Published: September 30th 2009September 30th 2009
Wow! We are having a great adventure. If the rest of the trip goes sour, Armenia and Georgia will make it worth while. We left Tibilisi, Georgia yesterday by marshrutka, a privately owned minibus. This is the way that people in many countries of the world travel. We used them in Central America and found that they are the main form of transportation in this part of Eastern Europe. To catch one between towns, you go to the Central Bus Station. You will see men standing around by a bunch of vans. Each van holds about 15 people and has a sign in the window with the destination. When the driver has enough passengers, he leaves. There is no timetable. It costs us $18 US each to ride from Tibilisi to Yerevan and it took 6 hours. Walt just gave the driver $40. This tip gave us an invitation to sit in the front seat. If we had traveled by train, the trip would have taken 16 hours. Our driver was formerly in the Russian army. He was very friendly and helpful. We stopped one time for lunch. Most passengers wandered away. Walt and I purchased a BBQ (khorovat).
This is a skewer of lamb, pork, or veal that is grilled over hot wood coals and then wrapped in a flat bread (lavash). I only let them put tomato sauce on mine. Other choices were butter or pickled cabbage.
The scenery on our ride was beautiful. We passed many orchards of cherry, orange, apricot, apple, fig trees. We also frequentloy saw bee hives and honey for sale. Again, we saw herds of cattle - only larger and herded by one or two men. Sometimes, we met the herd in the road and would have to wait for them to pass. As we journeyed, the temperature dropped significantly. We could see snow covered mountains in the distance. As we me people walking on the road or in horse drawn buggies, they were wearing heavy coats, caps, etc. Eventually, we rode over the snow mountains and I could see grass growing underneath the snow. The landscape was beautiful! The soil is dark and very fertile looking. The crops displayed by the roadside are much more brilliant in color than what I see in the U.S. Once, we rode through a tunnel that was just chiseled out of solid rock. There were
no supports. As we rode along, Walt commented that he knew where my daughter, Caroline, and I learned to drive --the Marshrutka Driving School! We were able to purchase a Visa at the border. The crossing was very easy.
Both Armenia and Georgia have many artisan wells. The water is pure and safe to drink. We were surprised to see pipelines about waist high along the roadside. At driveway entrances, the pipe went up higher like an upside down U. Believe it or not, these are gas pipelines. I can't imagine what would happen if a car hit one!!! We passed several iron and gold mines. Once as we were going through a small town, we met a drunk man in the middle of the road staggering from one side to the other. He must have bought the same stuff that Walt accidentally did. Between Georgia and Armenia, we saw many building projects that were left unfinished. We decided that the Soviets had possibly started them.
Yerevan, Armenia was founded in 782 BC. You can see Mt. Ararat from the city but it is no longer part of
Armenia. Turkey took it from them. Mt. Ararat is where Noah's Ark
landed. Noah and his family settledhere on Armenian land. Some people call this land, "Museum Under the Sky," because there are so many architectural monuments here. A huge monument is being built in the central part of the city. It was started in the 1970's and is called the Cascade. It is built like a staircase with many fountains between the two sets of stairs. From the top, you can view Mt.Ararat. We went to the main market, Vernisaj, and to Republic Square. I did not buy anything at the market, but I had good luck in the Marriott Hotel shops by the Square. Yerevan has Dollar Stores where everything cost around $2 US. 382 of their Armenian drams equal $1. It is really hard keeping the money straight. Everywhere that we go, people are cleaning. They are constantly sweeping their shops, the sidewalk, wiping their taxi window, emptying trashcans. The only litter that I noticed was on the banks of the river. As we walk through the city, I notice that 9 out of 10 individuals do not make eye contact with you. If you go up to someone, they are polite. I have found that if you want
to know directions, information, ask a teenager. They are now studying English and can communicate with us. Most older people know no English.
Walt bought a bottle of Ararat Cognac to bring home. Stalin introduced this drink to whiskey drinking Winston Churchill. Churchill loved it!
Tomorrow, we will catch the marshrutka back to Tibilisi. After one night there, we will fly to Odessa, Ukraine.
I again how difficulty loading photos. I could only see the numbers-no thumbprints. I was able to change the name on a few of them. I have many more good shots but could not locate them out of the hundreds taken.
There are more photos below