Sarpi

Berlin architects, J. Mayer H., have gone wild with the 2011 Georgian customs terminal.

Sarpi is a Georgian village on the Black sea in Southwestern Georgia right on the border with Turkey.

Understand

Nothing much, apart from the border crossing between Turkey and Georgia. Coming from Turkey one re-enters Europe, as evidenced by the Orthodox church just behind the border juxtaposing the mosque on the Turkish side.

The border is open 24/7.

Get in

Border crossing from Turkey

Coming from Turkey exchange some money at the bank inside the Georgian customs terminal, before the immigration check. Note that they charge a commission of about 5% higher than what is obtainable at street stalls in Batumi, whereas the exchange booths by the bus stop outside charge a 10-12% higher commission.

There's no point in buying anything in the duty-free shop within the Turkish building as Georgian street prices are lower. Similarly, don't go for the (non-free) toilets on the Turkish side, since the toilets on the Georgian side are free of charge.

WARNING: If you need a visa to enter Georgia and plan to buy one on arrival (as it is officially possible), be aware that there is no ATM inside the border checkpoint, and the bank, officially open 24/7, is only "sometimes" open. If you cannot change money into GEL, you will be denied entrance, at least until the bank opens. And this can last for hours.

Do

It's odd for a major international border crossing to have a nice beach, but Sarpi's pebble beach and clear water are nice indeed. Despite the Turkish trucks lined up to cross over to Hopa, the setting is picturesque, with the beach and border crossing occupying a narrow strip of land before the topography of the village shoots directly upwards across jungle-covered green cliffs. Whether a swim here is your first or your last experience during your travels in Georgia, it's likely to be a memorable one. Swimming across the border would certainly not be appreciated by the border guards, though…

Eat

Sarpi beach

The main eatery right by the border post and the beach is heralded by a lot of yellow umbrellas over plastic tables. It's a modest eatery and probably not the best introduction to Georgian cuisine, but some quick roadside food after a dip in the crystal waters of the Black Sea is likely to be enjoyable regardless of the quality.

Drink

With the oldest evidence of wine making having been discovered just up the road, it's hardly surprising that wine takes precedence over beer, Chacha, or any other form of alcohol. Be prepared to drink at least one glass since a refusal might offend or brand you as a Muslim undesirable.

Georgians don’t usually sip - they slurp - although they are always patient enough to wait until each traditional toast has been orated.

Sleep

Options are scarce if you are looking for accommodation within Sarpi itself, although if you make friends with a local you are likely to receive sincere offers of generous hospitality at their own house. There are good options just up the coast though ask around after you've already left the customs office behind.

Go next

The next stop to the south is the small town of Hopa (population 15,000) in Turkey. A ride on a dolmuş (shared taxi) should cost certainly no more than 5-10 Turkish lira. The Turkish taxi drivers won't speak Russian, if that's how you have been getting around, so brush up on either your Georgian or Turkish numbers and get ready for a lot of bargaining in Turkey!

If you are coming from Turkey, say your farewells to the dolmuş culture and say hello to the wonderful world of post-Soviet Lada taxis. A ride up to Batumi, where you can connect with the national transport system, should not cost any more than GEL15-20.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, June 15, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.