Batumi: Marseilles of the Caucasus

Hardly anyone ‘goes to Batumi’. It appears in travel accounts as the gateway to the Caucasus, the last place where you can have the advantages of a port city before you hit the mountains, the last place where you can think twice before you set off for winding roads and precipices. I would have followed the tradition and launched my Caucasian expedition from Batumi too, only, I was invited for a two day academic programme and couldn’t extend my visit because term was starting Monday.

I did, however, manage to arrive two days early to take a look at the town and surrounds. This was my second time in Batumi. First had been in 2009 when I was a PhD student, which may or may not account for the fact that our short Georgia trip with friends remains a blur. One day in Tbilisi, and then back to Istanbul via Trabzon after a half day in Batumi. I remembered the old town. I remembered a trip up a hill to see a botanical garden. I remembered the Ali and Nino sculpture by the sea: perforated metal figures of a man and woman that move towards one another, merge, and then separate again.

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