This is probably going to be a shortish post, as our intention in Batumi was to catch a breath (and get our Azerbaijani visa) We haven’t really stopped to reflect yet.
We arrived on the outskirts of the city so needed to get a public bus to the centre. It did not start well as I went somewhere in between blinding Fletch and gauging his right eye out. This was a result of my over exaggeration of pointing as an emphasis upon our intended direction to a non-English speaking Georgian. Without an idea of where we were on the map we were initially a little lost. As we walked along the boulevard we were approached by a familiar face: a French guy we gave directions to in Amasya. He asked for directions again, fortunately we had a good enough idea about where he needed to be going.
As he walked with us I noticed the Azerbaijani flag! A slice of luck! We expected to be walking a while before stumbling across the embassy in Batumi, but it had found us (it’s a good job I’d spent some time on the coach revising my knowledge of world flags…how cool I have become).
We entered the embassy a little nervously as we knew that the man inside had the power to issue us, or refuse us, entry to Azerbaijan. This meant we were incredibly polite and well spoken when around him. He had the demeanour of someone who knew he had power over us.
Obtaining the Azerbaijani Visa…can we do it?
We had heard that Batumi is the only place that we could obtain a visa for Azerbaijan without a letter of invitation. We weren’t sure this was factual, but it is. He told us not to worry about the invitation as he would be the inviter as a representative of his government. All we had to do was fill out a couple of forms, hand over 2 passport photos, 2 photo copies of our passport and £90 worth of Geogian cash. This was a killer considering we had been living on peanuts for so long. However, we had been aware of the cost when budgeting so it didn’t come as much of a shock. The man told us that the visa would be ready for us on Monday (in 3 working days, which meant he was shut Saturday and Sunday). This was not such a blow as he didn’t need to hold onto our passports, meaning we could potentially venture into Armenia in the mean time.
We left the embassy safe in the knowledge that Azerbaijan was looking increasingly likely as our final destination. This meant we could check into our hostel and have our first shower for a week. This felt pretty special.
We then headed to the beach where we were able to chill out. The lat 3 weeks has required constant thinking, awareness, moving and planning. For the first time we were able to relax and do nothing, safe in the knowledge that we had a bed to sleep in later. We bathed for a while and had a brief dip in the Black Sea.
As evening approached we walked back to the hostel armed with a bag of pasta and tomato sauce to cook our cheap dinner. We accompanied this with a large bottle of Georgian beer. Having had no beer in Turkey it was a welcome start to the evening (although the pasta was nothing special).
It turned out that the French guy had also booked into our hostel, and he also had a name: Vincent. The hostel had a good atmosphere and we were soon socialising with Vincent, an Israeli girl, a dutch man, a few Iranian girls, 2 Polish hitch hikers, 1 Chinese man, 1 opinionated Turkish man, another French man among countless others. One Georgian man gave us a live music show with his guitar as we downed Polish vodka with the Poles and exchanged QQ details with the Chinese. It made for a great atmosphere until one of the French guys fell out with the Turkish man over religion and Fletch got mistaken for an ashtray. The Turkish man was later removed from the hostel because of his outlandish behaviour towards non believers.
As the night went on people decided to venture towards the sea front for a beer or two. 6 of us made it and we spent a while having a cheap beer on the front before the youngest member of the group got frustrated as he couldn’t remember who else was French. At which point we nearly went to a club but thought better of the £3 entry fee.
We returned back to the hostel at about 2:30 where Fletch hardly touched the pillow before he was asleep. We needed to bed, but perhaps sleeping in one after a few drinks meant we didn’t take full advantage of it.
Our next day started with a trip to the train ticket office. This revealed extortionate ticket prices for the long international journey to Yerevan, via Tbilisi. We decided against it, and prepared ourselves to hitch hike the next day.
We spent most of the afternoon on the beach, taking dips in the Black Sea and napping in the sun. It was a nice experience to relax, but we were keen to get ourselves prepared once we had eaten our cheese and bread lunch combo. This was before we saw an Ajarian speciality in a window, we couldn’t resist trying the very fatty Achma dish.
It soon dawned on us that we could hire a car much cheaper than getting the train. We searched for somewhere to loan us a car but seemed to be out of luck because of the high season. We got some hope when a women told us a Mercedes would be available at a reasonable price. It later turned out to be false.
We found our way back to the hostel easily because of the strange statue of a woman sitting on a fish with water squirting from her nipples. Here we decided to gather our things from the hostel before heading to the airport for a night of free accommodation on the departure floor. We had agreed to hire a car in the morning or begin hitch hiking towards Armenia. In the hostel a film crew were filming for a documentary about cheap travel in Georgia. They filmed a couple of our conversations with Vincent as we invited him in our car should we get one. I think that was the kind of conversation they wanted to see.