Batumi, the second largest city in Georgia, has many interesting places to visit. The city is located on the Black Sea and borders Turkey. It is famous for various reasons, starting with the alphabet tower, to the moving statue of Ali & Nino, and other beautiful buildings and facilities. There are many ways to experience Batumi – one could simply go to the seaside and take a walk from the beginning to the very end and see all the main sights that have been built in the last couple years. Or one could go to deeper parts and see the contrast between gentrified places and the actual markets that still have the smell of poverty which is typical for Batumi. Because of it’s location, Batumi is a major sea port, hence it has that history of being a significant center for shipbuilding, fishing, and light manufacturing, though it is mostly known for gambling now. As a resident I have a specific place that will tell what Batumi really is; it is related to fish.
Out of many spots you could go, for those interested in the history and the cultural experience, there is one place that is a must see. It is called Melkimoria (Rus. Мелкое море), or the fish market. This place is unique and holds the true Batumi experience since nothing has yet touched it. It is located right at the entrance of the area and is pretty small. The fish market is a perfect place if you love sea food and especially fresh sea food. Preparing seafood is not always easy and people are usually lazy to spend hours on it, that’s why there are so many restaurants around the fish market in Batumi. If you want to eat fresh fish right from the sea, go to the market and they’ll arrange it for you. All you have to do is to choose what you want to eat, the rest is on them.
The workers have their unique stories to tell, though they share one thing in common – poverty. After asking how does selling fish work for them, they reply that they swim along the stream like the fish they sell. The market has been open for more than 30 years and generations of people have worked there. Some have migrated from different regions of Georgia (such as Guria and Imereti), some are local. They say working here is not easy, they wake up early morning to receive fresh fish from fishermen; it is out by the time its dawn.
The most exotic and beautiful part of this place is the actual process of buying the food: there are many varieties from which you can choose – whatever seafood you want. Everything is relatively cheap, for instance: 4.5 ounces of Mussels are 8 Lari ($3.2), you can also get Black Sea trout, “Barabulka” and Flounder, all wonderfully fresh. Once you choose what and how much you want, the lady will weigh it carefully and then give it to the other ladies who work there to clean your food. Usually it costs nothing for them to clean your purchase. Once you are settled, you have to walk literally 5 seconds from the market to the closest restaurant, the personnel know right away what you want. They will take your fish and start preparing it. In the restaurant, there is nothing to order, you have to bring your own fish and they’ll cook it. You can even catch some fish beforehand with the fishermen and sailors, who drink and dance on the shore – but that’s another story.
To sum up, I’d say that there are quite a few places in Batumi where one can experience the whole city in a single spot and one of them is Melkimoria (old name for the market) which you can visit to feel the city’s vibe. While being there, you’ll experience not just a beautiful part of the Batumi with memorable aesthetics, but great choice seafood and authentic local culture. The place holds the smell of the whole city – the smell of the sea, the fishermen and sailors, and the food that they bring from the Black Sea. Once you get that scent, it will never leave your memory.
In order to get the fish market from the city center all you have to do is take any kind of transport that goes to Makhinjauri and ask a driver to stop at the market, it will cost not more than 80 Tetri (40 cents).