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unterwegs Since we talked to Anait for many hours until late after midnight, getting up before 9 am was mission impossible. It's our holiday, not an escape. At around ten we leave the apartment and go to an exchange booth, to change our remaining Dram into US dollar. The Dram is quite stable, and so we don't loose much money by changing back. For three very active days in Armenia, we paid less than € 100 per person - incl. accommodation and the ticket to Tbilisi.
Picture: Endless vastness, part I
This is a little bit more than we had expected, but it's still okay. For the x-th time, we take a bus from the city centre to the bus station outside. Again, taxi drivers are trying to tell us, that there would be no other vehicle than a taxi to Tbilisi. As always, we trust the taxi drivers. One minute later we've found a marshrutka, leaving at 11. And so we have enough time left to spend the last bills and coins. We've already had the pleasure of riding Armenian buses and trains, and this is why we opted for the marshrutka. Which doesn't necessarily mean, that there's more space inside the vehicle. The microbus almost leaves on time. With high speed, compared to other means of transport here, we are on the way to Georgia again. There are four free seats on the bus, which is quite unusual. The first part of the route looks familiar to us - a vast grass covered plateau and, to the left, majestic Mt Aragats, again partially hidden by clouds. But I can't get enough of the vastness of the landscape, the sky and all these bright colours. Occasionally, herds of cattle cross the street, so that the driver is forced to drive a little bit slower. On the way And again we come across the beautiful pass with it's steep, grass covered mountains, the purple flower carpets here and there and the clouds touching the mountains. Again, we drive through Spitak, destroyed by a heavy earthquake. This time we notice a new church, which looks as if it was made of solid metal. The church is surrounded by a huge cemetary. A few kilometers later, we leave the road we took when we came here. The marshrutka is now running towards Vanadzor. After a while, we enter a valley with a white water river and a railroad - it's the track from Tbilisi to Yerevan. The narrow gorge is beautiful, with many rocks and - it's for the first time that we see it in Armenia - small forests. Here and there we can see a village, but all in all the whole area is pure nature. In some places it even looks like Central Europe.
Picture: Endless vastness, part II
After a couple of hours on the bus, it's probably around 3 in the afternoon, the marshrutka stops in a curve right at the river. It's a shady spot with two flat buildings. Between the buildings there's a barbecue, where the owners are preparing the omnipresent shashliki. Looks like a lunchbreak. Unfortunately we don't have enough Armenian money left - it's only enough for one coffee. But we still have enough provisions and can therefore enjoy the beautiful landscape. And the toilet: Two railway lines, reaching beyond the rivershore. On the lines, there's a makeshift wooden cabin, devided into two small rooms. [M] is written on one door, which stands for "mushina" (men), [Ж], standing for "zhenshina" (women) is written on the other. On the floor of the cabin there's a hole, obviously chopped with an axe. Some meters below the hole, the water is streaming. A toilet with natural flush. Let this be a warning - don't trust small rivers in the mountains! You never know what's upstream. Somehow, this toilet reminds me of the toilet aboard the slow boats on the river Mekhong in →Laos The metal church in Spitak After more than one hour we go ahead. The valley is getting wider, leaving even enough space for smaller towns and industrial complexes. At the entrance of the valley we stop at the border crossing between Armenia and Georgia. According to her appearance, one of the passengers would have been called a witch in medieval times. Only a black cat on her shoulder is missing. Another woman on the bus tells us, that 'the woman over there' would be evil, and that we better check our luggage before the border. Maybe the evil woman manipulated your luggage during the lunchbreak, who knows!? We do not really think that this might be the case. We check our luggage superficially, but there's nothing missing or strange. In Tbilisi we have a closer look - nothing. So much about the 'evil woman'. The crossing point straddles the small river. Neither getting out of Armenia nor getting into Georgia is a problem. We don't even have to leave the bus or have our luggage examined.
Picture: New metal church in rebuilt Spitak
And so we've crossed the border in no time at all. We are a bit sad about that - we would have loved to stay a few days longer in Armenia. Until now, the ride was quite convenient. There wasn't much space, but at least the bus was not that slow. It took only 4 hours from the capital to the border. Everything changes after crossing the border. A real nightmare starts - we are moving along a country lane, sporadically covered in asphalt. An endless chain of potholes of a size I've never seen before. I start wondering how it's possible that there's no boiling lava coming out of the holes. On a distance of one kilometer, the vehicles have to cover a distance of around two kilometers, zigzagging along the road. The zigzagging is not to avoid the potholes, that's impossible, but to avoid the deepest potholes. On this road, it's just impossible to read a book, have some water or to eat something. After a while, we pass a bigger village, and I hope that the road will get better. No way - the rodeo goes on for another two hours. Then, we finally turn into a modern road and speed towards Tbilisi. We arrive in the capital shortly before 6 pm, after less than 7 hours, well shaken, not stirred. We take another marshrutka to Nasi's apartment. She's welcoming us heartly. This time, we can stay in the TV room. It's nice to be home again... Toilet with natural flush In the evening we leave the apartment to look for a restaurant in the immediate vicinity. There's a McDonalds as well as a luxury restaurant near the subway station Marjanashvilis. After a while, we find a rather hidden restaurant in the basement of an apartment block. It seems to be a new restaurant - we are the one and only customers, and staff is staring at us as if we would have come from another solar system. There's no big room but only a couple of small compartments with thin walls made of light wood. Actually, it more looks like a sauna. There's no menu, and staff doesn't really speak Russian. And so she only tells us the dishes she knows the Russian word for. Among them are pelmeni and the typical Georgian khachapuri. Due to a lack of alternatives, we order both. She's asking how many pelmeni we would like to order. This is quite unusual, since the usual pelmeni are rather small, so people talk about plates of pelmeni, not pieces. Thinking about the regular size of these meat dumplings, I say twenty. And she looks very confused and says that it would be way too much.
Picture: Armenia's greatest restrooms II
Now it's me being confused. I ask her how big the pelmenis are. She depicts the size with her thumb and forefinger. Seems to be normal. And she mentions that they're filled with cheese, not meat. And so I order 15 pieces. We are shocked when we see the food. Giant dumplings, as long as a knife! A slight understatement by the waitress. 15 monstrous pelmenis - and a khachapuri, which looks like a huge cheese pizza. Unfortunately, the cheese on the khachapuri is the same as the one inside the pelmeni. It's some sort of salty cheese, and so we soon have enough of it and give up. We are happy that we could at least eat half of the food. And we are really stuffed. A vodka for the digestion would be a nice thing, but they only sell bottles, not glasses. Instead of vodka, she recommends other drinks, but I have no idea what she's talking about. I refuse, which seems to hurt her feelings. With our stomachs filled with salty cheese and dough, we walk, or shall I better say crawl, back to our accommodation. There we meet several other travelers from Hungary, Israel, England and Japan and have a nice chat with them, until Nasi suddenly turns out the lights. Time to sleep.
  • Marshrutkas from Yerevan to the bus station Ortochala in Tbilisi run regularly and cost about 6500 Dram (€ 13) per person. The ride takes less than 7 hours, and so it's much faster than trains and regular busses.
  • In Nasi's apartment. See →Day 5 for further information on how to get there, the price, address etc.
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