Caucasus ? Where is that place, asked my 10 years old son.
Well this is somewhere between Russia, Turkey and Iran...After a few sec, he said: so there is war there .... I said: well, we are lucky, at this moment, there is no war :)
Then my wife came and asked why do you want to go Georgia and Armenia, why not just stay in more time in Turkey instead ? Well if I tell you: silk road, Prometheus, Noah's Ark, great wine and cognac, it should give you an idea why I want to visit those two post Soviet countries !
She said: well very valid points ! But is it safe for the kids (we are travelling with a 8 month old baby and a 10 years old son) ? I told her I had no idea but based on the info I collected, it should be fine !
So we flew to Istanbul and spent a few days in this the Turkish metropolis before to hit the road by bus until Ankara where the Dogu Express was waiting for us.
The Dogu Express, one of the oldest train in Turkey, that brought us to the East of Turkey in the city of Erzurum through an overnight journey. It takes around 15 hours ride between Ankara to Erzurum. The ride was comfortable enough for our little family and we could enjoy the fantastic scenery of the Anatolian region. Tickets in a 4 berth compartment coupe were about 75 euro for the four of us. Super cheap !
After a short night spent in Erzurum, we took a taxi to The Turkish and Georgian Border at Sarp. It took us 1 hour to cross the border. Minarets were replaced by churches, burqas and niqab also disappeared and were replaced by tiny bikini.
For our first stop in Georgia, we decided to stop along the Black Sea in Batumi (capital of the Adjara region). The city was and is still a very popular destination for the Russian. During Soviet time Batumi was referred as part of the Russian Riviera but also one of the biggest harbor in the black sea region. Very popular and strategic !
The city reflects in his architecture modernism and all the history the city went through (Russian, Soviet, Turkish, Asian with a touch of French and Italian). Dostovieski and Ella maillart mentioned Batumi in their literature, and I have to say their description are relatively acurate !
The beach is covered by stones, no sand here. But don't worry, it's not bad, it's just different of the usual sandy beaches we used to see. All along the beach and the strip, you have a large amount of trendy terraces where you can enjoy some drinks and get some unexceptional finger foods served by Georgian or Lebanon waiter. During Summer, a lot of DJ are coming from all over the world to animate parties. Is Batumi becoming the next Ibiza, well I hope not !
During our stay, we visited intensively the old city mostly by walk. It’s just convenient. Lot of tiny shops selling artcraft are scattered around the old city. If you get tired, You can stop anytime at a coffee terrace, these are legions and pretty cheap. Summer time is also the season of water melon and melon, we ate those every day, super tasty ! Lot of sellers in the streets and ridiculously cheap.
The city is really relaxing. Batumi has certainly lost its flamboyance of the old days but I will not be surprised to hear that Batumi is becoming trendy again in the future.
Finally, we found the local people very friendly and really enthusiast especially if they see you are traveling with children. In Georgia, children are very important, they are cherished at the highest level by Georgian. The fact we travelled with our 2 sons really helped us at many occasion to break the ice (even if we had difficulties to talk in georgian and Russian). So many times, we were invited by locals for a drink (Chacha) or share their meal. Yes Georgian hospitality is among the best we witnessed so far.