A Travellerspoint blog

Day eleven - a trip to Batumi

Friday 6 September 2019

overcast 25 °C

Breakfast was at ? We opted to get the bus to Batumi rather than marshrutka. The bus stop for the 16 and 17 went from outside our door. We’d discovered that the travel card that we got in Tbilisi could also be used for local buses in Adjara region. It cost pennies to travel this way for a 15-20 minute journey, depending on traffic. Getting the bus at around 11am meant that it was a lot emptier and we could actually get seats. The bus tends to stop at every bus stop so that, by the time we got to Batumi, the bus was pretty full.

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There are some extraordinarily tall buildings in Batumi, the shiny modern towers alongside the old soviet blocks - quite incongruous. At first sight Batumi is quite an ugly place but once we got off the bus nearer the old town, the buildings were more historic, low level and attractive. Also, there are lots of small parks and squares dotted around that makes the place more scenic. We found a statue of Jason of Argonauts fame which was puzzling until we read that the land of Colchis where he sought the Golden Fleece is supposedly in western Georgia. His ship, the Argo, is commemorated by Argo beer that is brewed in Tbilisi and who seem to sponsor the cable car that’s close to the harbour.

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There is quite a lot to see in Batumi but we just needed to find out about the marshrutka to Kutaisi and trains from there to Tbilisi. There are nine Tourist Information centres in Batumi - the one we went to was under the cable car. The people there are very helpful and speak really good English. We got the information we needed, had a coffee and headed back to the relative peace and quiet of Kvariati. Finding the bus stop was a bit of a challenge but we managed to find the stop after chatting to a guy whose only English seemed to be Theresa May & Boris Johnson. He could also do a great impersonation of old pifflepaffle Johnson.

The bus back was crowded and the old woman sitting next to me was very vociferous - shouting out loudly to whoever would listen. As ever we had no idea what it was about although Nick was convinced it was about me! We had some time on the beach but the sea was very rough and threatening black clouds started to come over. We saw an extraordinary sight of thousands of birds streaming across the sky heading north to south as if they were getting away from the storm. It wasn’t like a starling murmuration - it was similar to seeing bird migration. There’s a bird watching Festival in Batumi -the ornithologists would have enjoyed this.

Last meal was at Oqtopus but our appetites were starting to diminish so we didn’t manage to get through all the food. The portions are so big. I much prefer small plates with more variety but that isn’t the Georgian way! We said our goodbyes to the waitress who had served us each time we came to the restaurant - she was very sad to see us go - we ended up having a group hug before we left.

There was a big storm in the night with heavy rain. Luckily, this time the electricity wasn’t knocked out like it was at Borjomi.

Posted by Cath_Greig 20:48 Archived in Georgia Tagged beach bus batumi kvariati Comments (0)

Day ten - another beach day

Thursday 5 September 2019

overcast 25 °C

Today was more or less the same as yesterday. Eat, drink and laze about on the beach. Found out that the Neptun restaurant serves Turkish coffee so that helped to kick start my day with a breakfast of yogurt and honey rather than more bread. We lucked out with sun beds as they also had some foam to use on the sun beds. The day before I just couldn’t get comfortable as the slats dug into me. Had another Turkish coffee and simple vegetable salad at Neptun for lunch - I’m finding the bread based diet is getting to me especially as I’ve hardly eaten any bread for over two months until coming to Georgia.

A planned visit to Batumi was postponed until the next day. We needed information from the tourist information and felt that going the next morning would be a better idea. Although it was rather overcast, it was still warm enough so we ended up having an enjoyable and restful day in Kvariati, finishing with a meal at Neptun. I had just heard from the UK that an application for charity status that I was involved in, had been granted, this was a good excuse to celebrate by ending the meal with a rather strong before wending our way back to Villa Dolly.

Posted by Cath_Greig 05:14 Archived in Georgia Tagged beach kvariati neptun_restaurant Comments (0)

Day nine - beach day!!

Wednesday 4 September 2019

sunny 30 °C

Had a good night’s sleep but mostly because I used ear plugs in case the noise of the traffic - and particular lorries - kept me awake. There seems to be a dip in the road just outside the apartment and when a lorry goes over it at speed, it makes a shocking noise. We earmarked the day for beach time, getting sun beds and a parasol for the day. We breakfasted at a nice cafe with a lovely waitress. We weren’t sure if it was called Oqtopus or Atlantida. Anyway, we had coffee and I had pancakes with sour cream which were more like drop scones on steroids - they were huge! Portion sizes generally are pretty big which might explain the rather large girth of some of the men on the beach. We made sure we based ourselves within walking distance to where we were staying so that we could get back to use the toilet as the standard of cleanliness of beach toilets was variable.

The sea was pretty calm and all three of us got into the sea at different times, mostly because we were sharing a pair of ‘jelly shoes’ to enable us to get into the water without the agonising walk over pebbles. I was grateful for the parasol as the sun was strong. It was great to relax, doze a little, read and people watch.

We decided to go to the Oqtopus cafe for a drink and starters. I had a Cuba libre which went quite well with the decor of the place which was rather exotic. We watched the sun go down before making our way to a cafe that Nick and Lindsay had gone to for a nightcap on the previous evening’s stroll. The owner is obviously very artistic and a fan of Frieda Kahlo. The place is called cafe Rakushkebi Fridastan and is stuffed with trinkets, upcycled lampshades with unusual things hanging from them. Although it was a mixed crowd, there was definitely a bit of a hipster scene with lots of young people who all seemed to know each other. Good music, too.

The only downside was trying to order a salad which is all I had room for. All of the veggie options seemed to be off the menu. In the end I gave up trying to order anything and ate some of the potatoes that Nick had ordered to go with his food.

A short stroll and we were back to our temporary ‘home’. Being next to the main road leading to Turkey means that it is a busy road. However, it’s the craziness of the drivers that astounds us. The speed that people go at and the dangerous overtaking is quite terrifying. Walking along with no obvious pavement, pedestrians are also very vulnerable.

Posted by Cath_Greig 11:54 Archived in Georgia Tagged beach kvariati cafe_rakushkebi_fridistan oqtopus Comments (0)

Day eight - apartment nightmare

An example of the pitfalls that travellers can fall into when booking accommodation

sunny 28 °C

After a quick breakfast we headed down to the bus station, two minutes away from the guesthouse. The other guests, a party of fourteen Polish people, had already left. Just before we left Nick got a message that the apartment we had booked wasn’t available until Friday even though it had been confirmed. First disappointment of the day.

We took the advice of our host and took the next bus heading to Khashuri. It’s only a 30 minute ride and a lot of buses go through there to Gori and Tbilisi, so more choice. Apparently, Khashuri is a bit of a transport hub. The Marshrutka we were on was a real bone shaker held together with gaffer tape but the driver managed to squeeze everyone on including our three big cases. The transfer to the Batumi bus at Khashuri was easy as there are always people around who seem to act as touts for the different buses, directing you to where you need to go.

We went straight from one bus to another trading the ancient bone shaker for a new van. Although the journey would be around 5 hours, including a stop, it was at least going to be a comfortable one. We think the bus had come from Tbilisi as there were some families travelling from there to visit relatives on the coast. There were several children on the bus, we couldn’t imagine doing such a long journey with young ones crammed into a vehicle with no toilet. One of the young boys could speak English and told us he was travelling with his grandmother to Batumi as it was school holidays. We hadn’t really been aware that we were in the Georgian holiday season as it hadn’t impacted on our visit so far.

Just outside Kutaisi we had a lunch and comfort break before carrying on to the coast, dropping people off and picking others up en route. Although there is a danger that you might not be able to get on a bus, the practice of only going when full, seems to be better than running a timetable of half full or nearly empty buses. It was interesting trying to work out what some of the interchanges between passengers and the bus driver was all about. There were a few occasions when the exchanges were terse and argumentative. We have no idea what was being said. Generally speaking, Georgians seem to be quite even tempered but we did witness a blazing row between two bus drivers before we had set off at Borjomi that looked as if it could come to blows. No idea what that was about either.

As we travelled we sought out other accommodation and found what looked like a perfect place with two bedrooms in Gonio - a town south of Batumi. However, when we got to Batumi and after running the gauntlet of the taxi drivers who circle like vultures at the bus stop, we discovered that the other apartment we had booked also had issues. Two problems in one day? This had never happened before with booking.com. We were offered alternative accommodation that was supposedly better than the first. We got a taxi driver who wasn’t trying to fleece us like one of the other guys, and we set off for Gonio. When we arrived at the apartment, it was on a housing estate of six storey blocks with no amenities nearby - far from the tourist area so no restaurants or shops or anything. It just did not feel right - we spoke to the apartment owner and told him that we did not want to stay there. We have no idea what the apartment was like but the location would not have been good for us, particularly as we would have to walk through an area that didn’t feel safe.

The taxi driver took us to an area called Kvariati which is at the southern end of Gonio. He knew a hotel but only one room was available. We were starting to feel a little stressed by then. We left Lindsay on the beach with the suitcases so that Nick and I could search unencumbered. We saw a sweet looking place close by called Villa Dolly - it looked very small so I was sceptical but they had two rooms available, both en-suite with a shared living area and balcony. There was even a washing machine we could use. Always a bonus for me.

Relieved at finding somewhere to stay, we sorted ourselves out before going out to explore and look for eateries. We were glad that we managed to find somewhere quickly as a lot of places aware already sold out because it’s holiday season according to booking.com. The beach - 3 minutes away with lots of cafes and several small shops strung out along the road, selling most of what we needed.

Nick and Lindsay went for a dip while I tried to get some mugs from our hosts. There is a kettle in the room but no cups - very odd and none were forthcoming. We managed to find a work around with the coffee jug and a couple of glasses in the bathroom. We had an evening meal in one of the restaurants close by. I had what I thought was going to be mushrooms with melted cheese but which turned out to be cheese and mushrooms in a wrap that was probably fried as it was incredibly greasy. I couldn’t eat it all so brought it back for the next day - we do have a fridge so all good. I also did a wash which was satisfying as the underwear stash was running low. I opted for bed rather than a stroll - totally exhausted after the stressful episode with the accommodation.

Posted by Cath_Greig 10:41 Archived in Georgia Tagged beach kvariati villa_dolly Comments (0)

Day seven - catching the cuckoo train

Monday 2 September 2019

storm 17 °C

The train from Borjomi to Bakuriani is a narrow gauge train line also know as the cuckoo line. It leaves Borjomi twice a day - 7.15 or 10.55am at a cost of 2 GEL. . We plumped for the earlier train and got their quite early. The weather was a lot colder than I expected as I still had the lingering memory of the heat of the previous day. I took a raincoat as rain was forecast but didn’t also take enough additional layers despite having several season’s worth of clothes with me. Two hour journey was pretty cold. Only a few other tourists on the train - the rest were locals who hopped on and off the train as it slowly made its way up the steep terrain. Lovely scenery but upsetting to see plastic bottles and other litter in amongst the undergrowth. There were quite a few stations on the line but people were also getting on and off the train while it was moving - not that it ever went much above a snail’s pace by railway standards.

By the time we got to Bakuriani, I was pretty cold despite the sun starting to break through the clouds. First stop was a coffee shop for breakfast, coffee and a warm up. Our goal was to find the cable car to go further up the mountain. We were pointed in the right direction but had no idea if it was close or a long distance away. We trudged up through the town past The ski resort hotel accommodation. Seemed to be a lot of refurbishment of hotels and new building going on. A taxi driver asked if we wanted a lift and although we declined by the time we actually arrived at the cable car we had covered a lot of distance and could see why other people were flying past us in a taxi. It was good to be out walking in the fresh air but the trucks going backwards and forwards to the building sites didn’t make it a pleasant experience.

The cable car took us up to a halfway point - there’s a cafe overlooking the valley and a ‘monorail’ type of toboggan ride that looked fun but I felt that it was probably too cold to go on it. There was a family who were giving it a go as we arrived who told me that it was brilliant but I still wasn’t tempted though. After another warming coffee, we decided not to do the chairlift to the top as the cloud was starting to descend and we wouldn’t have seen anything and we would have just got cold again. We took the cable car down, made our way into town and bought a tasty freshly backed loaf of Georgian bread to go with our lunch. We couldn’t resist nibbling bits as we made our way down. By this time the rain was starting to come down hard and with a 30 minute wait for they bus, we decided to take a taxi. The marshstruka leaves hourly but there was a gap in the middle of the day with none going at 1.00 or 2.00pm. 40 lari seemed quite steep but we hadn’t realised quite how far the journey was as they taxi had to use winding roads to get back to Borjomi.

We got the driver to drop us off near the tourist information just so we could check about the best way of getting to the coast. Doing the 5 hour journey in a marshstruka didn’t fill us with joy especially as there was only one per day and there was no guarantee that we could get seats and luggage onto the bus. I think this is the main downside of travelling this way if you are carrying big cases. There is very little room for luggage as the priority is getting a full bus and optimum fares. There was no other practical solution other than going on a 2 hour bus journey to Tbilisi and then getting the train to Batumi which also takes a long time.

Once we were back at the guesthouse we had a very late lunch after a visit to the supermarket deli. I think our host was very impressed with our Georgian fare. He gave us some useful advice about getting to Batumi. Apparently the marshstruka to Batumi is a very uncomfortable ride as the bus is usually very old and crowded with little room for luggage. He suggested getting one to Khashuri and change buses there as the marshstruka were more modern and spacious. The journey wouldn’t be shorter, just more comfortable. There is nothing like a bit of local knowledge to make life easier.

After a bit of rest and down time we decided to go to the first restaurant that we had been to - Pesvebi. We were hoping to get down there a bit earlier than usual as we would be leaving the next day. However, the rain that had been coming down quite steadily, erupted into a full blown storm with impressive forked lightning and thunder, very close by. At one point the power went out so we were left in darkness for about 20 minutes. Once the power came back on and the rain had abated, we finally managed to leave the apartment and make our way to the restaurant. We had a great meal there - I would highly recommend it. And it figures highly in Trip Advisor, too. Although the food was delicious, and we have had good food elsewhere I’m beginning to find that the limited Georgian cuisine is making me yearn for an Indian or Thai meal. There just isn’t the variety and it’s also very bread based.

Time for a nightcap and good night’s sleep before the next adventure.

Posted by Cath_Greig 06:27 Archived in Georgia Tagged car cable railway borjomi pesvebi bakuriani Comments (0)

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