Now in a new century I return to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, to hunt down the developing story. Also to ask one crucial question: Can a small, hidden nation retain its character in the modern age without becoming a pastiche of itself?
So far Georgia has had some success although the cost has been high. For it has to be said that like their mountains, Georgians also have a taste for extremes. When independence from the Soviet Union arrived in 1991, it brought with it a post-Soviet disaster. Between 1992-94 civil war transformed Georgia from the richest Soviet Republic to one of the poorest. Infrastructure collapsed, tourists and investors fled, electricity died, factories and resorts were abandoned. The material paradise ended dramatically, like most things in the Caucasus. It was a heartbreaking experience for me and many of my friends who watched the cycle of history for this nation of 5,000,000 turn 180 degrees.
But not for the first time. Like the looming, snow-capped Caucasus, the lessons of history are never far away down here.
Since then rebuilding has been slow but steady.