By now, you probably have an inkling that a minimal-assistance challenge like this is not for the faint of heart. You may even have given yourself a quiet pat on the back bathing in the light of your monitor as you sized up your preparatory to-do list, confident in the knowledge that everything that needs to be there, is there. If you’re no rookie, this is almost certainly so and you can stop reading now. But if you’re taking the plunge into explorer mode for the first time, you may want to read on and save yourself some entirely preventable trouble down the line. So first and foremost…
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Get your visa in order
A key trope of travel tips. Thankfully, compared to the neighbouring cluster of -”Stans”, this should be relatively straightforward (most nationalities can get an easy visa on arrival, e-visa or even have visa free access). Still, it won’t hurt to check the small print to stave off surprises. With this under your belt, you are ready to take your first step, and head to…
“Start as you mean to go on”, holds the saying, and never a truer word has been spoken. Here is the single most useful hint that this translates into for you on your very first day of your Caucasian Challenge. Number one, ladies: don’t get lost. Duh. Istanbul teems with busy streets and there are street vendors, and a myriad things to take in on every corner. It’s very easy to lose your bearings. For guys: erm, ditto. Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
Time for a last-minute check
You have a 4000-kilometre (2500 mile) ride ahead of you that takes you through every possible kind of terrain. So make sure your vehicle is up to the challenge. Go over it with a fine toothed comb, as it were: tires, oil, engine coolant, steering, wipers, lights, brakes, the works. And for those of you with fairer complexions sunscreen is a must. You know it makes sense.
Dos and don’ts to bear in mind in Georgia and Armenia
A little forethought will go a long way here too, so here’s what will stand you in good stead to remember during your Caucasian Challenge.
When meeting someone for the first time, shake hands while saying “gamarjoba” (“hello”). Once a relationship warms up some, but not all, Georgians will quickly move to a kiss on the cheek.
When addressing people only close friends or family will usually use first names.
In Georgia, first names may also be used with the word “Batono” (“Sir”) or “Kalbatono” (“Madam”) immediately afterwards, which brings a sense of formality.
Expect to be invited to a home for a meal and try to take up the offer.
If invited to a home, bring flowers, imported sweets or chocolates to the hosts. Always give an odd number of flowers. Even number of flowers are only given at funerals.
The supra is a large dinner party involving many toasts. The toastmaster or “tamada” selects people to make long toasts and for a special toast, a horn full of wine is passed around the table. Never refuse this.
In Georgia, beer is only used to toast the enemy! So don’t toast with beer.
You will be offered second and third helpings and accepting them will please the host. Try therefore to take smaller first portions.
Finish everything on your plate.
Expect lively conversation during the meal.
Social weather in Georgia and Armenia
Also expect warm, tender and attentive hospitality in both countries. They will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Sometimes it may even seem that there is no any personal space in Armenia: people here like to speak face to face looking straight in one’s eyes without losing contact and space between them. Sometimes they may even ask detailed and personal questions that is rather common. Even if this makes you feel a little awkward at first, always show appreciation.
Aaand that’s about all you need to keep you the right side of prudent&polite before you set off on your epic Caucasian Challenge. Ready, steady, enjoy.