Apologies for two Mondays this week for those who got the early version – it should by now have been republished as Tuesday with a description of the cathedral added…….the observant will have noted that the original was published late in the evening of the 16th October (!!!)
We left Kitaisi for the comparatively short journey to the Black Sea and Batumi. We descended from the hilltop location of the home stay, back down over the cobbles and through the Kitaisi town centre.
The early morning sunshine disappeared and was replaced by a grey mist. We were in the countryside again. We were travelling alongside a railway line. Rather alarmingly I watched as vehicles and people continued to weave round the crossing gates that had come down at one road/rail junction. Had the crossing gates got stuck, I thought, or had I glimpsed a major rail calamity about to happen. I will never know as Penelope continued her progress towards the Black Sea and the crossing disappeared.
Another town appeared and then the sun emerged again and more countryside. Here, it seemed, was every indication of an area of self sufficiency. Busy chickens, cows, fruit trees, vines and vegetables were frequently in evidence in the yards around large square Russian houses behind the rusting metal fences.
At 11.00 am we got our first sighting of the Black Sea as it suddenly appeared, trickling towards us over a muddy beach. The seashore receded again as the road departed from the sea side and oddly a large Ferris wheel emerged, apparently in the middle of nowhere. The train line appeared again and then, surprisingly, very soon the Black Sea was beside us and we were entering Batumi through the docks.
A large grey battleship – flags flying from bow to stern (I trust you appreciate my mastery of nautical terms) – loomed over us as we passed it. We subsequently learned the American navy was in town. Then there was neat pathways and lawns and very odd shaped, sculptures, towers and buildings. It was a bit like the Disney-esque world of Arslanbob – but with people!
We followed the promenade with its palm trees and fountains until we arrived at the Marina Hotel, which was something of a mystery. Were they doing it up or knocking it down?! Throughout our stay there was the loud sound of drilling…….. The Mariina sat squat at three floors high and had obviously seen better days, while new high rise hotels and apartments soared skywards around it. We never did make out whether it was coming or going!
We dropped off our bags and set off to walk back down the promenade, which is 7 kilometres long to ‘centre ville’. The Marina Hotel was perhaps half way along it. The palm trees stood like sentinels as we passed. Most of the ice cream booths had closed for the winter, but some remained stoically open. Basket ball, tennis, volleyball and hardcore football pitches had been built on the edge of the stoney beach with tiered yellow plastic seating for the would be audience around three sides of each court.
By now it was a lovely sunny day, so we walked as far as the ‘alphabet tower’ – an interesting open metal work structure with Georgian alphabet letters on it and a sort of large marble on the top. It seemed to have no real purpose except perhaps to celebrate the alphabet. We then turned inland to find the Italian restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet where we decided to have a pre birthday supper as there is a group meal arranged for my birthday dinner. Having found it and booked a table, we adjourned to a pavement cafe for a cooling beer and snack lunch only to find ourselves knee deep in a Thompson Cruise group who had recently docked. It was rather unusual to hear broad scots accents and the lilt of the welsh valleys around us……! We kept very quiet although they had all noticed the English truck go past them. We looked very different.
After lunch we scattered to do our own thing and then wandered back to the hotel, prior to setting out again later for the the piazza where Peter had found out that an American jazz band from the ship was putting on a free concert. This was a nice prelude to supper which was decidedly disappointing, except for the fact that we found some very acceptable Georgian champagne to which I was treated by Helen and Keith. Mmmmmm. Very satisfactory. Batumi looks particularly attractive at night as all the odd buildings are lit up, so we wandered back along the promenade with the sea on one side and the crazy buildings on the other. They are also very fond of what they call dancing fountains …….
This bit of the trip almost feels like a holiday!