Debbie and I have already written about our visits in Eastern Europe to Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. We also wrote about visits to Azerbaijan and Georgia so in this post will cover the week we spent in Armenia, the last of the three countries that lay between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea which are part of the Caucasus Region.
|There were far more spectacular sights in Armenia than we imagined. We may come back!|
We finished our blog post on Georgia with us standing in front of a worn-out passenger van in Tbilisi saying goodbye to our friend and guide Tariel. An hour later, our Armenian driver pulled-out of the equally decrepit bus station with all 12 seats filled including one with two very well behaved children stacked on top of each other. We were packed like sardines with luggage jammed all around us for the 5-hour journey over narrow and twisty mountain roads to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. This is where Debbie might interject some sharp comments about my travel planning - but since I am writing the blog this time, I can just say, it was the best I could do.
|Eventually both bags managed to be stuffed in the back of the van. And then we were jammed inside.|
|Here's the map I sent to the family showing our journey from Tblisis to Yeravan.|
|Yerevan turned out to be a beautiful thriving city filled with welcoming citizens.|
|Victory Park was full of intriguing sculptures from world famous artists and a hill top view overlooking the city.|
|The entryway to the dark hallway leading to our Airbnb. Dream on.|
Debbie had a discussion about all this with our host since the elevator quirks were not shared with us, and certainly not written down since there was no “house manual”. His response was basically that a rich guy on the top floor put in the elevator and we are lucky to have one at all. This was said with a “shrug”. Here is the link to our Armenian airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1371528
Our host Ruben was a very nice person, and he was helpful in getting us settled. The place was clean and in a great location but there was something missing...ah. Somehow we had managed to choose this apartment without noticing that there was no table - either in the dining area or kitchen. No where to sit - and nothing to sit on (not even bar stools at the tiny counter). Any of you who have read our blog posts or the book will remember that having a “large table” is one of the keys to a great stay for us but somehow we were asleep at the switch when we booked this place. But then again - how could there be no table? Ruben said not to worry! He realized the situation and in fact, had good news for us. He had just purchased a table and he would deliver it in the next few days. Few days? Okay - our fault. We made do with the coffee table and worked perched on the edge of the couch or headed to the cafe around the corner.
Ruben dropped off a table - see below. It turned out the chairs didn’t match, so he sent them back and those would be coming soon. The end of the story is the table was the size of a large serving platter and was was barely big enough for one laptop. Michael made a seat for himself by using the nightstand with a pillow on top. Two small chairs arrived the day after we left. Live and learn.
|Table for one? Right this way.|
On the first Sunday we found a beautiful Armenian Apostolic Church right around the corner. The service (or mass) appeared to be a blend of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox plus lots of incense. We were made to feel welcome and enjoyed seeing, yet again, another way to celebrate the Eucharist. One of the most interesting parts of the service involved having the clergy circle the room waving incense while the alter boys held out small bags on wooden poles for congregants to drop in a few small white stones they had brought with them to church. A very kind young lady next to us shared a few of her stones so we'd have something to place in the bag. Still not sure what the ritual represented, but it was moving.
|We always appreciate the chance to attend church services wherever we can.|
|Posing for the camera with Vaku - our walking tour guide and translator for the newspaper story.|
|Vaku was a great one for political discourse. My favorite.|
On our last day in Yerevan, we visited the nearby Hellenistic temple at Garni and the ancient monastery at Geghard via bus from a local tour company called Huyr Tours. Now this was a bus we could appreciated - big, air-conditioned, reclining seats, a WC and a cooler filled with cold waters.
It was educational, enjoyable and a good day out into the countryside. Armenia is filled with natural beauty and dozens of preserved temples and monasteries and Yerevan is close to picuresque Lake Sevan. The young tour guide provided live play-by-play commentary of the journey in three languages…..one after the other: Armenian, Russian and then English, not only on the bus, but at each stop, dividing the group into three and then taking us in turn to see the sights. By the end of the day, I am sure all she wanted to do was go home, go straight to bed and not open her mouth again until the next day.
|Photo op with a family from Iran who were thrilled to meet Americans and share their hope for peace.|
|Mount Ararat in the far distance.|
|A day at the Armenian Genocide Museum - not uplifting, but certainly informative.|
I bring this all up because on our last day in Yerevan, we visited the Armenian Genocide Museum. It is very well done, moving and worth visiting since it tells the story (one-sided, of course) of the first genocide of the 20th century. It is said that over a million and a half people died at the hands of the Ottoman forces.
As the result of the disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia only has ground-access to the rest of the world through Georgia to the north and Iran to the south. From what we saw in our drive from Tbilisi to Yerevan, the northern route is at best a two-lane mountain road rather than a sophisticated 21st century autobahn connecting Armenia to European Union markets and the rest of the world. All this being a big challenge for the future of Armenia.
|The political games continue in this part of the world - but for many, life goes on.|
Having said that, both of us were ready to return to more familiar surroundings so we planned months ago that when we finished seeing this part of the world our reward would be three weeks in Italy. So look for a blog post that starts in Sicily and ends in Milan. Ciao!
Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads