We stayed at the Black Sea resort of Batumi for three nights. We’d hoped to spend time relaxing on the beach but found it stony and unenticing with chilly water judging by the reaction of the hardy locals. However, there was plenty to keep us amused.
As we wandered around Georgia’s second largest city, we noted three styles of buildings: elegant Tsar Russian two-storey houses with balconies, Soviet monstrosities, and modern ‘Rose Revolution architecture’ created as a result of the former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s determination to give Batumi a contemporary, jazzier look.
We loved walking along part of the 10km promenade and armed with our map, ticked off many sights including ‘dancing and non-dancing’ fountains, a wedding house, summer theatre, Japanese Gardens, aquarium, dolphinarium, lakes, and colonnades. At the Black Sea Gate and frozen fountain, we began to see huge new developments of tall towers to be turned into holiday lets, residences or hotels.
At the port end of the prom, it was hard to miss the Statue of Love depicting Ali and Nino, the Romeo and Juliet equivalent. Ali was an Azerbaijani Muslim who fell in love with Nino, a Georgian princess, but they were kept apart by World War 1 where Ali was killed. The monumental moving sculpture consists of two semi-transparent figures made of stacked segments who glide together towards each other, but never truly connect.
Nearby was the iconic Alphabet Tower where after paying 20 Lari or £6 for two, we took the glass lift to the top. The modern 130m building was designed to resemble DNA cells which symbolises the uniqueness of the 33-letters in the Georgian Alphabet. At the top, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the café and the panoramic views whilst watching two ‘spider men’ clean the glass windows, and a huge MSC container ship leaving and another entering – Batumi is the largest container, ferry and general cargo seaport in Georgia. There was also a formal restaurant on the floor below.
We took the 15-minute journey on the Argo Cable Car to Anuria Mountain, 256m above sea level for further panoramic views. Here we sat outside at a café with coffee and amused ourselves watching the huge umbrellas wafting in the wind and everyone wrapping themselves in blankets, when we thought it was very pleasant.
Many of the Rose Revolution buildings were modelled on European sights: the Batumi Piazza, a grand Italian style square with bars and restaurants around the outside; an Austrian style Tyrol building from Innsbruck; and Astronomical clock tower, created in Germany, which not only shows the time, but the position of the sun, moon and zodiac constellations.
Religious buildings included the Holy Mother Virgin Nativity Cathedral, the Batumi synagogue, used as a sports hall during the Soviet period, and Batumi Mosque.
Europe Square had a column topped with Medea holding aloft the golden fleece, and wonderfully designed buildings on all sides, but sadly, two pleasant looking terraces belonged to KFC and McDonalds. The latter was of a futuristic spaceship-like design which is said to be widely acknowledged as the most gorgeous eatery and the ultimate achievement in fast-food architecture (probably according to McDonalds).
There was so much more to see: a marble fountain with a golden Neptune opposite the State Drama Theatre, a tall building with a Ferris wheel attached near the top which had existed as a restaurant, a lighthouse in Miracle Park, and the Chacha House . . . . .