Batumi: Playground for Oil Barons

Batumi's Iconic Medea Statue
Batumi's Iconic Medea Statue (Photo by Paata Vardanashvili)

Batumi is the capital the autonomous region of Adjara of the Republic of Georgia and the largest port in the republic.  The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Russians have ruled the area at different periods, but the ancient Colchis (what the Greeks called the Georgians) were always strongly independent.  With the discovery of oil in the land-locked Baku region of Azerbaijan and the opening of a railway from Baku to Batumi, the city became and important export center for Asian oil.  Half of the world’s oil was being exported through Batumi in the first years of the 20th century, so oil barons like Baron Rothschild and the Nobel brothers build mansions in the city.  This was Batumi’s golden age.  During the Soviet era, the city declined due to neglect, but since the establishment of an independent Georgia, the country has invested significantly in the restoration of the city.

(Intriguing historical tidbit:  In 1907 the man who would later become known as Stalin robbed the Tiflis (Tblisi) Bank of millions to help finance the Bolsheviks led by Lenin.  As a well-known hothead radical outlaw he was rightly suspected and he escaped to Batumi.  There he worked for for Rothschild – some historians say as a double agent.  He encouraged labor unrest and was jailed for his activities.)

The renovated city is considered the second capital of Georgia and has over 100,000 residents.  The waterfront area is very touristy with lots of resorts.  The city has beautiful parks, wide boulevards and memorials and statues.  The architecture of the city buildings is generally Art Nouveau.

Batumi Europe Square
Batumi Europe Square

The most popular attraction in the area besides the beaches is the Botanical Garden 9 kilometers north of the city which features cliff-side walks along the Black Sea coast and a plant collection that includes many tropical and semi-tropical specimens.  Beyond the beach resorts, Batumi’s tourism culture is still developing.  The most popular spots inside the city are the Europe Square surrounded by golden age buildings, the Adjara House Outdoor Museum with models of local habitations, the Georgian Orthodox Mother of God Cathedral and the New Boulevard with it’s fountains and gardens.

For more information about Batumi visit CruisePortAtlas.com at:  www.cruiseportatlas.com/Ports/BTM-port.htm .

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