is more commonly used as a second language than English is, especially among people over 30.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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