It was 1994 when locals from Batumi, Georgia decided to turn a huge swamp into a profitable business with which they could feed their families. The name Khopa comes from the Turkish name Hopa (a city in Turkey, close to Georgia) and the idea to build a bazar/marketplace came from Turkey as well.
The people of Batumi slowly turned a desolated wetland into a small bazarre, which then expanded into a place where one could buy “everyday stuff”; slowly the market has become the beacon of cheap and affordable prices where one could purchase his or her needs. The Georgian government didn’t really contribute anything when it came to constructing Khopa; it was all done by locals and the owners of the land on which the market was built.
In the span of 24 years, the place has become like Rome, everything leads to it. Almost every public transport line will lead to Khopa, one just has to wait for it. Take any bus or a microbus, pay 50 Georgian Tetri and at the end of the trip, you will end up in Khopa. It is also the starting point for every bus line, from where they start their odyssey into the city.
Khopa should not be expected to resemble a modern day mall, since it is not really renovated or brightened up with nice bright LED lights; nor it is clean by any means, though it offers almost everything you might want for a household for half the price compared to outside shops. The trick is — almost every clothing or a grocery shop (and many more) get their products either from Khopa, or a similar source where Khopa buys from. The difference between the two is that those shops outside of the bazar claim to have better products simply because their shops are better looking, though the reality is that pretty much all of them (if they are not original authentic shops) get their products from the same place. Sneakers that cost 150 Georgial lari somewhere else in Batumi could be easily found for 100 Lari at Khopa. The perks of this kind of market is that the prices are not fixed; one can bargain with everyone about anything. Unlike other “fancy” shops, if you don’t like the price you can tell a seller and they will make sure to offer something that could be profitable for both.
It really looks like a maze from inside and every time I visit I have the feeling that the only way out is Ariadne to fall in love with me and give me a string. Not just the layout, but everything is confusing because there’s so much of it there. Toys, household goods, food, baby diapers, hair dryers and other products are mashed up in one spot. Because of that, it hurts your eyes and makes it really hard to get around.
As workers say, the best business to have there is either grocery or clothing. The reason is that people don’t really purchase plates or a pan regularly since it is something you can get by for a long time without even thinking of changing it. Other business owners struggle to get by. One of the workers told me, “We have no vacation whatsoever. We work every damn day of the year without taking a break and still it is not enough. One might think that having a business makes you a man with a lot of vacation days with your family, right? Not really, I haven’t had fun times with my family for years.”
Though the income of the place in total exceeds hundreds of thousands of Lari, the Georigan revenue service doesn’t really have any power over them. They are obliged to have the special devices to give you checks and thus give the information to the government, but they don’t really do it, nor do they care about it. The midst of the marketplace is not regulated at all. The food is most likely not regulated as well, since it is outside all the time through humid, sunny or rainy days. It should also be noted that there hasn’t been nearly as many food related incidents reported as one might think after seeing the place. In 2014 Khopa almost burned completely because of malfunctioning pyrotechnics; since then, they haven’t really done anything to change it. If the same thing happens, it will burn down again.
It might sound like a place one might not want to visit, but I believe it is a fantastic location to find products for a lot cheaper than anywhere else and most importantly, the market really shows the authentic parts of Batumi, since it hasn’t really changed after it was built. It really looks like 1994 inside and if one wants buy things and experience Batumi, then Khopa is one of the best places to go. On the other hand, if one decides to spend more time here and maybe live here for a while, then I’d say it is a must to be friendly with the place.