Georgia Part #2: Batumi burnout
Georgia Part #2: Batumi burnout
Looking out the window of my cab from the train station, I caught my first look at the radical skyline of Batumi’s peninsula hub on the Black Sea. If the first part of my weird solo expedition through Georgia had been about experiencing the history and culture of one of the world’s great forgotten societies, then the second part was a dizzying look forward. This was the land of tomorrow, today – to borrow an old cliché – an unknown proto-Dubai, quietly but quickly exploding out of the ground. It seems like the people in the know had cottoned on though, I figured, as we passed a billboard showcasing Donald Trump’s plans in motion for his newest ‘Trump Tower’, currently under construction.
While in Tbilisi I’d been basing myself in a hostel and living the backpackers dream – but here I was having none of that. Batumi’s newest (July 2011) and most revered luxury hotel, the 5 star Radisson Blu hotel & spa would be my residence for the next two nights. The hotel even features in the city’s skyline, with a zig zagging facade that stands out extravagantly. I myself had simply booked a ‘standard room’ (for $US250 a night), but even this went far beyond my expectations, including a living room, 2 large screen TV’s, enormous bedroom and bathroom, all too as higher standard as possible. If it’d been Sydney I’d of being paying 4 times as much. This had quality me time written all over it.
While living like a Saudi Prince was a small part of why I’d come to Batumi, the main reason was its famous beach and party culture. Batumi has always been the Caucuses fun factory, traditionally attracting tourists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia – and of course – mostly Georgians. But the rapid modernisation of the city is very recent, setting the course for a wider (and richer) variety of guests, starting off with myself I guess.
After settling in my room and a sauna, I went off to walk down the main beach boulevard just around the corner from my hotel. It’s a long stretch of palm trees, restaurants and beach clubs as well as a few novelty items such as the dancing fountains. The beach itself isn’t that impressive. It’s stony, and the water is as murky as its official name suggests. But the combination of sun and sea breeze is good as anywhere, and the whole area radiates a classic vacation mood. Relaxing, with the potential for later night chaos were my initial thoughts.
My destination right now was Sector 26, a beach club down the far end of the boulevard just past the shadow of the Batumi Sheraton. Multiple young Georgians around Tbilisi, along with some of the hotel staff had tipped me off that Nicolas Jaar – apparently one of the most popular DJ’s in Europe (or at least Georgia) was playing tonight and that I HAD to get tickets. I’d also spoken to some girls in the sauna who’d also assured me that this was absolutely the place to be this Saturday. Of course I had to be there.
Ticket acquired, I procured copious amounts of alcohol from the nearest convenience store, spent a couple of hours lazing by the pool, and was then subjected to grotesquely oversized portions of food at the Radissons skyline restaurant. Now came the tricky part: predrinking. Alone. This was where I was really missing my friends from earlier. Most of the guests were diplomat/c-level executive types, and while I’d met some cute girls by the pool earlier – I didn’t have my phone on me to get their numbers – and I couldn’t recall mine. And so I began power drinking vodka while blasting MOS beats through my Studio Dre’s and dancing around on my bed. For about 2 hours. Yes, I’m fucking weird. But at least I was psyched to go out to Sector 26 by myself and mingle with the locals.
So I head out, periodically beaming HI to random people walking past or with me. I get the club and the line is immense, though I just seem to slide right through to the front without realising it. Nicolaas Jaar turned out to be pretty lame, but bouncing from group to group of beautiful young Georgian girls was decidedly fun. They were all super friendly and engaging, but with some serious curveballs attached – namely that many were disturbingly young (I think average age was 16), and that all associate strongly with old school orthodox Christianity on a very deep level. There were no easy hook-ups here. In fact, over the course of the night I saw virtually no promiscuity of any sort at the hottest venue in town (kissing, grinding etc). The only spectacle being provided by myself when I ended up making out with a gorgeous girl, and attracting a slightly absurd amount of commotion for doing so – despite it being a banality in my books. This sure was a long way from Kazantip – even if it wasn’t so geographically. Overall it was a fun night though it would have been nice to make more out of my oversized, opulent room.
The next day I felt sick and totally off. I lay around the pool and allowed myself to enjoy quality food and drink, before bouncing to some lounge clubs on the beach. I made some attempts to strike up conversations with strangers but my heart wasn’t in it today.
One of the reasons I crave solo travel is that it forces you to meet new people, seek out adventure and put you into entirely unexpected situations. But the effort can burn you out sometimes – especially when you’re under the weather – and this was where I was at now. The result was me in a malaise, wandering about listlessly with my thoughts dominated by a bizarre internal narrative, making overly intricate observations about the unremarkable. I missed my bros.
The day passed by as a chore and by dinner time I felt woozy and wretched, ordering for the first time on my trip – a salad. Afterwards I watched BBC world news for a couple of hours then passed out on my bed. The next morning I’d be taking a train back to Tbilisi and starting the long arduous journey home. This was not the black sea finale I’d had in mind.
Georgia certainly taught me a few things. Namely that travelling solo can polarize your experience of a place like nothing else. While it worked out well for me at the start in the chance meetings and adventures with Elena and Isra, the Batumi excursion had showed me that the very opposite is also possible. I can’t say I wasn’t a little wishful at times to be with my other friends, who were simultaneously cavorting around the land of blondes, also known as Sweden. But in the end I have to grade the success of a trip by one criterion: The stories. Namely, did I get to do and see some uniquely outrageous shit in a country most people don’t even know exists? Yes. This trip had been a success.