There are a number of ways to get from Tbilisi to Batumi, but the best, by far, is via the night train. It’s an eight-hour trip, but it’s overnight, which means no hostel or hotel fees! And because the train arrives at 7:30 a.m., it’s super-easy to hop over to Batumi, spend the whole day there, and be back in Tbilisi the next morning. An added bonus is the fact that, when traveling second-class, you never know who your compartment-mates will be. (Each compartment has four berths, and in second-class, they’re co-ed.) Some people merely greet you and then go about their own business getting ready for bed, while others are quite chatty—especially if they find out you’re foreign! For me—on my two Tbilisi-Batumi experiences—this has led to some interesting conversations and contacts, including:
– A feisty bebia going to visit relatives in Batumi for the day. We didn’t say much, as she was busy doing a crossword and reading the newspaper, but she was quite proud of me for attempting to converse in broken Georgian. (We saw her the following night at the train station as well.)
– An older gentleman filling out paperwork for a Schengen Visa for Europe. He was travelling with his son, who, once the train started rolling, went off to another compartment with his friends for a supra. We spoke a bit about how I liked Georgia, what I’d seen, and what I wanted to do with my life, before lying down to sleep.
– A stressed-out young woman with a screaming toddler, who had originally been assigned a ticket for a compartment with three young, rowdy men. She wandered into our compartment—we had an empty berth at the time, and offered it as a place for her to sleep—and started trying to get her little girl to calm down. We spoke together a bit in English and Georgian before, unfortunately, a few stops later, the woman who originally had the ticket for that bed arrived on the train. That caused some drama. I never did find out what happened—I hope the young woman found a quiet place to sleep, eventually.
– A choir director from Tbilisi, travelling to Batumi for a choral festival. We talked shop for awhile (I’ve been involved in music since birth, practically, and being in a choir is one of the things I’ve missed the most over the past year), and G. F. Handel’s Messiah, an oratorio I’ve sung multiple times, eventually came up in conversation. We discussed diction, pronunciation, composition, and what a great piece it is in general. It was a lovely example of the way music can bring total strangers from opposite sides of the world together.
Moral of the story? Don’t ignore your train compartment-mates! (Or people seated next to you on planes or in marshrutkas or taxis, for that matter…) They’re probably pleasant people.