My contact at the shipping agency had told me to be at the ferry terminal in Beloslav at 10am on Friday, June 10. Beloslav is about 25km from Varna, at the south-western shore of Lake Varna.
Had a strong head wind but managed to be there on time. Was then sent to passport control, to the ship, to the agent, to customs, and finally back to the ship where I had to wait for another 30 minutes. Paid my fare (but got no receipt or ticket) and got permission to board at noon. Even got some lunch.
With me in the cabin were Zoltán, a Hungarian Romanian, and Alex, a Georgian French. Zoltán speaks English, but Alex doesn’t. Apart from French and Georgian, Alex speaks some Russian. Zoltán understands some French, due to its similarity to Romanian. I do, too, and I speak a tiny bit of Russian. So communication between the three of us was a weird mix of at least two languages.
Everyone else on the ship was either crew or truck driver.
Waiting for departure. Watched trucks and rail cars being loaded ’til we could watch no more. We were not allowed to leave the ship. By 11pm the ferry hadn’t moved so much as a centimeter.
We finally departed on Saturday morning at 8am, after almost 22 hours of waiting.
The journey was uneventful. We anxiously watched our progress on my phone’s GPS, but at 20kph there is not much progress to report within a few hours.
The most exciting sight, besides the three meals we got each day, were the dolphins that accompanied the ship.
Today, on the third day of the journey, about 35km from Batumi we were able to identify the first buildings of the city at the horizon. And the mountains behind it. Holy crap, those are mountains! And that’s only the seaside end of the Lesser Caucasus. How mighty must the Greater Caucasus be?! I started to have some doubts about bringing a bicycle to this country.
We moored in Batumi around 6pm. Immigration and customs, we were told, would take about two to three hours, but in fact it was pretty much hassle-free. My passport was checked and I got a neat stamp that permits me to stay in Georgia for up to 360 days. We left the ‘Geroite na Odessa’ (‘Heroes of Odessa’) after almost 82 hours and touched Georgian soil at approx. 8pm Georgian time. Another passport check, and Zoltán and I walked towards the city center just around the corner.
Checked into the Batumi Hostel, identifiable only by a tiny label made of duct tape on a nondescript door.
Batumi is a very nice little city of about 120.000 people. Located very close to the border with Turkey (about 20km), it is the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara within Georgia. Again I’m awestruck by the architecture in the old town (where the hostel is conveniently located).