Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Last trip in the Southern Caucasus - the Black Sea coast

We had now spent several months in the Southern Caucasus of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. The closed border between Azerbaijan and Armenian, as well as the central location of Tbilisi, meant the we had continually returned to the Georgian capital before setting out again. So, it was with some sadness that we set out on a snowy evening to catch the night train west.

The train took us to the Georgian Black Sea coastal town of Batumi, the capital of the autonomous province of Adjara. It is the third autonomous province of Georgia, South Ossentia and Abkhazia being the other two, but is distinct in two ways. Firstly, it is Islamic and borders Turkey, secondly, it a very stable region on Georgia and has not had any separist movements. As a consequence of this stability it has developed into a resort town and has had some tasteful restoration of the old centre. 

My knowledge of Adjara was however food related. Out of the seven different types of Khachapuri (cheesey bread) I had been sampling over the last couple of months my favourite was the Adjarian Khachapuri which, as I find is often the case, happened to be the most unhealthy, fattening and heart-attacking inducing of them all. I couldn't wait to tuck into an Adjarian Khachapuri in Adjara.

But first we had to find somewhere to stay. The address the taxi dropped us off at, in the grey dawn, was boarded up, so we shouldered out rucksacks and went to hunt for somewhere else to stay. At the next place the owner, flicking cigarette ash onto the thread bare carpet, informed us that we couldn't see the room as someone was still in it. We decided that we had seen enough away and headed up the road to look for somewhere else. After another taxi ride we found ourselves on a street which looked like a building site with a road which comprised of muddy puddles, potholes and rubble. There was no sign at the address indicating that it was a hostel and an Alsatian patrolled the gates. 

It turned out that the Alsatian was a complete softie and the its family owned a large house with several spare rooms which they offered to travellers. With somewhere to sleep secured we headed into the centre of town to find both Adjara Khachipuri as well as Aaron, a friend working in Gori, Georgia, who was taking a short holiday in Batumi with his sister Emy. We were successful on both fronts and over a beer shared a huge Adjara khachipuri. The correct technique for eating such a cheesy delight is to take the boat shaped bread which contains the cheese and melting butter, as well as an egg and mix it all up together. Then proceed to tear off bits of the soft white bread and dunk them in the mix.

The centre of town was a lot less like a building site than the outskirts we were staying in and had retained its charm with cobbled streets and pretty buildings. The sea front had flanked by a broad, wooden walk way and palms. It being late Novemeber, the sea lay still and cold beyond and the beach was wonderfully deserted. 

Adjarian khachapuri - yum

Modern Batumi

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