"Batumi" Top 5 Page for this destination Batumi by maykal
Batumi Travel Guide: 62 reviews and 166 photos
Arriving from Chokhatauri, I was supposed to meet one of my friend Eka's relatives at the bus station. He knew a foreigner with a big backpack was on his way and had just one day to explore this city, Georgia's premier beach resort and port town, and had agreed to look after me. It sounded like a foolproof plan, but unfortunately the bus driver decided to disgorge his passengers somewhere other than the bus station, so I never met the relative.
However, I did meet three police officers who were more than interested in me and my luggage. "Do you have any alcohol?" asked one. "um...no,", I stammered, just as one of my bags emitted a suspicious clinking sound...just like bottles knocking together in fact! They offered to "look after" my luggage while I went to the beach, but fearing a return to find my bags considerably lighter, I set of to explore Batumi with a large, ungainly rucksack on my back, and a smaller but no less weighty daysack on my front. Not ideal for beach-going, especially in the september heat...
So my one day in Batumi in 2001 was concentrated in a cafe by the beachfront, trying not to get egg on my face while eating an ajaruli khachapuri, and finding a minibus to take me to the border.
Returning to Georgia, it seemed logical to spend a couple of days in Batumi on my way to Tbilisi...after all, I had no choice but to pass through. After the long hours in a bus along Turkey's dismal eastern Black Sea coastal road, it was a relief to cross the border at Sarpi into Georgia. The contrasts were not just noticeable, they were huge. Turkey's coastal road is so good they are building a second one, tarmac all the way. The road from Sarpi to Batumi is somewhat more "rural", potholes the size of small swimming pools. In Turkey, drivers overtake other cars at 100km/h; in Georgia, drivers swerve round cows grazing in the road at a shaky 50km/h. The last town on the Turkish side, Kemalpasha, is as dismal as they come, a hideous sprawl of concrete and tired-looking whores; the villages en route to Batumi were picturesque, attractive houses in lush gardens, farmland and green hills.
My taxi driver attempted conversation with me in an unusual mix of Georgian and German...at the hotel, it was revealed that I could speak Turkish, which made for a comic moment as it transpired that the driver was fluent in Turkish too! In fact, quite a few of Batumi's residents know at least basic Turkish, so this re-introduction to Georgia was not so challenging from a linguistic point of view...still, the Turkish speakers seemed to disappear whenever I needed one, and I was left to sign language and my trusty Georgian conversation book to survive.
Batumi without baggage is a lot more relaxing. I didn't remember the attractive buildings in the older part of town, nor all the streetside cafes. After months of weaving through the heavy and manic Turkish traffic, it was nice to be able to wander through the streets without being threatened by a speeding taxi at every turn.
It was June, but that doesn't mean the sun was out. In fact, for three days, it did nothing more than drizzle, and cloudy was as good as it got. This limited my beachtime activities, although Batumi has enough cafes to retreat into when the rain gets a bit much.
Passing through Batumi again on my way back to Turkey, the sun was strong and Batumi seemed to have more of a holiday atmosphere...so despite being in a bit of a rush to get back to my course in Istanbul, I decided to stay for a couple more days. This time, instead of just a couple of damp visitors in coats cowering under umbrellas, Batumi's beach was packed...school groups playing volleyball, families splashing in the waves, old women selling simichka (sunflower seeds) and khachapuri (cheese pastries)...and music blasted out of the many beach cafes.
Batumi is not all smiles and suntans...a short walk to the south leads past enormous tower blocks seemingly about to collapse, refugees and amputees beg by the roadside throughout the city, and police guarding the local government buildings (Batumi is the capital of the almost-breakaway Republic of Ajara) are not to be messed with. The poverty here is in a different category to that of Africa, for example...there, people have nothing and never had anything. I got the impression that batumi was once a very grand place, but recently has gone very down hill, which makes this type of poverty almost even sadder.
Dilapidated though it is, Batumi makes for a very pleasant base for a couple of days, with plenty of attractions within the city and in the region around it.
- Pros:Relaxed seaside town, acharuli khachapuri
- Cons:Beach (and sea) is dirty in parts
Batumi has more than its fair share of cafes, and most of them serve at least beer. The cafes in the park close with... more travel advice
While waiting for the sun to come out, I took a walk along Batumi's promenade to the south. After a while, the park runs... more travel advice
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