Fast Forward through Armenia

We already knew we wouldn’t spend too much time in Armenia. We were kind of eager to get to Iran, because we were afraid it would get too hot later on. So we planned to hitchhike most of the way, also because Armenia is really, really mountainious. Our first stop was Yerevan, where Hsiang-Hsin would pick up her visa for Iran. Unlike me, she was refused over the online procedure and had to apply over a travel agency, which takes a few days. I got my visa already in Tbilisi.

My first experiment to use a map. Courtesy of Nations Online project. Green we cycled, purple we hitchhiked 🙂 How do you like to see our progress on a map? Let me know in the comments (Another experiment, trying out youtube-style interaction with my readers ;))
Just after 20km it was going steep uphill again and we made our first attempt hitchhiking. But cars are few in Armenia, and nobody stopped. It would took us till the next day, to find a ride to Yerevan.
A handsome bulldozer in front of a gallery of important (i guess) faces.
The landscape in Armenia is fantastic for sure.
But it’s even more hilly than Georgia. I think in Armenia it is almost impossible to find a flat piece of road for more than a few kilometers. Armenia means mountains.
Just after leaving Georgia, with their own unique script, we found ourselves exposed to a new script: similarly obscure, but in no way related to each other. Just like Georgian, i didn’t even try to learn it, so the occasional russian script was my only way to understand a few things. In this case: Chinkali, meat filled dumplings, which are popular in Georgia and Armenia alike.
Some nice cakes. The variety in this bakery was phenomenal and it took us 20 minutes to finally come up with this choice.
Just when we wanted to start, the window next to us opened and the lady who was baking this nice stuff in the back room was offering us a knife to cut the cakes…
Once in a while it happens: Hsiang-Hsin had a flat tire. Normally it is not a big deal, but in her case, taking out the wheel takes tools we actually don’t have (Yes, you may laugh now ;)) So we had to find a place with the proper tools, which we found in this car mechanic workshop, where they happily helped us. There were at times 5 people standing around the bike and trying to help, which often doesn’t help at all, but in the end her bike was fixed never the less.

After the bike was fixed, the sun was already saying good bye and we planned to camp nearby, but we wanted to eat something first and we asked if they knew a restaurant in this village. We specifically asked for soup and one of the workers told us he knew a Hotel nearby where they also have soup. We were afraid it’s a bit far because this village didn’t look like there would be a hotel nearby, but he assured us it’s very close. So he drove ahead and we followed him on the bikes through the village and already wondered where there would be a hotel in this little village’s back streets, until we turned into the driveway of one of the houses: He tricked us!

The backyard was his home and the restaurant was a soup his wife served us a little later! We were more than happy. In addition they got some delicious preserved eggplants out and homemade liquoer, which was delicious and he drank like water. After downing the first cup in one go, we slowed down a little bit and just had little sips after the frequent cheering in many different languages.
Saying good bye: The kids had to go to school and we had to hit the road.
I’ve never been to Mongolia, but this landscape kind of reminded me of Mongolia 😉 What is special in Armenia is the many microclimates: You cross one mountain range and afterwards everything looks different. There are arid mountainscapes, lush rolling hills, steppe-like high plateus and snow covered peaks in immediate vicinity.
After a while we found a ride, that drove us all the way to Yerevan. I was a bit sad to see this fantastic landscape just on fast forward but it was impressive nontheless.
In the back you can see Mount Aragat, Armenias highest peak. Mount Ararat is almost 1000m higher, but although being visible from almost anywhere in Armenia and being a national symbol for ages, it is now located in Turkey, just after the border. On wikipedia i found a funny anecdote, where Turkey’s government protested the fact that Armenia (at that time part of the USSR) had Ararat in their national emblem. Whereon the foreign minister of the USSR countered that Turkey has also the moon in their national flag, despite not being in their territory.
In Yerevan: The statue of General Zoravar Andranik, riding two horses. In the background a cathedral. I think the churches here are close in shape to the ones in Georgia, but somehow more simple in style and material.
What is popular in Armenias citys, are cheap buffet restaurants, where you can see what you order and put together your own menu. I love this kind of restaurants, especially when travelling, because you don’t have to let someone translate the menu to you or order a surprise. The quality was medium, not incredible but tasty. I especially liked the omelette, which was basically a huge chunk of cabbage, dipped in egg and fried. Also popular in Georgia as well as in Armenia, is Buckwheat, what reminded me a bit of Ukraine, i think it is some kind of Soviet thing, because just 200km down south, when you cross over into Iran, it completely dissapears (Unfortunately, i like it).
Busker in Yerevan
If there is one thing i like about Yerevan, it is that you can see Mount Ararat from almost anywhere in the city.
After two days in Yerevan Hsiang-Hsin met a busking violinist on the street. She spent three months in Iran till her Visa expired and loved it. Now she was staying in Yerevan in a while, and they chatted about our accomodation. When Hiang-Hsin told her how much we pay (5€ for two people) she was shocked: “So expensive!” She gave us the adress of another hostel, run by Indians and almost completely inhabited by Indians. The price dropped dramatically indeed, and furthermore the kitchen was always busy with people cooking big amounts of Paratha, Samosas and Dal, which they also generously shared with us.
These were among the best Samosas we ever had, and we had quite a few!

The major goal while in Yerevan, was to get Hsiang-Hsins Visa for Iran, so we could get there before it would get too hot. She got an Invitation Letter from a Travel Agency before, so she was ready to apply. After an annoying procedure, where she went up on the hill (Yerevan is very hilly!) to the embassy, where they told her she could get the Visa later that day, if she would pay right now, went a few kilometers down the hill to the only bank where she was allowed to pay the fee, and up again (did i mention that Yerevan is very hilly?), racing to make it in time back to the embassy, and after they told her that she could come back in two days, because tomorrow is a holiday, and she already contemplated to not go to Iran , she finally got her Visa. We left Yerevan on the same day, but on the way out we visited a museum about a very interesting Armenian and his art: Edward Ter-Ghazaryan.

This artist, orginially a violinist in the Yerevan Orchestra, started to do what later came to be coined miniature art or micro art, when he tried to make a really small violin. He managed to make one smaller than 1cm, AND PLAYED ON IT!!!
In the museum there are a lot of interesting artworks which you can see (with a microscope of course), most of them smaller than 1cm. But what i liked most where his ventures into instrument building. This artwork combines 40 different musical instruments from all around the world, which, put together, take on the shape of a machine gun. He called it “Musical Automatic Rifle of Peace”, that’s exactly my kind of humour 🙂
He created over 600 pieces, and his fame spread far beyond Armenia and the Sovjet Union. One day, a guy from East Germany, after reading about him in the “Berliner Zeitung”, wrote him a letter, where he stated his disbelief and asked for proofs. A few months later Ghazaryan answered in his own way, sending his answer engraved in a human hair, where he sent greetings to the German people.
But he didn’t only build miniatures, he also built some interesting looking instruments in regular or even kind of oversized size. This violin is supposed to sound like an organ. After watching a video, i am not exactly convinced of this, but the idea nevertheless catched my eye.

If you are interested about this artist and his art: In Yerevan just opened this museum completely dedicated to him, run by his grandson, who is also engaging in miniature art. On Tripadvisor you can find some more information.

After visiting the museum we were almost ready to leave Yerevan, but there was one last thing we wanted to see. On our way out, we passed a Shopping Mall, where, according to a friend, during the construction they found an ancient tomb. Because they didn’t want to stop building, but could also not just destroy the tomb, they just built the mall around it. So it came that among all the fashion stores and cafes, there is buried some king or the like. Apparently you could just visit this grave by asking around. And indeed when we asked the guard, he knowingly nodded and sent us downstairs. But when we got out of the elevator there was no sign of a grave, just a band playing in immense loudness, and a film crew shooting an advertisement.

We asked another security, who just pointed in one direction. We followed his finger but could not find anything. After walking a round, asking two other people who obviously had no idea what we were talking about and coming back to the band, we found another guard who then brought us to another person who guided us through the parking area (we were already not sure if they understood what we are searching for) and finally to a woman working at some kind of cloakroom. He told her some things in armenian, and we were already sure this was a misunderstanding and thinking that we really are wasting our time in here, while it would get dark soon, and we didn’t even left Yerevan. But then she went into the back to get her purse. Out of this purse she conjured up a little key. With this key the guard led us through other corridors, and finally guided us out of the mall. At the side of the wall, there was a little house, with a staircase going down to a wooden door, locked by the key we just picked up. Finally we got to se the tomb! To be honest the whole adventure to find this ancient grave was maybe more exciting than the site itself, but it was funny how the guard and another employee, who just happened to take a smoke break outside, joined us to see the grave they obiously never visited, albeit working just next to it, and discussed the descriptions next to it with us in sign language.

After this it was really time to leave, because the sun was already sending it’s last rays over Yerevan, and we still had half of Armenia in front of us. And off we cycled, our eyes always on Mt. Ararat.

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5 thoughts on “Fast Forward through Armenia

  1. wow! unbelievable stories… i love to read about your adventures, ruben! the map is good to see where you did what. like it!

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    1. Thank you, maybe i can work out an interactive solution, where you can click on the map, and open different stories. Inshallah! 😉 But first i would like to bring the blog up to date. It’s almost 2 months behind 😀

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  2. Yeah, i agree, also would appreciate to see your route progression on a map.
    Also would like to see your road diary continuing on a video platform, to see you driving, meeting with people, exploring cultures and landscape and other stuff in a video would be a pleasure.

    Also had the idea, why don’t you open an account at a donation platform and set a donation link at your blog.
    Doesn’t have to be to obvious or looking like begging, but i think there are a lot of people out there who would like to support you on your journey.
    I don’t know so many platforms of that kind, so I don’t want to recommend one, just check out one that does not cost to much or keep to much for them selves and which is international available.
    Maybe a bad idea, but I had that thought and wanted to get rid of it.

    Good luck and of course always light turning wheels and the wind at your back.

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