The drive to Batumi only took about 25 minutes. The coastline was beautiful – green densely forested hills with small seaside resorts and a magnificent looking sea.
Batumi was once a very wealthy city in Imperial Russia, as it sat at the terminus of a railway to Baku, centre of the oil industry. Time has taken its toll – much of it is old and decrepit as evidenced by a cathedral that hasn’t seen a mass for decades and sits forlornly in a square of unmowed grass. Huge soviet style apartment blocks dot the skyline. But Batumi also has lots of class – it has magnificent buildings in the city center, many of which have or are receiving a facelift. The facelift means that much of a city is a huge mess – streets have been torn up and it is very dusty – but no doubt it will look spectacular when it’s all done. Batumi is Georgia’s main holiday resort today – and there are a couple of high-end hotels as well. We were dropped at our hotel – the L Bakuri – not high-end at all – but near the city centre and not far from the beach. When we entered the lobby we quickly learned that the ani smoking campaign has not reached Georgia yet – the manager was happily smoking away behind the reception desk. I should have known this would be the case – the Georgian Airlines website does not hide the fact that smoking is allowed on its flights!
It was also clear that only one person in the hotel spoke any English, and he was summoned every time we had to ask a question. Our room though was pretty comfortable though – we had a suite, with good air conditioning and a balcony, so the kids had their own room and we had ours. Still, the L Bakuri is a simple hotel and so we quickly changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the beach.
Batumi beach is magnificent from far – from close up though it is less impressive – no sand but rather a pebble beach. Still, the place was packed with people – lying on loungers or just on their towels. We went to swim but the pebbles sloped downwards rapidly and the waves crashed into them very forcefully. Gal was frightened and refused to swim so I took the boys. As we went into the water we were immediately swept ff our feet by a big wave and Eitan was swept from my hands – I shouted to nearby swimmers to grab him and while they probably didn’t understand me they figured out very quickly what to do – they grabbed and held him while I found my feet and I took the boys out. After that we found a different spot that was safer but nevertheless, Batumi beach is dangerous with little kids.
Next to the beach is a magnificent avenue of trees and plants , almost like a botanical garden, laid out by the Russians in the late 1800’s. It is really beautiful. Towering above is a ferris wheel, and I took the kids on a great ride – the view from the top of the wheel was fantastic – the gardens, the sea, and the tower of the new Sheraton. Batumi does have some top end hotels, but high-end accommodation, when available, is very expensive in Georgia. They are almost certainly catering to Russian millionaires.
Next to the ferris wheel the kids had fun driving kid size cars and eating hot chips, made there and then on the spot in a little machine filled with oil. We then spent some very pleasant hours walking through the gardens which as night fell became more and more packed with holidaymakers. Batumi at night is great – fountains everywhere, and monumental buildings are lit up with all colours of spotlights.
Our only problem was finding a place to eat – we wandered far from the tourist hub and eventually found a small restaurant where one other table was occupied by a French couple. We tried to order but it was impossible – the proprietor spoke no English and the menu was in Georgian, so he beckoned to me to come into the kitchen, opened up the fridge and I pointed to what I thought we would eat. – potatoes! I also ordered a few Adjarian khachapuris – the khachapuri is the national snack of Georgia – a kind of cheese pie, and Batumi is the capital of the Adjara region. We waited in anticipation for our meal, but when the food came we found it to be almost inedible – the salad had way too much salt and the khachapuris each had a pound of butter and a raw egg floating on top. The potatoes were great and disappeared in a moment, while the other food stayed on the table. We donated most of it to the French couple next to us. As for the bottle of wine we ordered – it sat unopened until after about twenty minutes we pleaded with the owner to open it for us. It, at least, was excellent.
After “dinner”, it was back to our hotel – a long and exciting day, (too exciting at the beach though). But all’s well that ends well!
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