Because we were so close, and because we could, we visited the country of Georgia. We had no idea what to expect. We read an article from someone who crossed from Georgia into Turkey but couldn’t find much information about the other way around. It made us a little nervous navigating a border crossing!
There was plenty of parking available. We opted for a “closed” lot that cost 2,50TL an hour. (You cannot take a rental car from Turkey across a border.)
From there, we got in line. This was a classic Turkish experience. I took us around two hours to get through customs.
Waiting in line in Turkey does not follow the Western way of thinking. Lines follow the waterfall principal. If there is a space available, fill it. There was a lot of pushing and cutting attempts. Prepare to shoulder up. Our group of five created a nice wall across the line. Some Turkish people were very irked with us because we left some space in front of us to breathe. I decided to combat people pushing into me by leaning back. If was going to wait in a long line, I might as well be comfortable! Everyone seemed to be either Turkish or Georgian. We got a lot of stares. There was a group of about 10 older men who deliberately cut at the door. We threw out a couple of çok ayıp!‘s with the rest of the crowd.
Isn’t this border gate funny? It reminded us of Snoopy:
Turkish customs took about an hour and 15 minutes to get through. Georgian customs took another 45 minutes. There were more lines open on the Georgian side. While we waited, there were three ladies who kept looking back at us and whispering. I told David to cross his eyes the next time they stared at him. He did, and the two younger girls had a good laugh and stopped staring so much. The customs lady must have never seen American passports before, because she didn’t know what to do. She called over to a buddy who said to let us through. (We did not have to buy a visa for our short stay.) She was very thorough matching our passport photos to our faces.
Once across, we exchanged a small amount of money and walked a short ways down to an Orthodox church. (Tip: Don’t exchange money RIGHT at the border crossing. There are other exchanges a short walk away with slightly better rates.) My friend Dale took this photo of a church, the border crossing, and a mosque on the other side:
We walked back to the border area and hired a taxi for 20 Lari to take us into Batumi. He dropped us off at the flower district. We didn’t find many restaurants, but grabbed lunch at a pastry shop. Nobody spoke English, but we were able to charade and write our way through the exchange. (It’s been a while since we’ve been in a place where we didn’t know at least a little of the language!) One of the pastries had pork, which was a treat.
We realized none of us had done any research on the city before our trip, so we spent some time walking around. Batumi was interesting. Some areas were VERY modern and nice (some almost European), while others were in pieces. There was an even starker contrast between the rich and poor than what we’ve seen in Turkey.
We found a really nice park with a beach along the Black Sea. We sat and threw rocks for a while and watched dolphins play.
David found a carnival game in the park and was excited he could say he’d shot a gun in Georgia:
We bought a few more pastries for dinner. These girls were very sweet and curious about us. When we asked for a picture with them, they said “Ah! Supermodels!”
After that, we took a taxi back to Sarpi. I like how the sign above says “Good Luck” instead of goodbye. We felt it was appropriate as we neared the border. Re-entering Turkey was a lot easier than crossing into Georgia. We breathed a sigh of relief once we were safely back “home.”
It was a fun adventure and now we can add Georgia to our list of countries visited!