Compared to the rest of GEORGIA, the largest of the Southern states, the bright lights of its capital Atlanta are a wild aberration. Apart from some beaches and towns on the highly indented coastline, this rural state is composed of slow, easy-going settlements where the best, and sometimes the only, way to enjoy your time is to sip iced tea and have a chat on the porch.
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Settlement in Georgia, the thirteenth British colony (named after King George II), started in 1733 at Savannah, intended as a haven of Christian principles for poor Britons, with both alcohol and slavery banned. However, under pressure from planters, slavery was introduced in 1752 and by the time of the Civil War almost half the population were African slaves. Little fighting took place on Georgia soil until Sherman’s troops advanced from Tennessee, burned Atlanta to the ground, and, in the infamous “March to the Sea”, laid waste to all property on the way to the coast.
Today, bustling Atlanta stands as the unofficial capital of the South. The city where Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was born, preached and is buried bears little relation to Gone With the Wind stereotypes and its forward-thinking energy is upheld as a role model for the “New South”. The state’s main tourist destination, though, is the coast, stretching south from beautiful old Savannah via the sea islands to the semitropical Okefenokee Swamp, inland near Florida. In the northeast, the Appalachian foothills are fetching in autumn, while the college town of Athens is known for its offbeat rock heroes R.E.M. and the B-52s.
Appealing ATHENS, almost seventy miles east of Atlanta, is home to the 30,000-plus students of the University of Georgia and has a liberal feel. Its compact downtown, north of campus, is alive with clubs, bars, restaurants, galleries and – of course – record stores; Broad Street in particular is lined with arty shops. The town is probably best known as the home of rock groups such as R.E.M., the B-52s and Widespread Panic, and remains one of the top college music towns in the nation.