For our summer holiday we decided to take advantage of the fact we are based in Ukraine and explore the region more. So we decided to visit Georgia and Armenia in a two-weeks “quest”.
Days 1-2 – Odessa
We started our journey with a two day stay in Odessa, one of the largest cities in Ukraine, seaside resort at the Black Sea, known for the Film Festival organised here in the summer. It was my first visit, but it is an impressive city, in the sense it is prosperous, there are a lot of renovations going on in the city and they are done in good taste. The old buildings are restored much in the same manner and style they were built, we have not seen flashy glass buildings that disrupt the chromatic and architecture.
Our idea was also to spend a few days at the seaside, therefore we stayed close to the beach, which is slightly out of town and far from the centre. We appreciated the warm water, with temperatures around 22-24 degrees Celsius, and that even though not very modern, they had play area facilities on the beach for children.
One of the highlights not to be missed are the Potemkin Stairs, with the monument to Richelieu; they are built as to create an optical illusion, thus a person looking down the stairs sees only the landings, and the steps are invisible, but a person looking up sees only steps, and the landings are invisible. If you go down on them (there is also a funicular), the viewpoint from the port is also nice. Another place we enjoyed are the City gardens, with lots of nice restaurants, with more or less traditional food and quite affordable.
Day 3-4 – Boat
The reason we have started our trip with Odessa was that we have planned to go to Georgia… by boat. Therefore, on Friday evening, we took the town bus to a part of the port out of the city, and we checked in for our 2 day trip by boat to Batumi, in Georgia.
The most difficult part of the journey was definitively the check in. As the ship was carrying cargo, the formalities for those took much longer, and to our surprise, there were quite a few other passengers (including families with children) waiting. In total it took 2h, but the real problem was probably the disorganised manner in which they acted, as they did not supply clear information, but finally, after two rounds of stamps on our tickets (no idea for that, but they were “needed”), security check, passport clearance, we got inside the actual boat, and to our cabin. The room was bigger than we expected, the one we found had a bunk bed, a coach, a wardrobe and private bathroom.
Although we have done the formalities on Friday evening, the boat did not sail till early Saturday, when we woke up to the smooth sailing of the boat. The trip itself was quite relaxing, all the food was provided, we dined in servings and we had quite a routine in our mini-universe. There was a TV/bar room with movie reruns of Richard Gere movies (in Russian!), a playroom for children (funny fact: as the company also runs trips to Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea, some of the cartoons were in Romanian) and of course the deck where one could pass their time leisurely.
On Saturday evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the sea, and felt a companionship with the other passengers. There was a sense of community although we did not even speak the same languages, but far away from media and communication, where news apparently did not reach us, they were a sense of anchor.
After this high, Sunday morning started with seasickness for me, as during the night, and as we were advancing to deeper waters, a storm had set and the sea got rough. Well, on the upside, at least the time passed quickly in the morning, and although I skipped breakfast, my appetite returned by lunch and by dinner I was alright, although a bit anxious to arrive.
We arrived on Monday morning in Batumi, at around 6 AM, but with all the formalities to enter the country – the customs officers had taken over the TV/bar room with their computers, and after a few checks, they welcomed us to Georgia – we were out in the port at 8 AM.
All in all, the boat trip was a nice experience, although for me, I think 2 days is the maximum limit for the time I am capable to be on sea… for now.
Days 5-7 – Batumi
Batumi, one of the Georgian ports and resorts at the Black Sea, came as a surprise to us. It is one of those towns that we probably would have missed if the boat did not happen to end there.
First of all, it is very small, which we enjoyed, because we could walk almost everywhere and is stroller-friendly. Secondly, as it is a port as well, it is very multicultural, hosting Orthodox churches, Catholic one, Armenian Apostolic one, a synagogue, a mosque. Thirdly, and what surely impressed me, is that you get a feel of the Oriental style already, and it is quite a modern town.
We walked along the seaside front, enjoying the modern sculptures and hotels, the dancing fountains, we took a ride on the cable car which offers a very good view of the whole port, but also visited the local marketplace, which takes you back 50 years ago (before supermarkets).
The food is amazing, with local “pies” called “hachapuri”, which are filled with great cheese, or fried egg, very rich in taste and flavour (we barely managed to finish one).
The climate is almost tropical though, and even when cloudy, the air is stiff, and one gets hot just by walking. The temperature of the sea was even better than in Odessa, in the range of 24-26 degrees Celsius, and the only downside for the beach is that it is rocky, not sandy.
We really had a good time there though, and we are looking forward to going there again, especially as we have discovered there are direct flights from Kiev to Batumi!
Next stop – Yerevan, but I would like to write about Armenia in a separate post, therefore see you next time!