Adjara UGo TravelThough Georgians are plenty proud of their entire country, there’s a special place in their hearts for the Black Sea region of Adjara. Sitting right next door to Turkey, the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, as the area is officially known, is a land of pristine beaches, high mountains and amazing food. Although Adjara is on the coast of the so-called Black Sea the waters in the area are azure blue, and very very warm. Swimming season in Adjara lasts from May well into October, sometimes longer, while July and August are tourist season. The capital of Adjara is Batumi. With laid back streets lined with palm trees and gorgeous 19th century architecture, it feels more like the Caribbean than Eastern Europe. Boasting cinemas, theatres and museums, an Opera House and Circus, as well as the longest Boulevard in Europe (all of which has free wi-fi access). Adjara is a 19th century resort brought firmly into the modern age, CNN has described the last few years in Batumi as a “miracle”, with big international names like Sheraton and Hayatt helping the economic transformation of the city. Nightclubs, bars, beautiful gardens and amusement parks, tiny boutique shops and cafés mean that there’s always a good time to be had in Batumi. Batumi has always been a highly diverse place. One hundred years ago the town hosted one of the worlds first oil pipelines, owned by the Nobel brothers, and since then it has attracted people from all over Georgia, as well as Jews, Armenians, Russians, Greeks and Turks.

Being right next to Turkey, some Adjarians are Muslims, and Batumi features a charming Ottoman era mosque right in the middle of the old town. The subtropical Adjaran mountains are hypnotically beautiful. Orange, tangerine and lemon groves, beautiful orchards, forests, mountain streams and waterfalls make the entire region truly breathtaking. The mountains, which reach over 3000 meters, are home to dozens of mineral water springs, charming wooden villages and medieval bridges. Fifteen percent of Adjara is made up of protected areas, in three separate reserves. The protected ecosystems include zones of temperate rainforest, coastal wetlands and peat bogs. Adjara is a multi-national region, as evidenced by

the abundance of different places of worship. Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches stand cheek by jowl in Batumi, along with a Synagogue and a mosque. For so long a major trading hub, Adjara has ancient populations of Pontic Greeks, as well as Armenians, Russians, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Jews and Turks. No matter who your hosts are, though, guests are treated with immense hospitality by the locals, who preserve ancient songs and traditional dances that haven’t changed in centuries.

Moskhs from ancient times, the territory of Adjara was a province of the classical state of Colchis, home of the Golden Fleece, in the 7th-3rd centuries BC. Colonized by Greek merchants in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., the coast of Adjara later came under Roman rule. Bathus – present day Batumi – and Apsaros, modern Gonio, were the key cities and fortresses at that time. Archeological excavations have revealed ruins of a rich ancient town at Pichvnari near the present day town of Kobuleti. In the 2nd century AD, Bathus was an important military base for Roman legions. Apsaros was famous for its theatre. The early Christian era in Adjara was linked with names of Saint Andrew, Saint Simon the Canaanite and Matata. Saint Matthias is said to be buried in the Gonio fortress near Batumi. In the 2nd century AD, Adjara was incorporated in the kingdom of Lazica. The province’s key fortress of Petra (Tsikhisdziri) served as a battlefield during the Lazic War between the Byzantines and Persians in 542-562. In the 11th century, Adjara became a part of the unified Georgian Kingdom of the Golden Age, many of the ancient bridges that dot Adjara’s valleys date from this time. The Mongols ravaged the region in the 13th century, and after the disintegration of the central Georgian state and subsequent internal wars, Adjara eventually became a part of the Principality of Guria in 1535. The Genoese established one of their Black Sea trading “factories” at the fortified town of Gonio at that time. After several attempts, the Ottomans took full control of the area in 1614. Large numbers of Adjarans fled to other Georgian regions, while many of those who stayed converted to Islam, which was the dominant religion in the area by the nineteenth century. During the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, thousands of Adjarans were recruited in the Ottoman army. The Ottomans ceded Adjara to the Russian Empire on March 3, 1878. Under the Russian oppression of Islam, thousands of Muslims fled the region in search of refuge in Turkey in an immigration process called the Muhajiroba. Financed by the Ottomans, a terrorist organization known as The Avengers attempted to kill Russian officers and officials, along with Adjarans who collaborated with the imperial presence. 

Nevertheless, many Adjarans were loyal to Russia as they found the best opportunity to be reunited with other Georgians. The Berlin Congress of 1878 declared the regional capital of Batum a porto franco or free port. The city became an important seaport and industrial city towards the end of 1880s. At the turn of the 20th century, Batumi was linked to the oil fields of Baku by rail, and by one of the earliest oil pipelines in the world. Once the pipeline arrived, Batumi became one of the most important ports in the world. On June 22, 1892 the “Markus”, a huge tanker ship departed Batumi for Bangkok, Thailand, becoming the first oil tanker to transit the Suez Canal. During World War I, Adjaran muhajirs (emigrants to Turkey) formed a division within the Turkish army. This prompted the Czarist government to move many Muslim Adjarans into internal exile, who were not allowed to return until Russia pulled out of the war, after the 1917 revolution. On 14 April 1918 the Ottoman 37th Caucasian Division entered Batumi.Adjara has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. Occupied by the Georgian tribe of

Following the defeat of Turkey in 1918, a British expeditionary force landed in Batumi to replace the Turkish troops in early 1919. Under British occupation, a provisional administration was formed, known as a Mejilis, or parliament. The Committee of the Liberation of Muslim Georgia, headed by Memed Abashidze, was in favour of uniting with newly independent Georgia, brut retaining local autonomy due to religious differences. The British administration ceded the region to Georgia on 20 July 1920. During the Soviet invasion of Georgia in 1921, Turkish forces occupied Batumi once again, and held the city until they were expelled by the Georgian troops under General Giorgi Mazniashvili on March 18, 1921. Soviet rule in Batumi was declared the next day. The Soviet government declared the Adjar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on 16 July 1921. Turkey ceded the region to Bolsheviks on the condition that it would be granted autonomy, for the sake of the Muslims among Adjara’s mixed population. It is thought also that Moscow wanted to avoid giving Georgia complete control of the important Black Sea port of Batumi, and to bolster Communist leanings among the ethnic Georgian Muslims living in Turkey. Under the Soviet Union, Islam, like Christianity, was repressed. Following Georgia’s independence in 1991, President Zviad Gamsakhurdia appointed Aslan Abashidze as the head of the Adjara’s Supreme Council. For the next 13 years, Abashidze ruled the area like a feudal lord. Relations between the central and regional authorities were strained, and Abashidze often refused to pay taxes to the central budget. Abashidze took control over the customs, Batumi seaport and other strategic objects. He created his own semi-official armed units and had full control over the Batumi-based 25th Brigade of Georgia’s Defense Ministry. The central government claimed Batumi-based Russian military unit was a powerbase for the Adjaran strongman and criticized Abashidze for his pro-Russian orientation. However, the crisis came to head after the peaceful Rose Revolution of 2003 brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power. In May 2004, Abashidze claimed that Georgian forces were preparing to invade. His forces blew up bridges connecting the region with the rest of Georgia and a state of emergency was followed by the dispersal of local oppositional demonstrations on May 4. This proved a catalyst for even larger demonstrations later on the same day. Tens of thousands from all Adjara headed for Batumi to demand Abashidze’s resignation. On May 6, Abashidze’s position became untenable when local protesters took control over central Batumi and Georgian Special Forces entered the region and started to disarm pro-Abashidze groups. After the overnight talks with Russian official Igor Ivanov, Abashidze stepped down and left for Moscow. Since Abashidze’s departure, Adjara has boomed, with massive investment in hotels and infrastructure. Adjara is now reinventing itself as a top European holiday destination, a process that has been described as a miracle by CNN. 

Adjara’s hot, wet climate means that in terms of vegetation, Adjara seems more Caribbean than eastern European. Behind the eucalyptus-lined streets lie groves  of tangerines, oranges, lemons and kiwis. Adjara is Georgia’s main citrus exporter, as well as home to it’s  tea industry, which is getting back on its feet after years of neglect. At higher altitudes, Adjara’s rich mix of evergreen and coniferous forests are a delight. At ground level, jungle-like vegetation, vines and creepers show you why this is called a temperate rainforest. The Black Sea littoral and precipitation zone beyond represent significant areas for migratory and nester birds. Eagles, falcons, kites, wild hens, thrushes can be all be seen in Adjara. Crampfish, sea bear and beluga comprise the biggest of the Black Sea fauna. Mullet, flat-fish, which can regularly be seen in the waters just of the city, is the symbol of Batumi.

Petra Fortress

The ruins of ancient historical city-fortress Petra are located in the village of Tsikhisdziri, Kobuleti region. It dates back to VI c A.D. Historically, the territory was inhabited by one of the Iberian tribes – the Lazes. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian built a city there because of its unique military-strategic and trade-economical location. Petra fortress controlled a road going across the coastal zone and connecting the region with Byzantium, Persia, and Armenia, and the Great Silk Road going from Byzantium and on via the Black Sea.

Gonio Fortress

Gonio Fortress (previously called Apsaros or Apsaruntos) is the oldest fortress in Georgia. It is located in the southwestern part of the country in the Gonio village. In the 2nd century it was a well-fortified Roman city within Colchis. The town was also known for its theatre and hippodrome. It later came under Byzantine influence. The name “Gonio” is first attested in the 14th century.

Gonio history is closely connected to the myth of the Argonauts. According to the legend this is the site where king Ayet buried his son Apsaros, whose body was dismembered and thrown into the sea by Jason.

The interested traveler can find out that the oldest archaeological layer excavated here belongs to XVIII-XVII cc. BC. Burials of V c BC have been found outside the southern wall in Gonio. The revival of urban life has been traced since the Hellenistic Age. A number of historians claim that Gonio fortress used to be the strategic, political, economic and cultural centre of the Eastern Roman frontier. A theatre and hippodrome functioned here in I-III cc. AD.

Today’s ruins of the fortress come from its reconstruction in the 16th century. The total length of the fortress walls is 900 meters. There were preserved here 5 m high walls and 18 towers that are 7 meters high. It used to have 22. 4 main towers were arranged in the corners of the fence. Earlier the fortress had 4 entrances but today only the western gate is in function.

Gonio-Apsaros fortress is declared the museum-preserve. Nowadays it is a real paradise for the lovers of historical and cultural antiquities.

Dandalo Bridge

Dandalo Bridge is located in the village of Dandalo, Cedi county, on the river of Acharackali. The length of the bridge is 34.5 merers, and the width is 28 meters.

The right pier of dandalo bridge is built directly on the cliff, where the left pier of the bridge is cut into water, the bridge is built by rocks.

Batumi

Batumi is an administrative center of the Autonomus Republic of Adjara and is one of the biggest resorts in the Black sea region. It is located in the south-eastern part of Black sea, in a deep gulf. The name Batumi originated from Greek roots, earlier it had a Greek name “Batius Liman”, which means deep gulf. Scientists consider that at this particular place, ancient cultures – antique and Kolch merged together. The small city is filled with numerous trees of magnolias, during the flowering of which the whole city becomes covered in their aroma. The fields around the city are mostly tea and citrus plantations, spotted with ancient ruins.

The part which locals call “Old Batumi”, is approximately 150 years old, the building have an extraordinary beauty there – usually 2-3 storey are abound with chimaeras, unnamed mythical creatures, lions and other bas-reliefs.

At nowadays Batumi is quickly changing its face – here are rising new contemporary architectural buildings and ambitious sculptural projects are implemented. Batumi becomes modern and fashion summer place, which attracts foreigners, as well as Georgians. It’s a place to enjoy cultural events, noisy nightlife and Black Sea waves.

Batumi Botanical Garden

Batumi Botanical Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in the Former Soviet Union. It is located at the place called Mtsvane Kontskhi (“The Green Cape”) on the Black Sea shore, 9 km north of Batumi city.

Batumi Botanical Garden was started by the Russian botanist Andrey Nikolayevich Krasnov (1862-1914), brother of General Pyotr Krasnov, in the 1880s and officially opened on November 3, 1912. He was aided by two skilled gardeners and decorators – the French D’Alphonse and the Georgian Yason Gordeziani. Krasnov died in 1914 and was interred at the garden which still houses his grave and statue.

The Garden territory at present covers the territory of 112 ha comprising the following 9 phyto-geographical departments: East Asian, North American, New Zealand, South American, Himalayan, Mexican, Australian, Mediterranean (or European) and Transcaucasia humid subtropics. The Garden also contains three parks – the Upper Park, the Lower Park and the Sea Side Park.