The Foreign Residents in the TRNC
Trabzon Trip – Day 3 – Batumi, Georgia
By Margaret Sheard
Day 3 – Wednesday, 25th September 2013
An early start today, the mini-bus was to collect us at 8am and getting up early gave Chris the opportunity of catching the sunrise on camera. Sercan still accompanied us but we had a different driver this time, this was Izzet. We were being very lucky up to now as the weather was being kind to us and we had another pleasant mainly dry day ahead of us.
It was a very long journey to Georgia where we were to visit Batumi for the day but it was nice to see the changes of scenery as the journey progressed and way in the distance at one point we could see snow on top of a high mountain range.
Eventually we arrived at the border between Turkey and Georgia and we had to remove ourselves and our belongings from the bus and walk through firstly the Turkish border control and then the Georgia border control, no problems thank goodness and we then met up with the mini-bus again in Georgia. One thing that struck me as we made our way to the mini-bus on the Georgian side was children begging with their mother or father nearby and we were told that there are many extremely poor people in Georgia.
At this point we met Urs who was to be our guide for the visit to Batumi. Urs is Swiss and he lived in North Cyprus for a number of years where he met Bella from Georgia who was later to become his wife, they actually married in Georgia and have now lived there for 18 months. We were to meet Bella when we arrived in Batumi and she and Urs would be our guides whilst we were there. They both spoke excellent English so this was a bonus.
We all climbed aboard the bus and off we went to Batumi, passing cows ambling freely along the side of the road, many rivers and a Roman fortress which looked very impressive. On since doing some research about the fortress, this would have been a major sightseeing tour due to the vast area it covers. The Apsaros Gonio Fortress is situated 15km south of Batumi at the mouth of the Chorokhi River and covers 4.75 hectares. The earliest reference to the fortress is in the 1st Century AD.
There is a lot of rain in Georgia and this was evident by the greenery in the countryside we were passing through. The outskirts of Batumi started to appear and we were soon entering the town. I think most of us were surprised at the huge difference in the buildings, from very old apartment blocks of the Soviet period to very new and extremely modern buildings.
By this time we were ready for lunch so we walked alongside a beautiful park right by the sea and then along a nice harbour to the restaurant which had been arranged for us to have lunch. We were to have sat on the roof terrace but by then it had clouded over and become a little windy so Bella got the staff to re-arrange the plans and we sat inside a very nice dining room with a lovely view of the harbour. After a nice lunch of a local speciality of Ajarian Khachapuri and coffee we set off to explore the town.
We started walking and visited a small mosque and were then able to see some of the very different buildings which surrounded us. We made our way to the Batumi Cathedral Church which was built in 1897 at the request of the Catholic population of Batumi. In Soviet times the building was used as an archive and high voltage laboratory but now it is the main cathedral of Batumi. There were restrictions on entering the cathedral, women in trousers not allowed etc. so only a few of the group entered.
We then wandered on and arrived at Piazza Square, with very impressive buildings and we were told there are often concerts held there by world famous musicians visiting Batumi. From there we visited St Nicholas Church which was built around 1865 with stone which was brought from Trabzon. At the time of construction there was one condition, there were to be no bells installed. The church was totally renovated in 2012. Opposite the church was a very large building which Urs told me was previously a private house but had now been turned into an hotel. I should imagine it was an extremely wealthy person who previously lived there.
At this point the group were to walk and explore other areas and some of us decided to take the opportunity of exploring on our own and meeting up later at the point where the mini-bus was parked. Chris and I decided to make our way back to the harbour area where there was also a nice park and on the way we called in at a cafe and sat with a nice cold drink for a while before making our way to the park to sit and watch the world go by.
From this vantage point we could see many of the new buildings, one of which was the Alphabet Tower. I gathered from a tourist pamphlet that the Georgian alphabet is unique and dates back to the 5th century, since then it has gone through many changes to the now modern version. In 2012 the 130 metre high tower was constructed dedicated to the Georgian alphabet. The plan was that this would be a restaurant and observatory but it has now closed and its future is uncertain.
Another impressive building in the area was the Chacha Tower which was opened in October 2012. The tower is 25 metres high and surrounded by 4 fountains, the unique thing about this structure is that once a week for 15 minutes Georgian Chacha, which is a grape brandy or grappa, will flow free for all to try.
The group members started making their way back to the mini-bus for the long journey back to Trabzon and at this time we were asked if we would like to alter the evening meal by cancelling the hotel meal and going to a restaurant en-route due to the time we would eventually arrive back. Everyone voted to stop on the way and in the usual efficient organisation between Willy and Sercan, this was arranged.
Once again we arrived at the border crossing between Georgia and Turkey. At the Georgia checkpoint the young lady seemed to be having some problems with my passport and was scrutinising the photo close up with a magnifying glass, this seemed to go on for ages and I was beginning to think – are they going to let me out! After consulting a few times with her colleague she eventually handed back my passport in a rather sullen way. This was a bit different to the entry into Georgia earlier in the day when the young man who dealt with the passport was chatty and full of smiles, asking if I had visited before and wishing me a nice visit.
We eventually arrived at the chosen restaurant and by this time I was pretty desperate to find a toilet, dashing into the restaurant and up the stairs in my haste I did not notice a step up to the ladies room and fell flat on my hands and knees, giving one knee a hefty thump. This was to be a hindrance for the rest of the time in Trabzon as it was very painful. I could really have done without this happening!
We arrived back at the hotel, very late and very tired from our extremely long day out in Batumi but apart from the long journey I think everyone agreed that it was a very interesting trip.