Day 5 – Final stretch

Writing from the train taking us from Batumi to Yerevan, the last stretch of our trip down to Armenia. I don’t know what Leo wrote yesterday about that part of the journey, but I will only focus on today. Even though I have much to reflect upon and probably add to yesterday, as I didn’t have quite the same experience as Leo had. Anyway.

We started this morning with a half Georgian /half Turkish breakfast buffet at the hotel on the roof terrace. It felt nice to finally dare to eat some fresh vegetables again without worrying about sick stomachs. Then we wrapped ourselves up in the room, checked out and headed out on the streets of Batumi to spend our last hours. The storm from last night had passed, leaving excellent conditions for city exploration with a beautiful blue sky and a fresh wind from the sea. So we strolled up and down random streets, photographing our way around, touched the beach grovel and the sight of the Black Sea before we paused for some coffee. And we concluded two things during our few hours in Batumi;

  • Polite customer service is not a Georgian custom, as barely anyone smiled or offered some help in any way
  • Batumi is all or nothing. Luxury hotels and casinos next to old shacks and horrible living conditions. On the other side of the street from our hotel on the roof, there was a shelter of badly fitted tin patches where a mother and her baby made their everyday life. It was like something that one sees in documentaries from ghetto areas, but scattered among luxury hotels where people just seem to have turned a blind eye. It all felt strange and uncomfortable, the worst part is that you can’t really do anything about it then and there. So you just continue your relatively lush backpacker life, observing and taking it in from a distance.

Our coffee break turned into a late lunch that became too late, and we had to run back to the hotel to fetch our luggage and find a cab to take us to the railway station. When we got dropped off at the station we rushed for the platform, up and down the stairs with 35 kg each to carry, only to realise that the train didn’t leave for another 15 minutes. So we sat down in our small room, noticed that there were no ventilation what so ever while we started to sweat heavily after our little run. Luckily, the train conductor spoke Armenian and told Leo that the ventilation would kick in when the train started moving so we weren’t completely screwed for the upcoming 14 hours.

Our cabin is furnished according to the fashion of Soviet in the 70/80s. Brownish all the way and dim lighting, topped of with a swift scent of cigarettes. If anyone of you have watched the Chernobyl TV-show lately – that is pretty much what we are in. Except for the small detail of the radiation. But the staff is great, so is the ventilation once it kicks in, and it is quite cosy being cradled by the old unsteady wagon swinging from side to side. Comparing to the life of some in Batumi there’s really not much to complain about at all. Leo strolls around talking Armenian with random strangers, loving the ability to finally talk and be understood by people again.

All in all, our last stretch is ok. Not the best, but definitely ok. Now we’re only eight hours and a border crossing away from the start of the real adventure. Crazy and hard to take in, that this week has only been the beginning.

The train view just before leaving Batumi


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