After having crossed Bulgaria in a week, we took a couple of days off in Burgas and then hopped on the Black Sea Ferry to Batumi, Georgia. Getting tickets for the ferry was the easy part: Gratsi called the office of the ferry operator and within a minute we had our reservations. To make a reservation you can either call or mail the office. On the day of departure we just had to collect our boarding passes at customs and get on the boat and pay cash there (or you can pay at the office which is near the port). You can pay both in Euros and in Bulgarian Lev. A bed in a 4-bed-cabin with private bathroom and shower and three meals per day are included in the price. Bicycles ship for free. The cooks were very friendly and would even give us more food, when we were still hungry, or they would offer us to cook something else, if we wanted to eat something else. Water and tea is available during day and night and with meals you can have tea, coffee and juices.
Sailing off was the tricky part, or at least for us it was a little challenging. Once we entered Burgas, we saw nothing but fog, which was to last for days. The sun had accompanied us for weeks and now we had “bad weather”. The ferry was supposed to leave on Friday evening, but didn’t leave until late morning on the following day. There is a ferry running once per week to Batumi, then to Novorossiysk in Russia and back to Burgas. On the official website, though, it is stated that the ferry will first land in Poti (50km north of Batumi) instead of Batumi, which is misleading. Despite the delayed departure we arrived punctually in Batumi.
Boarding the Black Sea Ferry, we were happy about all the adventures that were to come in Asia, amazing views in the Caucasus and new cultures. After having crossed half of Europe, we had an established routine as to where to go shopping and what to eat. We knew that this was about to change very soon.
Once on the boat we weren’t allowed to get off anymore. Luckily, we weren’t the only passengers onboard. For the first time we met other travelers, like Ruth, who we got to know last December when we were in Varna and who is walking from Switzerland with her two dogs; Sebastian and Miriam, a couple also from Switzerland, who were on their way to the starting point of their journey – Teheran, Iran – from where they planned to cycle all the way back home on a similar route as ours; and Harry and Linda, a couple from South Africa, riding through Eastern Europe to Iran and back on motorbikes (check out there blog at www.pikipiki2.co.za). Thus, the next days were full of interesting conversations and storytelling. The rest of the passengers were truck drivers and crew.
Spending the first night onboard in the port helped us adjust. At least Gratsi thought so. On the first day we had no waves, but on the second there were small to medium waves and Gratsi learned very quickly about the symptoms of sea sickness and how to cope with them. Luckily, this didn’t last for too long and after having slept for twelve hours, she was feeling much better on the next day and ready for Georgia.
At first, we just saw mountains with snow-covered peaks. As the ship approached the shore, a beautiful city, situated by the sea and surrounded by mountains, slowly set itself apart from the horizon. We had finally arrived in Batumi. What we saw from the ferry was a rich city with modern architecture. We knew that Georgia had developed over the last few years, but we definitely didn’t expect it to look like this.
Customs and passport control went smoothly on both sides. The only difference was that in Georgia passport control took place on the ship. When we were leaving the ferry, a police officer ticked our names off a passenger’s list to make sure that we had actually left the ferry. As we stepped down from the ramp, our journey through Georgia began.
Jan & Gratsi
P.S.: Check out our route map to see where we are!