Across Continents

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Europe or Asia?

I’d thought it a simple question, one I’d scribbled in my notebook back in eastern Turkey. Republic of Georgia – Europe or Asia? After all, back in Istanbul, cross the Bosporus from the west and you’re in Asia Minor, no doubt about that. But Georgia? Joining my hosts Merab, Kurt and Vadja for dinner in Batumi, it was abundantly clear that Georgians firmly consider themselves to be Europeans.

I thought their reasoning pretty compelling. For one thing, they asserted, they didn’t look like their Asian neighbours, much more like Europeans. And, like much of Europe, they were a predominantly Christian country, the Georgian Orthodox Church the dominant religion. And what I’d seen so far of western Georgia reminded me quite a bit of former Eastern Bloc countries like Serbia and Bulgaria, albeit with an unexpectedly different, sub-tropical, climate. Quite a few palm trees amongst those I’d expect of a more temperate region, finding oranges, kiwis, even tea, growing along the Black Sea coast.

Persuasive cultural arguments for being European, but there was also a political dimension, Georgia keen to join the European Union, aligning itself with the west. As for the geographical dimension, do you draw the line at the Great Caucasus Range that borders the country to the north, or the Lesser Caucasus to the south? Whatever the answer is, I’d don’t remember the continents being so confusing at school. Happy days.

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