BL #54: Shrink the World


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Asia » Georgia
August 25th 2014
Published: September 30th 2017
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Jenga Clock Tower ...Jenga Clock Tower ...Jenga Clock Tower ...

... it looked like it was about to tip over at night, but the angle at which this tower leans is even more pronounced during the daytime. How long before it gives out?
Geo: 41.72, 44.79

Travel shrinks the World, bringing people, culture, and ideas together, ideally helping to bridge the gaps that exist among humanity - whether or not that is the intention, it's perhaps the best byproduct of one of the most enjoyable past times. It happens more often that you might think while traveling, and can sometimes be the simplest of exchanges - the telling of a funny travel anecdote, the sharing of a personal story, or providing some insight into your native land.

A simple truth - a traveler has many more of these types of interactions as a backpacker, as by nature, this style of travel is more conducive to meeting others. Case in point was the other day in Yerevan, touring the Ararat Brandy Company. In most other countries, a brandy factory isn't the typical domain of backpackers, but being a relatively-affordable country where it seems that backpackers are more common than the typical big bus type of tourist, you'll see some of us at what are traditionally considered to be higher-end attractions.

There was a rather diverse group on the tour, including three ladies from Iran, a group of four that included a couple living in Toronto but originally hailing
Funky Little Statue ...Funky Little Statue ...Funky Little Statue ...

... these little guys are all over Tbilisi - I wish I knew what they were supposed to be, as there must be some kind of meaning behind them.
from Paris and Yerevan, an Armenian now calling London home, and a Londoner who is volunteering in Armenia. I should also feel honoured to have been on this tour, as the guide told me that that I was the first born and bred Canadian she had ever hosted on one of her tours!

I've found Armenians to be quite friendly so far, so it wasn't surprising that only minutes after meeting Nare, the Armenian girl living in London, she extended an invitation tomorrow to visit her uncle's honey farm and then spend the day at Lake Sevan. Normally, I'd be all over such an invite but unfortunately, I had booked a shuttle for Tbilisi, and wasn't willing to change up my plans, needing to get out of Yerevan.

Later that evening, I was out at Republic Square for the fountain show with a small group from the hostel, where lo and behold, we ran into Nare and her group. Again, the offer to visit Lake Sevan was extended, offered to any of the group of four I was with. Within about 30 seconds of meeting Chris, a nice chap from Berlin, he had hooked up a day trip with Nare's group. How
Monument to Shota Rustaveli ...Monument to Shota Rustaveli ...Monument to Shota Rustaveli ...

... a famous Georgian poet.
random is that?

Perhaps even more random is how Chris even ended up in Yerevan - while staying at a hostel in Tbilisi, one morning he was chatting with a couple of Armenians who were heading back to Yerevan, and they asked him if he wanted a ride there. Chris had ten minutes to decide, and quickly packed up his things and hopped into their car, which is how we met today at the hostel, a result of a random act.

So last night, out of the blue I get a message from Chris, saying that he was going to be back in Tbilisi tonight, asking if I wanted to meet up. Why the hell not? What better way is there to spend my last night in Tbilisi than dinner with a new friend? Over yet another excellent meal in the Caucasus, we shared stories of our travels of the past few days, and Chris mentioned that everyone had an amazing time at Lake Sevan. He even thanked me for the hookup, especially since the group had told him that they felt like they had won the lottery, having the honour of Chris joining them for that day.

I enquired about a wedding that Chris had also been randomly invited to the other night, by a girl that was part of our group at Republic Square. Turns out that it was the wedding of a member of a famous Armenian band, and the girl is apparently best friends with the sister of one of the band members. Unfortunately, Chris never attended the wedding, since the day trip to Lake Sevan took much longer than expected.

It seems that Chris is a master of randomness, which is quite evident from his past few days in Armenia. In some ways, all these random connections and instances of shrinking the World seem quite bizarre, though they aren't that uncommon while traveling. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to participate in most of it, but it does give me great satisfaction that I played some small role in it all.

But perhaps one day I'll be a part of some more randomness - one of the Iranian ladies offered me her email address, should I ever make my way to Iran and find myself in need of some information or tips. It's what us backpackers do - shrinking the World, one connection at a time ...


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Freedom Square ...Freedom Square ...
Freedom Square ...

... with its glittering monument of St. George and the Dragon.
Goodbye to a Dear Friend ...Goodbye to a Dear Friend ...
Goodbye to a Dear Friend ...

... I've been dumping a lot of old clothes on this trip, since I've picked up a few odds and ends along the way. I've taken this sleep shirt with me on countless trips, so this was the hardest to let go - I've slept with her probably over a thousand times!!!
Oops ...Oops ...
Oops ...

... the directory in this mall advertised a Brioche Doree in the basement - turned out it either wasn't open yet, or had just closed. All that was there was this giant poster of a storefront, and no good-enough-in-a-pinch French pastries!
Entree ...Entree ...
Entree ...

... a French-style patisserie in the high-end expat district of Tbilisi. Unfortunately, its counterparts in Yerevan are far better - this chocolate almond pastry was passable but quite dry, and I couldn't discern any actual almond inside.
Amuse Bouche at Josper Organique Restaurant ...Amuse Bouche at Josper Organique Restaurant ...
Amuse Bouche at Josper Organique Restaurant ...

... perhaps sacrilegious to eat anything but Georgian BBQ while in this country, I couldn't resist trying this restaurant which features high-end Spanish Josper roasting ovens. A little tomato, pesto, and cheese to kick things off.
Damn Good BBQ ...Damn Good BBQ ...
Damn Good BBQ ...

... ever since trying the amazing food coming out of the Josper ovens at Briggs back in Calgary, I've become somewhat obsessed with this type of BBQ. Very tasty but fatty pork ribs, but I have to say that the traditional Georgian style of BBQ, while different, is on a similar level to this. Give me a Briggs Tomahawk Chop, however, and I might sing a different tune. Really, it's a testament to how good the BBQ is in the Caucasus.
Gluey Lemon Sorbet ...Gluey Lemon Sorbet ...
Gluey Lemon Sorbet ...

... wanting something cold and refreshing while sitting out in the heat, this sorbet wasn't it - far too sticky to be refreshing.
Going All Out ...Going All Out ...
Going All Out ...

... Chris' trip is winding down, so he wanted to go all out tonight - excellent roasted vegetables (incredible oyster mushrooms), super-garlicky oven-roasted potatoes, and minced meat kebabs. Chris particularly raved about the kebabs, and he ought to know a good one when he tastes one - his wife is Turkish.


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