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The Pearl of the Black Sea

May 2019

The moment I drove into #Batumi I had the feeling of being on holiday. This was a very pleasant surprise and unexpected. When the sun is shinning this charming little city has a Caribbean feel, surrounded by lush green misty hills, palm trees and historic buildings. It's great to be by the sea again. Having spent the previous 10 months in Siberia, the Gobi Desert and the Steppes of Kazakhstan this vibrant touristy city was very welcome.

I chose to drive the less traveled road to the Black Sea coastal city of Batumi over the hills to the east. This was a rather slow and a much more challenging journey but oh so worth it. When driving I often wish i was able to take photos with my eyes, and this journey was certainly one of those times. The journey was full of hill side villages often farming with a cattle drawn plough, children playing and lush hill side farms.

If street art photography is your passion, then Batumi, Georgia should be at the top of your list for must-visit destinations. This city is a street art lover’s paradise. You’ll find sculptures, graffiti, and more adorning walls and streets all around the city. From curious figures to thought-provoking street murals, street art in Batumi is a vibrant and ever-changing addition to the city’s landscape.

WESTERNERS ARE ALL FAMILIAR WITH the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, but how about Ali and Nino, the doomed lovers that inspired the colossal automated statue named after them, which now stands by the seashore of Batumi, Georgia.

The story, first told in the 1937 Austrian novel, Ali and Nino, is a familiar tale of lovers who end up in tragic circumstances that keep them apart. As opposed to warring families, in Ali and Nino’s case, it was the first World War. Ali, an Azerbaijani Muslim, falls in love with Georgian princess, Nino, but sadly, after they are finally able to get together, the war hits home and Ali is killed. The clever statue Created by Georgian artist Tamar Kvesitadze moves around once an hour causing the lovers to embrace, kiss then part. It was interesting to watch people watching the statue through their phones. So many moments now are seen through the lens of a phone.

Like much of Central Asia, Georgia has plenty of cats and dogs living on the streets. Fortunately all the animals I met looked healthy and well fed. I always enjoyed meeting them and never miss the opportunity for a kitty photo or a photo of dog getting a drink from the drinking fountain.

The harbour was my favourite place to walk. There is ideal parking right next to the harbour for big trucks and it cost very little. A great place to be based and many of my photos are taken within minutes of the harbour. Boat trips are available and there is plenty to explore on foot.

With its vibrant street art scene, scenic harbor boats, and iconic landmarks, Batumi provides an endless array of photo opportunities and memories that you'll cherish for a lifetime. So, grab a camera and head to Batumi to capture the beauty of this stunning city for yourself!

I would we certainly recommend Batumi as a safe chilled out place to explore for a few days. Its a welcome rest from the hardcore overlanding of a Central Asian Winter.

Matthew Payne

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