Batumi, Georgia: KKK - Khinkali, Kebab, Khachapuri

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Georgia  , Ajara,
Thursday, September 19, 2013

We arrived to the promise of sunshine and left to droplets falling. I'm beginning to see a reoccurring theme which needs to cease. At least we had a few good days when we first arrived to enjoy the beach which is exactly what we did. Getting off the boat at Poti and into a bus was straightforward. From what we saw there is not an awful lot in Poti bar dusty streets and people pushing wheelbarrows around a massive roundabout so we were pleased to get away.

The 1 1/2 hr drive to Batumi was anything but safe starting first with a massively cracked window and second the mad driver who seemed to firmly believe that it was ok to overtake in front of oncoming vehicles. At least we weren't suffering from hangovers otherwise his beaten up mini bus might have taken on a new shade of hiddeous.

Whizzing along the coast and through the lush tropical terrain in the hills reminded me of the drive to Kandy in Sri Lanka, minus the tea plantations. Houses wrapped in vines clung to hillsides and old women hobbled about their duties or sat at roadside market stalls selling fruit and fish whilst cows roamed freely along the road, in gardens or grazed at the front of Police Headquarters.

Not surprisingly we arrived in Batumi ahead of schedule, piled off the bus and into a taxi. The cost of the bus for 1 1/2 hrs was 6 GEL. The cost of the taxi to drive us, what we later found to be a few hundred metres, was 5 GEL. Remind me to remove the tattoo on my forehead which says "Tourist, please feel free to rip me off".

Referring to every travellers' trusty survival guide, The Lonely Planet, we drove off towards our chosen hostel only to find it no longer existed and in fact had closed down three years ago. Not bad going considering our edition of the LP was written in 2012. Moving onto hostel number two saw us drive around in circles and be charged a further 5 GEL but at least we found it. Climbing out of the taxi and seeing the metal gate and stone steps leading up to a gaping hole my first words to Sam were "Where have you brought me?".

Things proceeded to get a little better when introduced to the staff (this would soon change) but took a slight nosedive on seeing the discoloured mattresses and bunk beds on the landing but then Sam did warn me not to expect too much. My response to their question of how many nights came out quick as lightening "one". Thankfully the private room we managed to secure was slightly nicer than the dorm landing.

We had chosen to stop in the seaside town for a few reasons but our main one was to acquire our Azerbaijan VISA which we hoped to obtain in one day. Wrong. On getting to the Consulate first thing Friday we were simply told one day not possible, come back Tuesday. Great. So much for my one night.

Taking advantage of the sunshine we ambled along the beachfront boulevard and through the winding streets. The first thing to strike us was the total contrast of buildings. It was as if the modern, almost futuristic, new builds were sprouting from the blossoms of wisteria clinging onto Batumi's crumbling past. Opposite a patchwork house made of stone, wood and metal now stood a shiny new piazza. Flaking paint turned to mirror coloured glass. Rickety wooden restaurant furniture gave way to beach chic lounges. It's a place where no truer are the words "out with the old and in with the new".

On the sunny days we rented Borris type bikes and rode along the coast from one end of town to the other. Driven by the knowledge McDonalds was located somewhere at the end of the boulevard we rode until we found the gleaming spaceship of a building rising up from the street. The food can only ever be on par with average but the building was definitely worth the effort.

A lot of the beach bars had shut up shop for the season but there were a few still open so we hired sun lounges and spent one afternoon sipping beer, swimming and watching dolphins play a short distance from the shore. On the boat over I had questioned whether or not there were sharks in the Black Sea - just in case the boat sank. The good news is (a) the boat didn't sink and (b) the Black Sea is, and I quote Wiki's words "a friendly sea" with pretty much nothing in it that can kill you. I wonder who Australia pissed off to make theirs the most unfriendly.

When the rain came it didn't stop for three whole days. 24 7 it poured down so we took advantage of it and slept till noon. The afternoons were then spent either in an internet cafe or bar trying to connect to wifi. We discovered an English type bar named "The Quiet Woman" (like that's ever happened) which sold London Pride and showed the Man U v Man City game so that was an evening. Another night we ended up in a German bar celebrating Oktoberfest (minus my beloved dirndl) but there was a slideshow of photos from Munich which brought back fond memories of past years spent partying there. Good times. We also, funnily enough, spent another evening in a Georgian bar eating delicious Georgian food and drinking delicious Georgian wine. I guess it had to be done when in said country.

Besides from wine, two of our favourite things were Khinkali and Khachapuri. The first being mouth wateringly good dumplings filled with spiced minced meat. They also had potato, cheese, bean varieties but we stuck to the meat. The second, Khachapuri, can be described in no other way than that of a calorie injection of loveliness. Boat shaped Georgian bread (like Turkish bread) sunken in the middle and filled with melted cheese and a raw egg floating in a sea of butter which then cooks in all the gooey mess. Mmmm divine.

On a few occasions we tried to find places recommended by the Lonely Planet but came to discover they no longer existed so it's no wonder the creator was bloody lonely.

As for our last night in Batumi... let me refresh your memory with my rant on FB:

"Good morning world. After being kept awake until about 6am let me share with you my reoccurring thoughts throughout the night.
1) Never before have I wanted someone to choke on their own saliva as much as I do now.
2) It should be illegal for people who snore like freight trains to sleep in a hostel.
3) There is no need to be considerate of others when staying in hostels because no one else is.
Onwards and upwards people"

Yes, to first class please! Or at least a dorm room with a door and not outside some bathroom filled with pooticles.

As most of you know, I'm a firm believer in merriment. I am not however a firm believer of being kicked out of a room just so staff can use it to continue on their festivities after keeping everyone up well past 4am. Further, as the nice Frenchman sleeping above snorer boys bed commented to us in the morning, "In France I conscript into army. Someone like that would have been (slapped in the ears) so they never make that noise again". I couldn't agree more my French friend. He also checked out of the hostel that day.

Having been kept up most the night we took our time getting out of bed (near 12:00) and packing up our belongings. I said goodbye to the wire springs poking their heads up through the mattress and made a point of leaving my wet stinky shoes as a final up yours. Although once dry I'm sure the lady of the hellhole might love a pair of snakeskin pumps so my giving the bird may turn into a friendly gesture after all. Who knows. All we were worried about was getting out of there, finding some food (pizza), a place to lay down (park bench) and wasting away the next countless hours until we were able to board the train to Tbilisi at 10pm that night.

Moral of the story: Don't get drunk and sleep in a dorm with a snorer the night before check out when you are not due to depart until late that evening. Oh and don't stay at Batumi Hostel!

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