Trip to Armenia
My way to Armenia was long and adventurous because to get there I had to start my trip from Azerbaijan, then through Georgia, and finally to Armenia. After a free stamp in my passport I got to Alaverdi, which is a small mining town inside Debed Canyon. From there I organized a few trips to the ancient monasteries of Sanahin, Haghpat, Odzun and by all means terrific Akhtala. Getting there was also an adventure because I was lucky enough to be on a 30 year old, rotten Lada Niva which the driver had to start by connecting two cables. As he said he did`t need a key but it was better to start the engine whilst driving off the hill.
Alaverdi was my first place and it was really good, although people did not smile there too much due to terrible economy. From there I hitchhiked to a post Soviet town of Vanadzor stopping en route in the ruins of Kobayr monastery, where local villagers gave me a bag of grapes. Then I hitchhiked to Vanadzor where I had a problem with finding transport, but when it finally came it was great. I was given a lift by a man who clearly had his most sober times behind.
On the way we also stopped to change the wheel and because we had a lot of helpers I took a huge hammer and helped someone else to destroy concrete stairs in a construction site just next to us. Then everyone had a glass of 80% vodka and we were on the way again. After a great trip I got to a town called Dilijan, with a nice lake, mountains around and good food, but also with Soviet blocks made of concrete and huge monuments from the times of Soviet Armenia. From there I hitchiked again to such ancient, beautiful monasteries as Goshavank and Haghartsin.
I also went to a little resort with a picturesque lake called Parz Lich where I also spent some time watching fishermen catching their dinner. From Dilijan I had one of the more pleasant hitchhiker`s experiences of my life. After waiting about half an hour my prayers were answered by a red, about 40 year old Zhiguli with loud Russian music.
It was a great ride which took me straight by the Sevan lake and the beautifully located monastery called Sevanavank. I swam there in a very cold lake and after taking great photos I took my big rucksack and went to the road again. This time the transport was waiting for me. When I was drinking tea a truck driver said that I could jump on his truck and that way I got to the glorious capital of Armenia – Yerevan. Why is it glorious? Because it has the prettiest, the best dressed women in the whole of Caucasus, and some interesting sights too. I spent 3 days in Yerevan getting to know the capital and its people, and from there I partly hitchhiked to Echmiadzin (“the Vatican of Armenia” – nice although heavily stretched phrase in my point view), and the monasteries of Geghard and Garni (the most atmospheric Pagan temple built in an ancient Roman style).
Then, after visiting famous Khor Virap monastery I hitchhiked about 200km by various transport to and around the region called Vayots Dzor, which is full of canyons, caves, monasteries, wineries and even more mountains. The two great monasteries worth mentioning are Noravank and stunning in every way Tatev, although I have to admit that in the south of Armenia I met the most hospitable and the friendliest people. After reaching Goris where I saw rock houses similar to those in Capadocia (Turkey), I hitchhiked to Upper Karabakh. Around Vayots Dzor I travelled by various transport, including 35 year old Zhiguli without seats, about 40 year old Moskvich, 25 year old Lada Niva and also by a variety of trucks including ancient Soviet Kamaz. Some of them were transporting petrol and others car parts but all of them had one thing in common. They were all very old, very rusty, they were shaking and they all transported me. Some of them were moving quite fast and the others only 30km/h. Either way I was moving forward. There was even a truck transporting cow shit but I missed that tourist attraction.
Over nearly 2 weeks in Armenia I saw a lot beautiful, ancient churches, poor little towns and good looking Yerevan. I had grapes and nuts straight off the tree and I crossed most of Armenia by hitchhiking. I also had few cold nights in a tent but at the end it was worth it. Armenia is a country of beautiful landscapes where Christian culture with its ancient churches has raised very good, friendly, hospitable people. Visa is free and everyday budget of 15 pounds is sufficient although there were days where I was spending almost nothing. I strongly recommend Armenian adventure.
After completion of my trip around Caucasus I will publish photos and a detailed journal with all practical information, to make sure that your trip will also prove successful.