Azerbaijan & Georgia - 20 Day Explorer (Virtual Tour) - Day 19
We were due to be heading to Aerbaijan & Georgia @ this time of year, however, COVID-19 restrictions have required us to suspend all tours for the rest of 2020.
On this virtual Tour, you can travel with us as we explore two emerging countries - Azerbaijan & Georgia. On this Tour, we fly into Baku, Azerbaijan and out of Tbilisi, Georgia and bus, hike & funicular our way around these amazing cultures.
Day 19 Mestia - Batumi
Today we have one of our longest travel days - 270km from Mestia to Batumi via Zugdidi. We could have gone back through Kusaisi but when you look at the map (above) you will notice that the route we took basically followed the river(s) to the coast which made for a better road and faster trip but also gave us the opportunity to see new parts of Georgia.
Zugdidi has been inhabited since ancient times and there are many settlements dating from the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) to the ancient period (VI BC - IV century BC). During the Hellenistic period, a significant trade route was running through the territory of modern Zugdidi municipality and the transportation of trade goods was carried to the Hellenistic world.
In one of the local dialects (Megrelian), Zugdidi/Zurgdidi/Zugidi - means a big hill. Zugdidi municipality's ancient history is distinguished by its beautiful,natural location and important cultural monuments. Here you will find ancient settlements, historic fortresses and medieval temples. The most famous sightseeing of Zugdidi is the Dadiani Palace, which impresses visitors with architecture, exhibits and the botanical garden around the palace. Otherwise, Zugdidi, a city of @ 100,000 is an important transportation hub between the Black Sea Coast and into the mountains.
It was about 5 hours drive (with stops) from Mestia to Zugdidi and a further 3 hours on to Batumi.
Batumi is a city that can polarise people. American Vogue magazine has called Batumi "Georgia's most charming seaside town" and Wikipedia describes is thus...
"Batumi is the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara and the second largest city of Georgia, located on the coast of the Black Sea in the country's southwest. It is situated in a Subtropical Zone at the foot of Caucasus. Much of Batumi's economy revolves around tourism and gambling (It is nicknamed "The Las Vegas of the Black Sea"), but the city is also an important seaport and includes industries like shipbuilding, food processing and light manufacturing. Since 2010, Batumi has been transformed by the construction of modern high-rise buildings, as well as the restoration of classical 19th-century edifices lining its historic Old Town."
Batumi, for Australians, is like the Gold Coast for Russians, although recent political tension has seen Moscow limit the number of Russians travelling to Batumi/Georgia.
We have visited Batumi twice before and always been impressed with the energy and diversity of the city.
This is the first time we have travelled into Batumi via the North/ mountains, previously we have entered via Turkey and the border at Sarp (Turkey) and Sarpi (Georgia). One of the benefits of entering via Sarpi is that you travel through Gonia where the wonderful Roman Gonio Asparos Fortress is located which is well worth a look.
The sub-tropical climate of Batumi is one of the major drawcards as is the opportunity to enjoy the sun and sea at a yoga retreat like the Namaste Yoga Hotel/Guesthouse Bude, Gonio. This is a great location to not only explore the wonderful Georgian culture but their cuisine as well.
Batumi is Georgia's answer to Azerbaijan's Baku - it surprises and delights with extraordinary architecture and sculptures at every turn with a very pedestrian-friendly seaside esplanade.
It was in Batumi that we had one of the everlasting lessons of travel reinforced for us. You should always take people as they are. We had been walking along Batumi's esplanade and stopped for an icecream. We asked (in English) what the flavours where. The attendant couldn't help us so a couple, holidaying from Russian, stepped up, asked the attendant (in Russian) and then responded to us in English. This Russian couple were quite happy to let us in on some of the local secrets.
On this trip, after our epic trip from Mestia we were quite happy to head for our hotel for the next 2 nights - the Hotel Brighton.
This hotel was adjacent to the Europe Square - Evropas Moedani - which is surrounded by belle epoque buildings and a thoroughly nice place to be at any time of the night or day. The views from the terrace were spectactular.