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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 40.1596, 44.509
Well the train didn't exist, somewhere along the line - in April I think - someone decided that instead of running trains from Tbilisi to Yerevan on even dated days and back on odd dated days, they would do it the other way round! Not having the luxury of being late to Armenia the only option was to get off the train and straight onto a bus or minibus to Yerevan, 5 hours away.
At Tbilisi got to minibus station and got last seat on a minibus to Yerevan, problem was it was in back row where the seats are raised up and my head was above window level and I couldn't see out. Two Japanese guys on the minibus and when we stopped at roadside kebab place for lunch there was a motorcycle with two Italians, who didn't seem to know which way to go. I I had to share that back row of seats with three guys who decided they would buy a bottle of vodka at the lunch stop which they rapidly finished. One went to sleep on my shoulder, another got irritatingly drunk and proceeded to annoy everyone to the point that one lady asked
the driver to intervene - which he declined to do, by the look of him probably wishing he were drunk himself. Ah the joys of budget travel. I had contacted the Armenia tour company and they had Gregor, who is to be my guide for the next 6 days, pick me up and bring me to the hotel. Very nice to stop moving for a while and unpack.
Hotel lift has a button to press to get to the swimming pool. Asked the reception girl about it and she said it was outdoor, even better. So I asked her what time it was open at which point she told me it wasn't open, there was no water in it, shades of Ethiopia!
So today was the first day I woke up in the Caucusus with no travelling to do. Breakfast was a paltry affair, Armenia has a wealth of fruit, it is the home of the apricot, but no fruit was to be had. Anyway Gregor was outside and ready to go at 8.45, there will be a photo of Gregor standing in front of a car, not the car he drives now, that's a smart Honda though the steering wheel is
on the wrong side for Armenia it being an import from japan, this is an old Zill like he used to have. We headed up the hill to see the statue of mother Armenia, built there to replace the statue of stalin they tore down, but they left the old military hardware from WW2 including the katusha rocket launcher, in praise of which popular songs were written. Also here is a photo of me standing in front of the view of Mount Ararat,except you can't see that because of the cloud, Google it - it is beautiful and holy, they built a statue of the first man to climb it, a writer. But they build lots of statues, even to architects.
This could go on forever - the rest of the day was spent on top of another hill where there are the remains of the 9th century BC fortress which was the foundation of Yerevan, at the institute where they look after thousands of manuscripts, including lots that are beautifully illustrated//illuminated written in the armenian script that was invented in 405 AD by Matenadaran, the place is named after him. Then hours at the museum of history which has
This is the morning of the 16th, beautiful,clear day and this is the Holy mountain, sadly without me.
a feast of the most beautiful objects such as gold necklaces, silver goblets, bronze shields, etc dating back over 10000 years. My guide was a lecturer from the university, clearly moonlighting to supplement her salary. But immensely knowledgeable and hugely enthusiastic. A delight.
Tomorrow I start on monasteries and churches, Armenia adopted Christianity in 301 AD, the first nation to do so, even before Rome. So that history goes back a long way too, and looming over everything - snowcapped mountains, much higher than the alps. And decent beer!
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