Friday, 14 October 2011

Armenia and Radio Erevan :) August 2011

Geghard Monastery
A few facts first
There are only 3 million Armenians living in Armania while 8 million live abroad. The relations with neighbors could definitely approve -peace with Azerbaijan seems as distant as ever and the Turkish land border looks no closer to being opened, Georgians hate them and Armenians don’t like Iranians. Money comes in from all around the world to keep the country alive – sons in USA, daughters in Moscow, cousins in Paris, Sidney and Germany.
The language and alphabet are another story, impossible to figure out if you are there only for a few days. The sad thing is that I didn’t interact that much with Armenians during my stay there. I only met a few locals when I usually spend most of my time with them wherever I go.
People stare at you, just like in Georgia. Most of them speak good Russian so communication is possible. And women don't drive in Armenia, only a very few exceptions.
To me, Georgia and Armenia were really similar – climate, nature, people, culture, traditions…but, of course there is a but…In Georgia everything was more full of life and positive energy.
The Cascada, Yerevan



Means flowers
FULL HOUSE
I got to Yerevan quite late due to late departure from Tbilisi. It took more than an hour at the border because there were many people and cars. I got the visa on the spot, it took about 10 minutes the whole thing, costs 3000 AMD (6 €) or you can give them 20 lari if you have any left. There was a Moroccan couple with 2 babies who wasn’t that lucky and had to go back to Tbilisi to get their visas from the Armenian embassy as the law changed 10 days earlier. When finally I reached my host Fred – an Iranian dentist, he had already 6 Polish guests. They were already travelling for a month and that was the first time they had a roof over their heads. So as I was older (as always) and more exigent, I took the only spare bed and they shared the floor J.
Full house 1: Poland
Just chillin'

We went together in the morning to Garni temple (1,5h) and Geghard monastery (15 min by taxi from Garni temple). The Polish were nice but it was a bit too much for me as they were travelling on a really tight budget (even lower than mine!) and bargaining for every cent (the result sometimes was saving 20 cents). It was funny how the Polish group was growing – at the beginning there were just 6, then we met another couple, then another one, then another Polish group. They were all friendly but after coming back to Yerevan I decided to continue on my own.

Garni temple  

Geghard monastery

Fred was a really nice host – he left me the keys of the house, introduced me to his friends and also cooked a really nice Iranian dinner one night. I really enjoyed talking to Phil – a funny French-Duch-Armenian girl who was about to leave Yerevan after 10 months living there. We had lots of stories about Georgians (me) and Armenians (her) to share, compare and laugh. Especially about the male representatives of both countries J
Love, Love, Love... Love is all u need
I did my special arm "move" again
Fred, Philippine and me
The table.Menu: Georgian or Armenian vodka
I followed her advice and went west for one day direction Lake Sevan and then Diligan and Ijevan with the idea to sleep in a nice camp ground in the mountains near waterfalls and caves (Yenokavan). As the marshrutka only goes to Ijevan, I had to walk 9km to Yenokavan. Every second car was stopping offering me a ride, without even trying to get one. So I decided to get in one of them cos I took the driver for a policeman because of his uniform. Very quickly though, I had to tel him to stop the car and to jump out as he wasn’t behaving ….hm…lets say properly.
With the help of the locals there, I found out that I was going to be the only visitor in the camp ground so I decided to stay in the civilization. The locals were again very helpful so I was driven to all the sights in the area, fed with local food and given a room for free. The border with Azerbaijan was just 5 km away but anyway it was still closed due to recent war between the two countries (only Red Cross is allowed there).

Near Ijevan
Treated with local delicacy, very very delicious
Diligan
Diligan
Next day I hitchhiked to Yerevan and there was the second Eastern European supply in Fred’s house– 5 Chech (4 guys and 1 girl) who just came back from climbing Mt Aragats  (the highest mountain in Armenia, more than 5000m). Really nice group, unfortunately I couldn’t spend that much time with them cos I left to Iran next morning.
Full house 2: Check Republic
But the oddest thing of my stay in Armenia was meeting Artur, an old man I met on the street asking for directions. Now thinking about it, maybe he was a bit insane; I don’t know anymore…it’s so surreal. I was asking the taxi drivers where I can get a marshrutka to Ijevan when he stopped to help me. He said he would take me to the place. When I told him I was from Bulgaria, It was like a shock for him, he could only say that we have to go to the park because he needs to write a letter to his only love and I should send it to her. Apparently she is Bulgarian and they met 30 years ago but started being pen-friends when she was only 12… He showed me the last letter she sent to him 20 years ago (yes, it looks like he always carries that letter with him)...Shortly, after writing letters to each other for 6 years, she comes to Yerevan on an organized group trip (when she was 18) and they talk about marriage and so but because of money, youth and other issues (it was still communism in both countries), the things don’t work out between them. He marries another woman, she marries someone else, but he said that she is the only woman he ever loved. I was moved to tears by the story, although now, I don’t know anymore. So now he wanted her back….He wrote a short letter to her which I promised to send (I still have it though, and now I’m in Uzbekistan). I still don’t understand why he couldn’t send it from Armenia (He said because of KGB!!!) but anyway, the promise is promise, I’ll send it. So now I have a mission to accomplishJ. I just imagine her face when she gets the letter.
So even the Armenias go to Bulgaria
One advice for those who travel to Iran by bus in summer: Get the bus ticket in advance cos when I went there, everything was booked for the next 5 days. Luckily someone cancelled their ticket and as I was the first one in the waiting list, I got it. It costs 17000/22000 AMD (34/44 €) and takes 24h.  




 
Armenian men relaxing at the river in Yerevan

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