July 27, 2005
Adjara has its own government, own laws, and own taxes. It is united with Georgia in only the loosest of manners (you need no special visa). Adjarans themselves are ethnically Georgian and speak Georgian, and the only difference is that somewhere along the line, they converted to Islam, but even that has disappeared (only one mosque exists in Batumi today). It is an odd place, but one of supreme natural beauty, and worth a visit.Batumi is its capital, and it is a city that seems like it belongs more as the capital of some small Caribbean isle than a Caucasian republic. Its buildings are designed in a manner that seems to be a half-finished copy of the British colonial style. The Black Sea looks as blue as the Caribbean. In February it was T-shirt weather, and if it weren’t for the lack of palm trees and the snow-covered mountains, you really might forget where you were.The trip to Batumi is a long (8-hour) and tedious train ride from Tbilisi or a much more bearable and shorter minibus ride. I decided to take the train out and nearly froze to death huddled under my jacket. I hardly slept at all. By all means, you should take the minibus.
There are not many reasons per se to go to Batumi, other than to experience its distinct style and take in some refreshing sea air and sunshine. There is a small Stalin Museum commemorating the year he spent there (1901-1902), as well as the infinitely more interesting Adjara Museum, a strange testament to the Abashidze family and the autonomy of Adjara. About 12km to the south, you will find the Byzantine fortress of Gonio, the most interesting sight in the region. Beyond that, just walk around, sit at the beachside cafés, or maybe take a dip in the sea if it is warm enough. There are even a few bars that get lively at night for a good time. Admittedly, I was there in February, and I imagine that the summer months are more exciting.In terms of places to stay, there are plenty of homestays available, as well as regular hotels. I stayed at the Hotel Bebo, a small and friendly homestay, for $5.
From journal Georgia: Jewel of the Caucasus