Batumi is pleasant confusion. It’s like nowhere I have been but reminiscent of many places, including places from my imagination, places I hope to go and places I know about with little desire to go.
We are staying in a hostel. We rarely stay at hostels anywhere in the world. The hostel guests do not fit my presumed stereotypes. They are not 18 year olds on a gap year. Travellers from all over the world, different modes of travel, different budgets, different ages. No one is particularly young, all are well experienced, well travelled. Like us many have come to apply for visas to Azerbaijan…..or…..unlike us….for Iran. Unlike else where there is apparently no need to apply and pay for a letter of invitation to be granted a visa. So we wait….eat, drink, explore, converse, with our fingers crossed for that all important stamp to be issued when we return to the consulate tomorrow. 3 working days plus the weekend waiting in Batumi….although it appears possible the consulate will be out to breakfast….lunch….when we turn expectantly up, bike packed and ready to
depart on our next adventure.
Batumi is a Georgian Black Sea resort that reminds me of a shinier version of Blackpool, UK….Blackpool a place I do not recommend staying overnight but that must be visited on a day trip at least once…..or maybe Batumi is like a mini Vegas…..well in my imaginings as I have not been, nor desire to go there.
Batumi has a wealth of casinos to go with their 5 star international hotels. Also a wealth of glass, steel, plastic, rather cutting edge architectural buildings….and monstrosities…..many empty so we are unsure if their construction is incomplete. One such building, riding high above the city, glass, steel and white panels with a gold ferris wheel, at bit like 8 capsules from the London eye, protrudes from one corner…..unused….stationary….curious. Like a film set.
McDonald’s shares its space with a petrol station, not very pedestrian, minimalist garden of water and pebbles, inside very modern and slick, hard, expensive surfaces tastefully built upon several levels…..And elsewhere ….there is a chacha fountain. Free running Georgian alcoholic spirit, the fountain that flows for 10 minutes at 7pm every night…..outdoor bars, pool tables, ping pong……art…..sculptures everywhere. Some real tack, disastrously kitsch and some top notch, aesthetically beautiful or mind challenging objects. A dancing water fountain, huge, spurting water many meters into the air in time to music…well….sort of….music blaring in a square close to the sea front.
Behind the glitz is a run down, quaint and not so run down area that brings one back to the reality I like…..a new reality of what is Georgian, what is unfamiliar, not fantasy built to entertain and escape. Modern Georgian and traditional cuisine, bars, homes, people, Batumi has it all.
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