The first time I got to Batumi I was in a terrible haze.
I had been sitting in a minibus (so-called Marshrutka), on my own, awkwardly stuck between all sorts of people, feeling sort of lost but also amused by the whole situation. The driver had turned on the latest Russian hits and blue “party-lighting”, and due to his style of driving I was glad I could not see through the windows.
But this strange experience only doubled my excitement, as I was about to enter the city I had only yet seen the amazing skyline of from Kobuleti Beach. For the first time in my life, I was alone in Georgia, slightly unsure of where I was going, having just jumped on the next best bus going in the right direction.
I arrived at “Sabagiro”, Batumi’s cable car and unofficial bus stop and stumbled out of the bus, not being quite sure whether I was at the right station. But with the help of a friendly, English speaking taxi driver, who reassured me that I was in fact in Batumi, I even managed to pay my fee.
That’s the thing about Georgians, any signal of a foreigner having trouble and they will jump to help.
After my friends eventually picked me up (and an awkward conversation about the taxi driver’s grandchildren), it was already getting dark and the streets were filling up with people. As the city was slowly awaking, attractions and lights being turned on, we relaxed in the taxi and suddenly found everything very hilarious.
Following a few days of eating Shawarma and Adjaruli Khachapuri, we walked to the centre of the city. Batumi Boulevard is the place to be after a long day of swimming and doing nothing. Imagine a year-round fair with all the typical attractions: a ferris wheel, carousels, cotton candy, swings and playgrounds. Add bars by the beach, clubs, street musicians, beautiful fountains and fancy restaurants and you get Batumi. What surprised me was that it is not uncommon for families with small children to be out until, maybe, 11 pm and that the city was practically asleep in the afternoon. The reason for this obviously is the heat, summer temperatures are likely to reach up to 40°C, which makes it even more attractive to simply stay in bed all day unless you are going to swim.
Shopping is surprisingly easy and comfortable in Batumi as much as it is cheap (especially for foreigners). Take a walk on the centre’s streets on a particularly cool afternoon or in the evening and look out for beach dresses, your new favourite pair of sandals or the fake version of a handbag you’ve always been dreaming of.
Georgia’s tourism industry is on the rise and the place to experience that is Batumi. So I advise you to find a local guesthouse in the surrounding villages, pack your swimsuit and let the laid-back but occasionally very luxurious atmosphere carry you away.