Poti, Georgia’s main port, is one of the most ancient towns in the country, founded as the Greek trading colony of Pazisi or Phasis in the 6th or 5th century BC, although there is little evidence of this now. It’s a pleasant enough town, visited by travellers for two main reasons: the ferry to Ukraine, and the nearby Kolkheti National Park with its wetlands and bird life.
A centre of the slave trade under Ottoman occupation in the 18th century, Poti was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1828. It developed rapidly after acquiring port status 30 years later: Georgia’s first railway was opened in 1871 between Poti and Shorapani, 35km southeast of Kutaisi. The town centre was laid out with an unusual radial plan centred on its cathedral, modelled on Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia and completed in 1907. Today Poti has a Georgian navy base as well as a busy container port.