Georgia, oh Georgia! Not since leaving Reading have we found a place we love so much. And a country that has jumped straight into our top three, and is my personal favourite country so far! (Top three countries are Georgia, Romania, Czech Republic) Georgia sits in between Turkey and Azerbaijan and acts like the naughty middle child of the region. This is due to mainly the large cultural difference between found when arriving from Turkey. Since Georgia is not a muslim country beer is back on the menu, and cheap beer, and wine and vodka and more wine! There is nothing better than knocking back a 50p beer after a long day of cycling and it is so much more rewarding than tea!! We arrived into the town of Batumi, which is a large coastal resort on the black sea, a place famous for its casinos and nightlife with modern Las Vegas style themed hotels and a beautiful coastline. Batumi is also the place where we needed to collect our Azerbaijan visa so we knew we had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves.
For those following in our footsteps and wishing to cycle into Batumi please note that camping in the park is not allowed and you will get moved on if you try this. The best place to camp is on the large shrubland nestled between the Radission Blu hotel and the Love Statue. We were joined here by Iranian/Turkish and Estonian travellers so it makes a nice place to camp, although you must pack up and leave during the day. Also Batumi makes a great place to pick up your Azerbaijan Visa, we went to the embassey in the centre of town on Wednesday afternoon and after filling in paperwork and photocoping documents in a nearby newsagent returned later that day to be told our visa should be ready Friday afternoon or Monday Morning. We were told to fill in this visa as a transit visa, since the man said it would be faster but he would then process a 30 day standerd tourist visa. I'm not sure if this is standerd but it seemed to work and we picked up our visa on Friday afternoon after paying $120pp. Expensive but it is because apparently that is the cost for an Azerbaijan person coming to England so I guess its fair! Also please note that the Azerbaijan visa is date specific meaning the date you pick it up is the day it starts, meaning you have 30 days to leave Azerbaijan but you have to cycle across Georgia first so you may want to do your visa in Tbilisi if you want to stay longer in Azerbaijan.
From Batumi we took the low road towards Kutaisi, and we found the roads full of cows, it was like India with cows weaving in and out of the traffic! It was brilliant cycling dodging cows and lorrys as we went towards the highway. From Kutaisi, we took the smaller road towards Zestaponi and small farming town and this is where we discoved Georgian wine. Georgians claim Georgia is the brithplace of wine and we were not to disagree since it was as close to wine perfection as you can get! A large amount of this wine is brewed locally in peoples homes (by large we talking 500l jugs called amphorae) meaning it is organically produced and therefore does not leave you with a hangover! Everyone is also very proud of their home made wine and this means that they are always willing to share it with us!!
From Zestaponi the road follows the Lower Causasus and the scenery and cycling is some of the best we have experieced, the road goes up and down and as the mountains get closer it looks as if they have been painted on. It is so beautiful we are constantly stopping to take pictures and take our time to enjoy this region, since we were slowly getting towards Tbilisi, which is where we would take a two day break and end our Georgian cycling adventure. Tbilisi itself is a mixed bag of reviews but we loved it, we stayed in a guesthouse just 10 minute walk to the old town, we explored the old building and drank lots of wine (cheapest we found was 75p for a litre in a terrace restaurent in the old town!) We even went to the football to watch Dinamo Tbilisi vs. Lokamotive Tbilisi where there must have been about 100 fans in attandance in a stadium built for 10,000! The football wasn't the best but it was just 50p per ticket so makes a fun evening entertainment! There is a old fortress which is best explored in the daytime since you can climb the old walls to the top for fantasitc views over the city and is free to enter. We loved Tbilisi and Georgia and is somewhere we are definatly going to return once we finish this trip since the Higher Causcaus region promises even more...and we love their wine!!
Tim and Fin
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.