Batumi Boom Town, Georgia 2024

 

As we got closer to the city, big advertising signs on the side of the road displayed brand-new apartments for sale. As the hillside opened up and the road led through the first outskirts of the city, tall construction sites on the upper side of the road presented themselves to us. Yet, we were still guessing what all this meant because, so far, we had experienced the Georgian building scapes as only minimally maintained post-Soviet towns with chaotic road layouts. As soon as we arrived at the coastline where the view opened up to the main city, we understood why people were calling this 'the Las Vegas of the Black Sea.' Batumi really was a blinking and colorfully illuminated agglomeration of extravagant high-rises and the second largest city in Georgia with population of 170,000. 

 

We looked for accommodations on Airbnb beforehand. Our first apartment was in one of the older districts of Batumi, a four-story house with an external staircase. Because the building was empty apart from us, we moved up one floor. Outside our bedroom window, we could see the new-generation high-rises towering above the tin roofs of the aged apartment blocks from the Soviet era. It promised to become an exciting stay.

 
 

1 The Night of Arrival

 

 

2 Checking out the areas close by

Batumi is a historic port city on the Black Sea. In the past, it was a key port for the historic Silk Road and later played a significant role in distributing Azerbaijani oil to the Western world. The city was also occupied by the Ottomans several times. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Batumi served as the capital of the autonomously ruled region of Adjara until 2004. From the 2000s onwards, Batumi attracted many Kazakh investors and gained a reputation as the "Las Vegas of the Black Sea," drawing gamblers from Turkey and Iran. In recent years, a real estate boom has caught up with the city. Its seaside has transformed into a downtown area of tall hotel and apartment buildings. Batumi has had the fastest-growing real estate market in Georgia, but even during peak holiday seasons, it seems to lack tourists, as the buildings are not even close to being fully occupied. Today, many expats and young Russians and Ukrainians fleeing military conscription in their homelands are living here, making Russian the unofficial main language and most of the time the only language in the streets.

 

3 Moving to a Boom Town Apartment (28GEL/10€ per night special discount)

Through our second accommodation, we wanted to get a better picture of the real estate boom in Batumi. We stayed in a one-room apartment on the 20th floor of the "Batumi Beach Tower." This building was one of the many apart-hotels in the city—a hybrid of individually owned apartments, concierge services, and hotel amenities. At the reception desk, we got our key. 
Despite being a brand new building with fancy interior design and modern features, the supposed plan of the building seemed to have fallen quite short.
Inside our room, everything was tidy and clean, but there were loose cables on the walls, algae in the shower, and an unsettlingly shaky balcony railing. The bed was the most comfortable one of our entire trip, but staying on the 20th floor meant we constantly heard the ding of the arriving elevator in the corridor.
Later, we realized that the whole ground floor of the building was only half-utilized. One side had been transformed into the welcoming area of the Orbi Beach Tower, while the other half was a vacant construction site with bare concrete walls. Additionally, if you took the elevator higher than the 24th floor, you would find completely vacant levels. Pressing the "Roof" button opened the elevator doors to metal gutter door exposed to the open sky.

 

4 INVEST NOW!

To me, the condition of our second accommodation symbolized the current boom of Batumi very well: The initial grand vision doesn't quite match the reality. Maybe this is why I observed the advertising of Batumi's many other and planned and announced even taller Apart-hotel with suspicion. Even in our hotel lobby there were advertising videos and information material promoting the purchase of an apartment, feeding the system of snowballs.

 

5 Conquering the Black Sea Pearl

Besides accomplishing our self-set goal of climbing the most fashionable skyscraper in this town, located in the prestigious New Boulevard area, we discovered many interesting things about this dreamlike boomtown. Later, while having a drink in one of the Russian bars downtown, we realized that not only the building we justed entered was a complete ghost. Even in the other hotel buildings with the well known logos of international brands on top, only a few windows were illuminated, indicating that 90 % of the buildings were empty as well.

 

 

 

 

6 Quick Fact Sheet about Batumi (further elaboration is desired)

  1. 1. High-rise buildings and neon signs seem to be a kind of urban culture in Batumi.
    2. The whole city is full of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, in public on every street corner as well as in private areas.
    3. Yes, the cameras are working and are monitored!
  2. 4. Public ATM machines run by the city government, where you can cash out your bitcoins.
  3. 5. You can gamble and place sports bets on the same machines.
  4. 6. You can pay your traffic fines on the same machines.
  5. 7. Even compared to other Georgian cities, there are a whole lot more police cars patrolling.