Batumi, Georgia is our port of call on the following day. The sun shines and the air is chilly in the early morning as our guide leads on a walking tour of the city. As with all guides, Salome is very proud of her city and it is certainly putting on its Sunday best on this day. The buildings sparkle in the early morning sun, especially the odd folly with plans to become a hotel with a ferris wheel attached to the side high off the ground and a shiny spear pointing to the heavens.
A Sunday church service
We walk through cobbled streets with well-kept houses and reach Neptune Square, a modern central square opposite the mosque. Service is beginning but we creep into the back of the church and watch the ceremony briefly, taking in the incense fumes and the devout crowd.
Batumi Botanical Gardens
Then it’s a bus trip to the Botanical Gardens. These are 20 minutes drive outside the city and high in the mountains. We are lucky that our guide knows her plants and she takes us through the sections of the gardens divided into various geographical regions, including, surprisingly, Australia. The view down to Batumi city is spectacular.
Lunchtime has us back on board, then a walk through another part of the city, less salubrious, and a place of gambling houses, pawn houses and money exchanges. Batumi is apparently a paradise for Turks who cross the border to gamble and enjoy an alcoholic drink! Apart from tourism the city’s economy is based on oil refining and tea as the climate is ideal for tea plantations.
The afternoon offers a special performance of the Adjara Company of Song and Dance at the State Musical Centre. This has been organised for the ship’s passengers and proves to be a captivating performance. The Musical Centre is modern with good acoustics and the performance is a precise and colourful display of Georgian dance and music. We are treated to musicians and singers as well as dance performances and come away with a lasting memory of this part of Georgian culture.