Sweet Georgia On My Mind

Pause for one moment. I don’t mean Hoagy Carmichael’s place. I mean the bona fide country that borders Turkey, the Black Sea, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The war between Russia and the Ukraine continues and truck traffic is backed up for many miles with supplies being shipped through Turkey and Georgia heading to the war zone. Trucks pull off the road and wait their turn to be called to another pullout a wee bit closer. Hurry up and wait.

It wasn’t that long ago when Georgia won their own independence from Russia (1991). These heart-felt signs are right at the border expressing support and unity. I’m certain that Georgia fears that they could be next. It appears there’s no love loss as it took about two seconds to remove Lenin’s statue from Batumi’s freedom square after independence was declared.

There’s culture shock simply crossing the border into Georgia. First, you can’t read the Kartvelian language which has some connection to ancient Aramaic. There are 33 letters in the written word but it looks like computer code. In Batumi along the sea walkway there is the Alphabet Tower with letters swirling up the hard metal surface. I don’t know. Looks Greek to me!

We’ve left the Muslim faith behind and now embrace Christian Orthodoxy. It’s very clear with a chapel at the border and nearby there’s a small waterfall with a statue of a saint offering a blessing. No more head-coverings and welcome mini-skirts.

About 15 miles before Batumi there’s a Roman Era castle in Adjara, Georgia. The archaeology digs show an early layer from 7-8 BC. The Roman’s expanded this fortress later in the 1st century A.D. It’s believed that 1200-1500 soldiers were stationed here. There are remains of a Roman bath, barracks, and parts of 18 towers built into the walls. In the 4th century AD the Romans abandoned the compound, but by the 6th century it was taken over by Byzantines. As time marched on, the garrison was later controlled by the Ottomans. Sounds like we’re playing Russian Roulette.

Speaking of gambling, Batumi is THE Las Vegas on the Black Sea. The city has grown rich from gambling Turks, Russians, and visiting Saudi’s. There are building cranes all over town and construction is booming, even in this COVID era. The architecture runs the gambit from sleek modern to soviet era housing to kitschy fun. And the skyline at night is gorgeous from a roof-top deck.

There are several squares:

Europe Square with 19th and early 20th century buildings. It was fun to walk around and experience old world charm. I couldn’t get enough of the blooming wisteria as I’ve always wanted to grow it—but it won’t grow where I live.

Piazza Square is decorated with mosaic and stained glass to look like something from Italy.

We didn’t visit Freedom square near the water, but there’s a beautiful pedestrian walkway through a park all along the Black Sea. It’s a fun place to people watch and eat at various restaurants. The locals are friendly, even when we crashed a birthday party.

Batumi is famous for many murals. Anyone fond of geocaching or treasure hunting will like to see how many they can find.

The Batumi Botanical Garden, a little outside of town, is also along the sea and is a nice place to stroll through huge magnolia trees and sections of Japanese Maples. The tepid Mediterranean climate allows many sub-tropic plants to grow here.

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