VAEGABOND - Mountain and valley cycling in country #18 - Armenia

New month, new country - Armenia! But first a little story about how we got there: Just before the georgian-armenian broder we met our french bike friend Thibaut, who is on a tour with his folding bike to Asia. We wanted to cycle into the country together and found an amazing place for the last night in Gerogia before the border at Sadakhlo. We asked a few busy men on an abandoned gas station, if we could set up our tents in the backyard. They opened an empty closet space in which we could sleep. We later found out, that the men owned a restaurant next to the gas station, where we could even use the toilet and the shower. We were really lucky and we could stay warm. We then celebrated the last evening with a huge plate of Khatchapuri (similar to pizza with a ton of cheese), a small grill plate and a specialty with eggplant and walnuts. In addtion we got wine on the house.

Unfortunatly, Thibaut was the only one crossing the border the next day. Dani had so much of a heavy backache, that he couldn't even stand up. Luckily, the restaurant owners didn't mind and we could stay until he got better. After that it finally went on for us. On border you had to show your negative Covid test or your vaccination card to a doctor, after that followed the usual check by the border guards. Not even 5 seconds after we've received the armenian entry stamp in our passport, two men in civil stopped us and demanded us to open up our bags. That was the first time, that our luggage got checked at the border. They pointed on one of the bags and asked what was in it. We opened the zipper and they took a quick look on the top layer of the luggage. This only repeate itself 2x, because apparently it wasn't so interesting to rip our luggage apart after all. Then we were free.

Our route led us through a Canyon and shortly after that we had our first lovely encounter with the natives. We were gifted with lots of bags with Khakis and in the evening we were invited away from our tent and into a small cabin, in which ice cream was bottled up. We sat around a small table and shared food and drinks. There was our cooked camping food and Dolma (rice in wine leaves), pickled red cabbage and other local dishes as well as some digestive liquor. Then we went on to the sewan lake. It is the biggest freshwater lake in Armenia and we were even reunited with Thibaut for a short while. For us it went on around the lake in the other direction. Because it's already November (and probably also because of Covid), we saw many abandoned restaurants and picnic places at the lake. Suddenly a very old, rusty train section appeared behind the next forest next to the street. There were no train tracks around and why this was disposed here was the big, unanswered question. After discovering the lettering „sleeping wagon“, we insepcted the inside and thought it was a good idea to spend the night here.

The next stop was the mountains. Armenia is by the way a country with many altimeters. About 90% of the country lies above 1.000 altimeters – so totally our thing ;) After many altimeters we have to admit, that the mountains are really beautiful. Sometimes they peaked rugged and jagged next to us, then other times they would have the shape of a turned down hourglass. Again we went through a very impressive canyon towards Areni. Especially with all the orange and yellow shades around us, the autumn couldn't be more beautiful. You could already see the Ararat from afar, on the way to the capital of Armenia Jerewan. The mountains is one of the most important landmarks of Armenia, even though it's actaully located in Turkey. Because of the persecution and the murder of many armenians during the times of the ottoman empire, you can still feel the tension between the two countries. We rolled in our Turkey flags, to not be disrespectful. In Jerewan we visited the monument as well as the genocide museum, which informs about this dark chapter of the armenian past with many charts.

After a long time in Jerewan we were invited to a Warmshower again. It turned out, that he was the only active host in Armenia and he has only been here for 2 weeks himself. Coincidentally another bike traveler came, Atilla from Hungary. We had an amazing time with our french hosts. When we left again, it was back to tents. The nights were by far colder now and the campfire our well known friend.

Als wir eine Ruine in einem kleinen Dorf ausmachten und unser Zelt dort aufstellen wollten, dauerte es nicht lange und wir bekamen Besuch. Der Herr wollte nicht, dass wir draußen im Kalten die Nacht verbrachten und lud uns deshalb zu sich und seiner Familie auf den Bauernhof ein. Wie sich herausstellte war die Familie aus dem Irak und lebte schon länger in Armenien. Auch wenn wir keine gemeinsame Sprache sprachen, irgendwie konnten wir uns dann doch verständigen und erhielten einen interessanten Einblick in das Leben der 6-köpfigen Familie. Gemeinsam saßen wir abends in der gedrungenen Küche. Es gab selbst gemachten Kompott und das Essen war zwar einfache Hausmannskost, schmeckte aber super. Wir genossen die Wärme, die vom kleinen Blechofen ausging, der unentwegt mit Kuhdung gefüttert wurde. Einfach, warm und herzlich: das war das Fazit dieser wundervollen spontanen Begegnung.
When we discovered a old ruin in a small village, it didn't take long until we had a visiter. The man didn't want us to spend the night out in the cold so he invited us into his farm to his family. It tuned our the family was from the Iraq and had been living in Armenia for a while. Even though we had no language to communicate with, we still got an interesting glance into the life of the family of 6. In the evening we sat together in the stocky kitchen. There was self made compote and the food was home cooked, but it still tasted very good. We enjoyed the heat, that radiated from the small tin oven, that was constantly fed with cow dung. Just warm and lovely: that was the conclusion from this wonderful spontaneous encounter. 

Best wishes from on the way,
Melli & Dani

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