Batumi, Georgia: Quirky and Welcoming

Batumi situated on the Black Sea coast is the second largest city of Georgia by population. A rather unique and colorful town, its economy relies heavily on tourism and gambling and it is sometimes called the Vegas of the East. The main strip is lined with skyscrapers who’s brightly lit facades come alive in the evening giving it a definite ‘Vegas-y’ feel. There is a multitude of public sculptures and architecturally interesting buildings dotting the city. We had been travelling across Turkey the previous couple of weeks (mid to end of December 2022), and decided to cross over to Georgia using the Hopa-Sarpi border crossing. We wanted to experience the Orthodox Christmas which falls on Jan 7.

The crossing was relatively painless, we found a gentleman with a cart who would carry our luggage all the way across and though immigration checks to the other side, one has to bargain about the price, there is also some sort of extortion racket where the porters have to pay shady characters a commission for each trip. One across we got to Batumi (about 20 minutes) via a cab (he took 50GEL about 20 USD) one can take a bus for perhaps 5 GEL if so inclined. We checked into the Orbi City Twin Towers, these are apartments some of which are up for short term rental. The place was very clean and the staff extremely helpful. We took the elevator to a bar and restaurant on site on the 42nd floor, the food was good albeit a little pricey. After a little rest we went for an evening stroll to explore the area, the area was buzzing with people out and about, saw some rather unique buildings brightly lit reminiscent of Vegas. I would specially like to mention the McDonald’s that looks like a space ship and the Marriott hotel. We had a lovely dinner at Cafe Adjara, we got our first taste of Adjarian Khachapuri and Khinkali which we loved, walked back to the hotel and called it a day.

The next morning we went out exploring the city. Once again the unique architecture was what caught our eye, that and the clash between the Soviet Style building (in the Brutalist tradition) and very modern style of the newer construction. It seems the city is peppered with little cafes and restaurants most of which serve excellent and affordable fare. Walking past the beautiful campus of Batumi State University , we took a stroll through the 6th of May Park. By luck we stumbled upon Kiziki Restaurant for lunch, it was packed with locals which is a really good sign, the food did not disappoint and was amazing, we ordered the Lobio and Khinkali with some local wines, Georgians pride themselves on the country being the ‘Cradle of wine making‘. There was a carnival going on in the park, so we doubled back there, D tried a few of the rides which she thoroughly enjoyed. Ture to being a tourist we rented a boat (the price was steep 50 GEL for 30 min) but the ride around Nuri lake is very nice and sort of makes this one of those tourist traps worth falling into. We got a nice bottle of wine and had left over khinkali and khachapuri for dinner.

The next day was all about exploring the Batumi Boulevard. This is a 4 mile stretch of seafront recreational area, featuring cafes, carnivals, gardens, art installations and much more. First conceived over a century ago, the promenade has developed over the years and is now a must go to place for anyone visiting Batumi and a regular place to hang out for the locals. Some highlights from this walk include the Dancing fountain with its wonderfully synchronized show, Batumi Lighthouse, Alphabetic Tower (this has the Georgian Alphabet written on it in the pattern of DNA) and the moving statue of Ali and Nino (characters based on a local epic). Walking all the way from one end of the Boulevard is a little tiring, there are e-scooters and bicycles available for rent along the way. We decided to walk there and back, stopping periodically to take in the sights. The various street artists really bring the place to life. We were quite tired having walked on and off for around 4 hours, we headed to dinner at a nearby seafront restaurant Adjaruli Sakhli, besides the already tried dishes we ordered Chicken Shkmeruli, the restaurant has a nice ambience but the staff seemed overwhelmed (perhaps as it was quite near Christmas) and the food was just ok.

The next morning it was time to leave for Tbilisi, I had booked a car through Eurocar, when I reached Batumi Airport to pick up my vehicle, the counter was closed and no one had any idea when they would open. Most of the older generation in Georgia are also fluent in Russian in addition to Georgian, but do not speak English (the younger people are shifting to English instead of Russian) so I had to rely on google translate. Thankfully I had retained the cab driver who was kind enough to call up the company and a car was then sent to the airport, I signed the paperwork in the parking lot, this seems to be the norm there. It was time to say goodbye to Batumi, and hit the road. I hope to visit again and explore more of this wonderful and quirky city soon.

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