With a December average high temperature of 12°C, and average low of 6°C, we were looking forward to defrosting in Batumi.
I also couldn’t wait to discover the pumping vibe of a city newly peppered with eye-wateringly futuristic architecture and neon to die for! Plus, bring on the sea!
Smug in our coming warmness, we crossed into Georgia through the impressive border post and jumped into a share taxi van to Batumi itself. It was a grey day, making the rundown streets of the town seem dull and grey too. Still, the main drag would be amazing, I was sure!
After the long bus trip from Kars the day before, we spent our first day relaxing, enjoying a long leisurely graze of the delicious food and wine on offer (another post). We walked part of the seaside strip heading home at dusk, keen to see the sites, but cold and a light snow was setting in and it took discipline to remove hands from gloves for photos of hazy buildings. Never mind, tomorrow.
That’s when the fun began! Jolted awake, we huddled in our upstairs hotel room as howling wind smashed against the windows from all sides. Lightening flashed viciously into the room and glass threatened to smash. Thunder roared through us. We counted between each spark and growl waiting for the storm to pass.
Morning felt like Christmas. Pulling back the curtains, we found snow banked up on the window sills, piled on roofs and balancing precariously on pine needles. Cars and people headed to work across an unfamiliar white carpet and in far-too-light clothes. From up above, all seemed calm and magical.
Unsuspecting, we headed out happily to explore (in every item of clothing we owned) and to complete some chores. Soon the snow began again and the cold bit. We marched on determined to sort out visas and then arrange a quick exit.
At the travel office, the electricity suddenly cut out. How long would it be? Who knew? I waited, waited and waited. Huge hunks of snow thumped from the roof to the ground outside shaking the windows and making us jump.
Buses were not running. Trains? Without power, they couldn’t issue tickets – only option, wait it out or go to the station.
Outside, Batumi’s gutters overflowed with freezing melting snow creating pools of icy water from one side of the road to the other. There was no way to tell shallow from deep and, in our light sneakers (double socks and plastic bags), our feet were soon saturated and unidentifiably sore.
The fact that two of us also had no coats, just scrunchable waterproof jackets, did nothing to add comfort.
By the time we were at the train station, having waded through calf deep ice streams, I actually thought we were in serious danger of losing our feet for good. The pain was unbearable and crying seemed a good option. All I could do was hop from one foot to the other, over and over and over, nearing real panic.
Brainwave as we headed back to the hotel to get our bags – shoes off in the heated shared taxi to thaw our feet – we needed boots! Yes, “brainwave”!
We jumped out at a market near to our destination and, in a particularly evil twist, one of us couldn’t get her shoes on fast enough and landed deep in slush in only her socks! Aaaaagggh!
Well, you can bet your soft cosy fireside feet that we were not the only people at that market buying gumboots (wellies). Wellies were flying everywhere and this was war!
Diving between the tarpaulin overhangs that stuck out from the front of each small shop, Dads, Mums and kids pushed and shoved and threw boots around as they tried to find any pair that would fit. Shopkeepers struggled to keep track of what was where and as more and more people desperately forced their rock-solid foot-shaped ice sculptures into these rubbery boots, chaos reigned.
It took more than an hour for us all to be booted at last and to feel a wiggle of a toe once again. It seemed like a revelation! We pranced off much more happily for another meal (in the dark!) before our train.
Batumi had been battered with over a metre and a half of snow overnight and 150,000 homes still lacked power three days later!
Our feet luckily lived to travel another day. I just wish I managed to take more pictures of what I ‘m sure is one cool town!
What’s the freakiest weather you’ve been in? Let us know in the comment’s box below.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23082790 (Article and Video on People and Politics)
http://upcloseandpersonalstories.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/georgia-batumi-press-cafe/ (Lots of stuff on Georgia on this Blog including the ultra-cool Georgian alphabet!)