We've embraced the 'Slow' philosophy as a way of life - what's the hurry?. Taking time to smell the roses (usually on a glass of Viognier) is more our style. Having spent more then 3 years on the road, slow travel has become a way of life. We have revised our plans completely and now focus on quality, not quantity, slowly.
OK, I’m not going to whinge about the weather, but it’s terrible.
Our last stop in Georgia before crossing the border was the
incredible Vardzia, a troglodyte city/monastery – an extraordinary place. We
stayed at a brilliant hostel (Valodia’s Cottage) and were fed delicious food.
Fresh grilled rainbow trout the first night and homemade yoghurt for breakfast,
plus lots of other fab food.
Troglodyte Monastery of Vardzia
Next day we crossed the border in Armenia. The road either
side of the border was pretty bad. The crossing took about 2 hours
as we needed visas, and temporary importation for Boris and a few other bits.
Easily done, just tedious (and freezing). Just as we were about to leave the
head Customs Officer came over signalling to us. “What now?” we moaned, but he
wanted us to come and have a drink with them. “Vin, vin”, so we went downstairs
for a glass of Armenian wine, never mind that we had to drive. We escaped after
just one vino.
We found a beautiful spot to camp on the steppe at 2028
metres. We were sitting sipping a wonderful Georgian rosé and congratulating ourselves on our fabulous overnight spot, when
there was a knock on the door. On opening we found a man with a shotgun. Not
being ones to argue with a shotgun, Lawrence tried to communicate politely in
Russian, but he was indicating for us to leave. We begged time to at least
finish cooking our dinner. He made a few phone calls and left. (A man with a
shotgun and a smart phone is not something you expect to find in the middle of
Back to the rosé.
20 minutes late, bang bang on the
door. This time a policeman in an impressively large hat. Lawrence once more
tried to communicate in Russian, but he phoned someone who spoke English and
got it sorted ie; we weren’t planning on staying permanently. Just one night.
Back to the marvellous rosé – it truly was a stunner.
20 minutes later, bang bang again.
Policeman wanting passports and details. The rosé
is now finished, and we needed a second bottle. Finally we ate our curry.
Camping on the Steppe
Next morning is was minus 3
degrees – brrr.
We headed to Yerevan, the capital.
We finally found a room in a very basic hostel. Apparently the Russians take their
holidays in May and come to Georgia and Armenia, so all rooms were booked. This
hostel was the kind of place you would have stayed on your first trip to Europe
at 18 and no money.
The city is OK, very modern and
not really to our liking, so we looked around and moved on.
Ruins of 10th century Zvartnots Cathedral with Mt Ararat in the background
Armenia is heaving with ancient
monasteries and we visited quite a few of them, but won’t bore you with the
details of each! They are all around 1000 years old, give or take a couple of
hundred years and built in wonderful locations. Hard to imagine how they were
built back in the day.
We tried to do some wine tasting, but the wine town of
Ijevan hasn’t quite embraced tourism, and we couldn’t find the winery. Some
kind man took us to his outdoor café and made us some Turkish coffee. It’s
still horrible but we were freezing so it was welcome. He didn’t even charge
So now we are staying in a strange sort of hotel/hostel near
the border and will head back into Georgia tomorrow.
Tips for would-be
It’s very hard to wild camp in Armenia – or at least the
bits we visited. One reason being that it’s so mountainous – not much flat
country around. We did manage one spot by Lake Sevan between the town of Sevan
and Lchap. Quiet enough, but expect to be woken at 5am by fishermen.
Otherwise we stayed in hostels, most recommended by the lonely
planet. A favourite was Daravand, on the outskirts of Dilijan. Lovely rooms,
great hospitality and good food. They even have a decent wine selection.
The roads in Armenia are terrible, really poor condition,
made worse by the road crews. They go along cutting out the potholes to make
them square for filling, but the filling crew never seem to arrive. The driving
is as bad as Georgia, just made more exciting by the roads. It’s like dodgem
cars in 2 directions.