Heading for the Seaside!
Tbilisi to the Georgian coastal retreat of Batumi was an easy 5 hour, 400km ride through the picturesque Georgian countryside.
I reached the coast just south of Poti, Georgia’s largest port city, and headed south. I passed through several coastal tourist towns and stopped off to peek at the beach where I could. The coast was lined with trees for much of its length, and the beaches were generally sandy.
In many places you could ride right up onto the beach itself.
As evening approached the sky grew overcast, so I raced to Batumi before it started raining. I checked into TJ Hostel, a short ride outside Batumi, just before the sun set and watched it with a beer from the lovely view I had from a shared balcony.
One of the things I love about Georgia is the great food, and that night I treated myself to a 3 course dinner at an excellent restaurant down the road – delicious Ostri (beef stew), Lobiani (bean filled bread), chicken salad and local beer – Yum! I was pretty stuffed on completion, but successfully completed the mission.
In the morning the clouds had gone and now I could see the full beauty of Batumi laid out before me from the height of our balcony. I couldn’t wait to take a dip in the Black Sea which looked so beautifully calm and inviting.
I jumped into a taxi for the short ride into town to explore and walked along the coast. Of course there was a Ferris Wheel – obligatory in any seaside town – and plenty of tourist boats offering booze-cruises and fishing trips. I really fancied a booze-cruise, and set my mind on finding someone to do it with me.
The beach was nice, especially if you like pebble beaches, and the Black Sea crystal clear, warm and irresistible.
I liked the fresh, wide-open feel of Batumi. There was plenty of space to do whatever you wanted; there were cycle lanes, tennis courts, table-tennis tables, giant chess boards and even snooker tables lined up all along the promenade.
Just when I thought Batumi couldn’t get any better, I was adopted by two wonderful women from Ukraine – Luba and Natalia.
Luba was into motorbikes and one evening I found out she had been secretly posing for photos with The Tiger. Lucky Tiger!
I took her for a ride and she fell in love with the bike immediately. From then on she would hardly let it out of her sight!
The Good Life
Over the next few days the three of us had a memorable time exploring Batumi and the surrounding area together, enjoying more wine and excellent food.
You cannot come to Georgia and not try the national dish – Khachapuri. Also called ‘heart attack on a plate’, it is a delicious (but heavy) meal of bread filled with cheese, egg and lots of butter. Another famous national dish is Khinkali – steamed dumplings filled with anything and everything you can imagine. Some Georgians have competitions to see how many they can eat (I was pathetic and only managed half a dozen).
One restaurant I definitely recommend is ‘Shemoikhede Genatsvale’, where we had the most delicious local food and wine in a great atmosphere; they even rolled out the Ukrainian flag for Luba and Natalia.
Early Morning Swims
Early every morning the girls would go swimming in the sea at the quiet beach at the bottom of our road, and every morning they insisted I accompany them. This was great for me, because I’m rubbish at getting out of bed in the morning, and this gave me no alternative but to do so.
Luba always made a pot of fresh coffee to take down with us (along with their essential, life-saving Snickers Bars), which added an extra nice touch to the morning routine.
Soon I found myself almost a kept man, with breakfast and lunch being made for me daily (Ukrainian style), and great company for fun evenings out. I must admit, I found it very hard to find a reason to leave, and ended up staying a week in blissful harmony. I would certainly recommend two attractive Ukrainian women for any physical or mental ailment you may be suffering from 😉
Like the hostel in Tbilisi, TJ Hostel had a wealth of fresh fruit growing everywhere, particularly fresh figs and grapes. Everyday Luba would run up the fig tree and throw down handfuls of delicious fresh figs to accompany our meals. It seemed that everything was easy to grow in Georgia, and all down the road to the beach we passed kiwi, grapes, oranges, lemons, limes, walnuts, pomegranates and cornelian cherries (or dogwood, which I’d never tried before, and took some getting used to!)
Every night we would invariably watch the sun set over the Black Sea from our balcony, and they just kept getting better.
Because Batumi enjoys a humid sub-tropical climate – warm with lots of rain – they have one of the best and most varied Botanical Gardens I have ever visited. Thinking I was not really a flower kind of guy, my Ukrainian minders dragged me along one day, and in the end I was really pleased I went!
If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss it. The gardens consists of plants & flowers from all over the world and has them arranged in 9 different sectors, including Caucasian, East Asia, Australia, North & South America, the Himalayas and Mediterranean (tip: it’s easy to get lost!).
Mtirala National Park
Another trip well worth doing is Mtirala National Park, which lies 25km outside Batumi in the Adjara Mountains. Natalia caught a taxi with some other hostel guests, and Luba bravely perched on the back of her beloved Tiger. The last 10km or so was over a very rocky (and steep in places) track, but both Luba and The Tiger coped well and survived to live another day (just) 😉
As well as a very pleasant place to amble around, Mtirala National Park had a couple of nice surprises, the first of which was an incredibly beautiful waterfall with a large plunge pool at the bottom perfect for swimming (which we needed after the hot climb up to see it).
The second surprise was the delicious pan-fried fresh trout, straight from the river, that the local park restaurant cooked up for us, along with several other delicious dishes (and a touch of wine, of course).
Not forgetting about the booze cruise, one evening I dragged the girls down into town and onto a boat for a cruise up and down the coast. We managed to grab the sunset cruise, and so had the added bonus of watching the sun go down.
The boat had a bar onboard, and somehow I ended up with a bottle of Georgian Champagne, which always goes down well.
Then we relaxed and watched the colourful array of dazzling lights switch on up and down the Batumi seafront as the ship slowly cruised back into port. What else could you wish for?
Well, I actually wished for one more thing – a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel!
As usual, all too soon the time came to move on; the girls moved onto Armenia and I was going south into Turkey. But that’s part of the wonder of traveling – good friendships made all over the world and shared memories that create a special bond.