Georgia's Black (Sea) Beauty

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May 26th 2012
Published: April 16th 2018
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The sad factor was that upon announcing I was set to visit Georgia on holiday, it led to the inevitable conclusion that I was heading for a US State. Well, no disrespect to the well-intentioned inhabitants of Georgia USA, but the former Soviet state of Georgia needed to be put on the map and be experienced for all it offered, and the first port of call on this itinerary was the seaside town of Batumi, Georgia's star turn when it comes to their take on coastal resorts. Staying fairly centrally at the Dzveli Batumi guest house was a strategy, since a central base is a wise move, even in a town as compact as Batumi, and the architectural and colourful appeal of the surrounding neighbourhood proved to be the first 'validates-the-trek' plus point. Batumi is not, let it be known, blessed with sandy, idyllic beaches, and the beaches are of the pebbly variety, suggesting that the obvious effort which has gone into the seaside promenade development here is perhaps an attempt to add further elements of appeal to a beach zone not to everyone's tastes. The ferris wheel offers great views of the town proper, and the nearby alphabet tower suggests that Georgian script is unique, if somehow illegible to the casual visitor. As with everywhere else in Georgia, the shopping culture seemed to be heavily focused on market trading, such as the expansive Khopa bazaar, which, for my money, made for a refreshing change from mall culture galore, and upmarket shopping zones which tend to needlessly dent a lower-budget traveller's wallet. One fine spectacle to witness when visiting Batumi is the dancing fountains show on an evening time along the beach promenade (so why oh why did this traveller never see the show?), but the fountain and water theme prevails elsewhere in the city too (the dolphinarium, the park with mini fountains, etc). Day trips from Batumi exist in a relatively generous measure, and for myself, this entailed a short hop south to the Turkish / Georgian border (more of a claim-to-fame thing than a major attraction), and a trip up into the Adjara mountains and a village by the name of Khulo, which is a good enough stop-off point at which to get a feel for the type of contours and vegetation which the landscape is typical of. As an introduction to Georgia, Batumi proved that I was investigating a nation which has a fair amount more substance than you would have suspected, and proof that indeed the 'quiet ones are the ones to watch'. However Batumi chooses to develop, its centrepieces, for my money, will always remain buildings of architectural splendour which inject the town's atmosphere with those stimulating 'flashes of brilliance', and somehow serve as a means of elevating the more 'rough and ready' areas of town into one bite-sized and spiriting whole.

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