If you saw my last post about our first week, here in Batumi, Georgia, you probably assumed that I didn’t really like it here. I knew it wasn’t going to be a city that I wanted to stay in long-term, but we wanted to have some beach time in what was left of the summer. After venturing out in early September, to see more of the sights, I have a new appreciation for the city. Though it was still very warm at the beginning of the month, we decided to take a walk in the city center. When we first arrived in Batumi, I assumed that the city was primarily a beach resort, so I was surprised to see so many beautiful, old buildings in the downtown area, that had been restored. Unlike the area where we are staying, with its modern high-rises, derelict older buildings, and chaotic walkways, the old town center boasts well-maintained cobble-stone streets and parks that feature whimsical, bronze statues and ornate fountains. We were also delighted to discover many restaurants and cafes offering Georgian cuisine, and boutiques selling unique clothing and accessories, by Georgian designers.
As we passed the old town and walked along the seaside, we came to the Argos Skyline and decided to take a ride. A round-trip ticket, for the 15-minute ride, through the city, and up the hill, for a panoramic view, cost 15 USD. The ads for the sky-line promised a chance to see native dancing and wine tasting, but these events were not going on when we visited. There were, however, some cafes and shops offering Georgian wine and souvenirs for sale. What made the trip worthwhile were the beautiful views of the city and the Black Sea.
We picked a rainy day in the second week of September, to visit The Batumi Art Museum. I wasn’t expecting the museum to be grand since the price of admission was only 70 cents, but I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived to see the very regal-looking, traditional style building, that housed the museum and its exquisite display of paintings and sculptures. The inside of the building is reminiscent of a palace, with its marble statues, gold-encrusted columns, and formal staircase. We started our tour on the first floor, where I was mesmerized by the works of a local artist, who painted images of people that had very stoic expressions, big eyes, and long necks. As we headed up the grand staircase, to the second floor, we saw a display of marble sculptures, pottery jugs that held clay figures, and a series of impressionist-style paintings from the 19th Century. Next door, in the gallery, were more works by a local artist, who painted with watercolors over squiggly, pen and ink, lines. I was fascinated by the technique and the visual effect that it created. As we were leaving the museum, we stopped to enjoy the gardens and the fountains, with the colored lights, that went on, as dusk set in.
Last Thursday, since the temperatures had started to cool down a bit, we decided to take an hour-long bus ride to the Botanical Gardens. As the bus kept going higher and higher, up a hill, we kept wondering where the stop was for the gardens. Finally, to our surprise, a little girl tapped my husband on the shoulder and told him that if we were going to the gardens we should get off the bus now. We have no idea how she knew where we were going, but we were grateful for her help and thanked her. We walked around a bend and finally saw the garden gate. When we walked through, it felt like we were in a huge national park. According to the brochure that we got at the ticket booth, all the species of trees and plants were brought in by a botanist, in the 1800’s, from several different continents. We chose to stay on the paved road, as we walked through the gardens, stopping to read the tags on the trees and plants, that were printed in English and Georgian, and told the names of the species, and where they came from. I’ve always had a passion for trees, plants, and flowers, so I was in my element here. We saw so many different types of Eucalyptus trees. Their silvery leaves and their fresh scent reminded me of the ones at the school I attended in Bogota, Colombia, at age 13. I had never seen Bamboo trees like the ones growing in these gardens. They had thick green trunks and their tiny, leaf, foliage, was growing way at the top. There were still many flowers blooming, behind ornate, iron fences. My favorites were the purple ones from India that looked like pom-poms. I also loved the hibiscus flowers that folded their petals up at the end of the day.
Our tour of the gardens ended at the bottom of the hill, by a park, near the seaside. Here we bought tickets for the electric car, that took us back to the parking area, where we caught a bus to Batumi. The Botanical Gardens were impressive and definitely worth the $7.50 admission fee. It was a great way to spend the day outdoors.
The Dancing Fountains was an extraordinary event that we had the privilege to witness, on Saturday night, in downtown Batumi. We had dinner out, then after dark headed downtown to see the show. When we got there people were lined up, all along the lake, staring in awe, at these glorious fountains, that were all going at once, in different directions, as the lights changed colors beneath them. Then came the real entertainment, in which musical films from the 50’s, and music videos of today, were being projected on the stream of water, that served as a screen, making them appear like holograms. The fountains were an amazing sight and the music that played along with them made the experience all the more enjoyable.