Home > georgia > Batumi – Georgia’s Black Sea Resort – 8/17-18/09

Batumi – Georgia’s Black Sea Resort – 8/17-18/09

The driving in Turkey required substantial adaptation. The driving in Georgia required substantial rewiring of the brain. Cows, pigs, geece, donkeys constantly wandered onto the road. If in Turkey you occasionally needed to swerve onto oncoming traffic to pass a slow car, driving on the opposite side of the road indefinitely and inexplicably is common practice in Georgia.

All of the street signs in Georgia, when they exist, are written in a cryptic Georgian script and Google Maps are absent for the entire country. Our navigation system switched to one of word of mouth, and I would frequently lean out or hop out of the car to ask the locals for directions. Even more so than the Balkans my Russian came in handy, and the people I asked were among the friendliest I have met. They responded eagerly, even so much as walking several blocks out of their way to point out the corner alley of the hotel where we would be staying. Moreover, their conversation was delightfully laced with humor.

Draft beer for sale in various containers, from recycled soda bottles to plastic bags, whatever is more convenient for you to carry, and lots of delicious looking smoked or dried fish.

The streets of Batumi were overgrowing with vines, which sprouted from the cracks in the pavement, climb up walls to provided shade and fruit to balconies several stories high, would follow an electrical wire across the street and return to the pavement again.

When we booked a room at a small smoked out pension, I told the hosts the story of our experiences at the border. They were surprised. We are a “zero corruption country” they said. Who were these “pederasts” at the border? If you took video, you should send it immediately to the border commissioner to send these people to prison.

Batumi is the primary Georgian resort town on the black sea. It’s heyday came in the early 20th century when it was a primary port for oil exports providing 1/2 of the world’s oil and was a recepient of investments and early oil production innovations from the likes of Alfred Nobel and the Rothchilds. The old city has an imperial charm, but it’s current state is one of dilapidation and looks like one big construction zone. Streets are dug up. There are feces floating in exposed manholes. There was an initially puzzling sign at the entrance of the city.IMG_2314

We later learned that this was a development project which had been underway for several years and slated to go on for another two.

Navigating these potholes and webs of one way streets was a startling number of fancy cars, mostly black Mercedes and black sleek Toyota Land Cruisers. A lot of these fancy cars were in poor shape, missing bumpers, broken headlights, loud or absent exhaust systems. Concrete was being cut with masonry dust tainting the air, exposed rebar, crumbling buildings, etc.

Dodging the cars and the envoronmental hazards were a mery mixture of Georgians, Russians and Armenians which showed no indication that anything was out of the ordinary. They went about their business buying 60 cent draft beers from the huge wooden casks, or Kvas, or seeds and Khachapuri from the stands staffed by old large mustached ladies that Tristan kept mistaking for Jabba the Hut.

The main activity of the town was on the beach side prominade which was a overflowing with merry makers of all ages consuming popcorn, cotton candy, khatchapuri and lining up to all sorts of nighcluby disco establishments with bad music, built into the shapes of ships or cordoned off VIP resorts, guarded by bouncers in black clothes and built like 300 pound hulking humpty dumpties. Traditionally I have heard this body shape described as “bears” but this would imply a little bit more articulation of the limbs.

Something unusual caught my eye and I first did not believe it. One of the perplexing border helpers was standing right there on the bordwalk, chowing down handfulls of popcorn in glazed eye stuppor. This time, I could use my Russian.

“Hello. You remember me?”

“Da.”

“What do you do for work?”

“Ahhrrr.”

“Why were you asking us for money at the border?”

“Ahhrrrr.”

“I appreciate your concern for us and your offers to reduce the number of problems at the border.”

“Ahhrrr…”

I snapped more pictures of him directly, and took a video of that interaction also. “Well, be well, can you recommend a restaurant for us to go to with cheap traditional food?” IMG_2323He pointed and we walked in the opposite direction. Later I snapped photos of him leering at some candy floss.

Over dinner we were recommended to check out the disco in the basement of the Intourist Hotel “if you want to meet some girls” and just for the hell of it we actually went to check it out. The parking lot of the hotel was a itself a construction site, an off road sand lot, and it had the most peculiar scene we had seen so far. About a dozen black Landcruisers with tinted windows were parked, with their doors open. Inside was a border humpty dumpty in each seat and an M16 resting across his lap. Milling about were mean looking men with scowling expressions, some of which wore camo pants. Tristan encouraged me to ask what was going on and the conversation went something like this:

“Hello, what are all of these armed men for?”

“What armed men?”

“Is there anything happening that brings you here?”

“No, there is nothing special.”

“If there is nothing special, is it always like this?”

“Sometimes it is like this, and sometimes it is not like this.”

“Thank you very much, I think I understand everything now.”

There was a 10 GEL cover for the disco so we decided that I should go inside alone to see if the price was worth paying. I cleared a metal detector, was patted down, and went through a dimly lit smokey basement into a neon lit room. There were not more than a dozen guests and about as many burly beasts. The guests were all women. I wouldn’t call them attractive, and as I walked by they glanced up from their coctails, twirled round in their bar stools, shifting their posture from cross legged to something slightly more revealing and rolling their facial expressions from one kind of bored to another. I understood what the restaurant proprietor meant about “meeting girls” and I left the disco quite soon, thanking the guards for the gratis admission and telling Hari and Tristan that we probably wouldn’t be coming back.

We wound down at a cozier cafes with glorious artifacts of silver and gold refering back to the imperial charm of this seaside town.

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