After a very late arrival in Batumi on Sunday night, we have had a bit of time to recover and take it in the last two days. I should say we are actually spending five nights in total in Batumi as we take a mini break during the road trip after the quite intense days of driving across Turkey recently. Batumi is the perfect place to do that given it is a resort city on the sea, has cheap and good quality accommodation, is dog friendly (see below), and actually quite an interesting place being nicknamed 'The Las Vegas of the Black Sea'. This is immediately evident on arrival with billboards advertising the local casinos, and the whole second floor of our hotel tonight being one. Apparently a lot of Turks cross the nearby border to come here to gamble since it is illegal in Turkey.
The city itself is laid out along the Black Sea coastline, with a bay we haven't explored yet and some lagoons. The coast has a stony beach on the calm water, and this backs onto a number of lovely well kept parks and promenades where we have taken Summer for a walk both evenings so far. In terms of the architecture, there is a huge amount of development going on, with high rise hotels and apartment blocks popping up all over the place. That said, it looks like the boom may have passed, with a lot of half finished buildings with no cranes in sight, appearing somewhat abandoned. Also, in between all these new developments are extremely depressing looking soviet era apartment blocks, coated in rusting corrugated iron, which probably need to be completely demolished at some point! There are for sale signs everywhere, and a quick search online suggests you can pick up a brand new apartment for as little as $50,000, which probably explains the very low nightly prices to rent these out.
After our catch up day at the villa yesterday where I worked in the morning (UK time morning, though this is has become 11am-4pm local now we are three hours ahead), we moved to the Hilton today for the next three nights. This is a bit of a treat to ourselves after all the apartments and guesthouses we've been staying in, and it is very nice to be in a 5 star hotel with the service that brings with it. We got upgraded to a room on the 17th floor right on the corner so we have a panoramic view from the Black Sea on one side, over the bustling city centre, and the mountains in the distance. The man at the front desk said he was upgrading us because we had booked a sea-view Standard Room, which apparently means Lucy (and probably us too) would be unable to sleep due to the night clubs which go on every night on the beach all summer long. He said the penalty for loud music in Batumi is only $400, so the clubs simply pay this to the police every night as a sort of tax rather than a deterrent. The hotel have written to the government in Tbilisi due to all the complaints they get from guests about the music, but nothing has been done so far.
This evening we went to our first Georgian restaurant right on the promenade by the hotel and chose a selection of dishes from the menu to sample the cuisine. It was all delicious, including deep fried cheese covered in grape puree, meat and cheese stuffed pastries, a cheese-stuffed bread called a Kachapuri (NOT a pizza as I suggested it sounded like to the waiter, who quickly corrected me), and chicken kebabs with a beautiful rich tomato sauce. All my kind of food, very filling, and left me looking forward to trying more over the coming days.
Tomorrow is going to be a beach day as we finally properly sample the Black Sea waters. We will do another blog in a couple of days before we leave Batumi and the road trip continues.
Aside: if you are coming to Georgia in the summer, book a rental car ahead of time! We struggled to find any cars available at short notice, especially which came with papers for crossing the border to Armenia. In the end the only company I could find with something available was Royal Car Rent Batumi who were very helpful over the phone and Whatsapp. It turned out that Armenia papers for rental cars here can only be prepared at the relevant company's head office. This meant that Avis, Europcar, Thrifty etc could only provide the papers if you go to Tbilisi first where their HQs are. We'd been given bad information by Avis Georgia ahead of time that we could get the papers in Batumi without going to Tbilisi.
Compared to Turkey, Georgia is a breath of fresh air so far when it comes to dog friendliness. Batumi has a lot of people walking around with pet dogs, and most accommodation is pet friendly. In the Hilton we even took Summer up to the restaurant on the top floor and no one minded at all. Despite this accommodating attitude to pets, I wouldn't say the Georgians seem overly interested in Summer when we are out and about. If anything, we had more pointing and requests for strokes in Turkey. However, this might be because we have seen three other corgis in the first 48 hours here, meaning they might be much more used to seeing the breed. All three were from Russia, and one was a Cardigan which we've never actually seen before (much bigger than a Pembrokeshire). Combined with the Russian corgi we met in Budva, Montenegro, I can surmise that corgis are a pretty popular breed in Russia - perhaps there could be an angle here for some corgi diplomacy given otherwise rock bottom relations between our countries politically!
Georgia is also home to a lot of stray dogs like Turkey, but they seem a lot friendlier in general here. They are hanging around the streets and the parks but seem very docile, and mostly don't move when pet dogs are walking around them. When they do move, it has so far only been to come over for a sniff and a wag of the tail rather than anything aggressive like we encountered in Turkey.
In the end we managed to get about 20% charge per night at our villa in Batumi at the painfully slow rate of 1.7KW. It actually dropped when we turned on the air conditioning as I suppose those use a lot of energy themselves.
Now we are at the Hilton where there is a charger right in the car park.
- E-space charger at Hilton Batumi. Located in the secure parking under the hotel, which is open to the public though you have to pay per hour to park of 40 GEL for 24 hours. 22KW and I found the E-space app very easy to use, and it hasn't charged me so far for the 12KW I took today, which is an added bonus I'll happily accept!