Armenia – a rough and beautiful country in the Caucasus

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So far this little mountain country always seemed just remote and inaccessible to me. Thinking of hitchhiking through this rough mountainous land got me really excited. For 8 days and nights I was roaming around the lands where I found wild and untamed nature with unique old monastries, gleaming mountain lakes and healing mineral springs. I was wandering around to remote areas, hitchhiking deep into the nights and mainly sleeping somewhere outside. I admit it was not always easy and comfortable. The average altitude of the country lays above 1800m and in the nights the temperature sometimes fell up to –10 degrees. Also I had to thinking about streying dogs, other animals and people. But I always felt like it was worth it!

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Sleeping in the cemetry

Over the Caucasian foothills I hitchhiked from Georgia to Armenia. The first day I made my way through mountains and remote villages. Tourists rarely go astray here. On the way I got invited to eat and drink tea. Of course also some vodka. The uncertainty of the road felt adventurous, nevertheless I had to face the worry of finding a place to sleep at some point. Sometimes some opportunities open up and sometimes they don’t. Then you have to try a little harder. So just before nightfall I asked the Armenian driver to stop the car at the edge of a town called Vanadsor. I was determined to find a place to sleep here. Somewhere.

 

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Tiny village on the way

First I asked around some houses and restaurants but I just met with head-shaking disapproval. How could I manage to find a place to sleep here? After a while I decided it would be better not to catch any more attention and walked back to the street where I was coming from. At the other side of the street I noticed some little rocky stairs. They led through some bushes and up a steep hill. I had already an idea where they were going to. To a cemetery. I went through my options for some seconds. I had to make a decision now and tecnically this might not be a bad place. I crossed the street and went to the stairs. I knew I was seen by a few people but ignored this fact by now. I just tried to make a confident impression. So I started to walk up the broken stairs and soon disappeared behind the bushes. Left and right I saw the overgrown gravestones next to me. There was no place to sleep around here, so I climbed up the stairs further. Through the bushes I could look over the city now.

 

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In front of a big and old gravestone I found a place where it might be possible to put my sleeping bag. It was not a bad place yet thinking of sleeping in the middle of a graveyard triggered some discomfort. I read the two names on the grave stone and looked at their pictures. While doing so, I thought about what kind of live they might have had. For sure they had been long.

 

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After searching the whole area, I came to the conclusion that this was the only place were I could sleep. There was only minutes to the darkness of the night, so I decided that this will be my place for the night.  I don’t exactly believe in a life after death yet I respected this place of death and didn’t mean to disturb or anger anybody. I just needed a place to sleep anywhere. Innerly I said thank you to them and started to prepare my sleeping mat calm and mindfully.

 

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After I went into my sleeping bag I looked over the city. I like that – to look from my hidden sleeping place over the city and think of the happenings of the day. Far away from home I laid here now on an Armenian cemetary in my sleeping bag.

By now I still felt relatively comfortable. Yet experience taught me that the surroundings may always change in the darkness of the nights. Quiet I listened to the cars on the street and somehow this gave me a feeling of safety. Slowly the night fell over me and the city became full of lights. While listening to the cars I fell asleep. In the night I woke up again. The moon was shining bright and I could see all of the surrounding area. Everything was quiet and peacefull. Anyways I fell asleep again and woke up before sunrise after a surprisingly restful night.

Today my way should go on to the capital of Armenia: Yerevan…

 

Exploring remote Armenia

Sourrounded by countries which are not exactly best friends with Armenia the history of the country was marked by genocide and a constant threat. Except of some gold they don’t posses any natural resources nor a remarkable military or economical strength. Outside of the capital there is big poverty and also alcoholism is a little problem. Maybe all that is what made some Armenians a bit more rough. They had to be.

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Anyways I learnt to appreciate their also very open, friendly and hospital way of being. Only sometimes you have to know how to deal with  some people. Some Armenians made big fun out of me. I think basically they just found it so crazy what I am doing here and they somehow couldn’t believe it. It was something that was entertaining them. The best answer was just to approach them in the same way and share the fun together.
With the Armenians I could have a good laugh, eat, drink vodka and have a very enjoyable time. It was a great with them.

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One young Armenian called Toros picked me up from the street and invited me to join a party with his friends. I thought about it for an instance and then just answered: “Yes, why not!” We drove to a very remote area without paved roads, through some military area surrounded by green hills. The party took place in the middle of nowhere close to the mighty volcano Mount Ararat. Here we cooked some fish, drunk Vodka and danced on the roof of the cars.

 

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Two days later I continued my way through Armenia. While standing at street waiting for a lift a black BMW stopped. Instantly I notice who was the driver. It was my friend Toros from two days ago.  In the car he said: “Man my English is not so good… but you have a friend in Armenia brother!”

 

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I hitchhiked again all day long, got invited to drink tea with some very kind Armenian man and learnt a lot about the current situation in Armenia from a driver who worked as special force in the Armenian military.

 

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My plan was to hitchhike to some hot mineral springs in the mountains. But fate planned another way. So I found myself again by nightfall in the middle of nowhere on the road. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I couldn’t make it. So I continued hitchhiking in the dark…
After around 20min a car breaked on the dusty road and stopped just a few centimenters in front of me. It was a white and rusty soviet machine. The two guys looked rough but who would I expect to stop in the night out here anyways? They were both smoking and the driver started talking to me in Russian: “Where do you want to go?” I knew this was going to be rough… and enter the smoky car.
They seemed to be in party mood and turned up their Russian music while smoking and drinking. Not much faster than walking speed we sneaked up the mountain road. I was happy the car was able to make it. In the black night they dropped me of at a lonely petrol station just a few kilmoters away from my destination. They had to go another way and I was happy to get out of the car.
There was some light in the petrol station. I walked to the entrace and when I saw the fours guys I knew this will be rough again and they will think I am crazy. Anyways I didn’t bother anymore. I just approached them and after having some laughs and taking some selfies they gave me coffee – and even some cookies.

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First the said, there would not be any place to sleep around here. I should call a taxi. Yet when I started to build up my tent in the snow they saw that I was serious. Now they offered me a wonderful place to sleep in the building next door. I was more than happy with this. With that story and in this situation it felt better than any hotel.

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The following day I hitchhiked the few kilometers to the spa town and enjoyed some soviet-style spas. It was time for some winter wellness!

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Like this I wandered through the country for 8 days. Everywhere I met with Armenian hospitality and found myself in some very old places of humans, many mountain monasteries and some amazing wild nature. Untill I reached the boarder of Iran – a country of the Middle East that would be something totally new for me and surprise me on so many levels…

 

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