We Need to Talk about Yerevan, Armenia

I’ve put off writing this piece for quite a while now.  It’s been over a year (15 months, in fact) since we were in Yerevan, and part of me hoped the distance from the place would make my heart grow fonder of it.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite the case.  And while I don’t actively dislike Yerevan – we actually had quite a good time there, all things considered – I have become sort of ambivalent about visiting again.  pak-shuka-covered-market-yerevan-armenia_16234624526_o marshrutka-yerevan_16397184971_o lada-yerevan_16398938915_o Read more

Top Markets in Eastern Europe (Flea and Otherwise)

As the title of my blog implies (the kitsch part), I am a collector.  I have mild hoarding aspirations that I attempt to disguise by portraying myself as a discerning collector of random, yet CLASSY things from around the world.  Most of the time, this turns out to be postcards, maps, pins and badges, and antique clothing pieces – among many others (including snow globes).  I’ve written a post or two about this, but thought it would be useful to provide a run down of my favorite markets in Eastern Europe for anyone with an eye for kitschy communist goodies from the former Eastern Bloc.

We’ll start from Tallinn, Estonia, before making our way south to the Balkans, and east to the Caucasus. Read more

Balkans, Baltics, and Caucasus, Oh My! 2015 in Review

So I know that the time for year in review posts has come and long gone, but, like your hoarder neighbors who leave the Christmas wreath up until Spring, I too have put off this seminal blogging event.  Blah blah, working 50-60 hours a week, I won’t give you excuses so you don’t have to read them.  Instead, let me jump right into a recap of what became my most eventful year in travel ever.

Tbilisians are not afraid of a little color.
Tbilisi, Georgia
Exploring Tbilisi in Winter allowed us to avoid the tourist hordes.
Tbilisi, Georgia

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Church and Monastery Fatigue in Armenia – Sevan and Dilijan

By our final day in Armenia, David and I were sick and tired.  I don’t mean that figuratively.  We were both actually sick and developing a tolerance for expired Russian Theraflu, and tired from sleeping on 1 thread count sheets in our “hotel” (a generous assessment if there ever was one) in Yerevan.

Ts'tesutyoon, Yerevan.
Ts’tesutyoon, Yerevan.

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Sober Travel – How to Avoid Booze in a Boozy Culture

A huge part of my travel philosophy in my 20s was to meet people with the assistance of alcohol, the universal social lubricant – a strategy enjoyed by many travelers, I believe.  The thing is, when one is on vacation, one lets loose.  It’s like a (somewhat) grown up version of college spring break.  On spring break, we (the royal we, of course) would go to an exotic destination, with the direct intent of getting plastered on the beach with likeminded horny post-adolescents.  When we age out of that and into more (and I use this term loosely) “sophisticated” adventures, we maybe stroll around the ancient Forum if we’re in Rome, or visit Wat Pho if we’re in Bangkok, and then get plastered with the booze that’s next up from bottom shelf with our mates in the hostel from Europe and Australia.

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Church and Monastery Fatigue in Armenia – Echmiadzin, Khor Virap, and Noravank

Day 2 of our Armenian architecture death march leisurely exploration was actually our third day in Armenia.  Our second day we kept to ourselves, and explored Yerevan on foot and via its super-awesome, and super-secret metro.  We wanted to love Yerevan, but the feeling wasn’t super mutual – so Yerevan was a rough go for us.  But that’s a story for another time.

Right now, though, it’s time to get pumped up – it’s time for more churches!  Boom, bam, pow!  Church time!

Tragic foreboding? The souvenir stand at Khor Virap, was closed.
Tragic foreboding? The souvenir stand at Khor Virap, was closed.

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UNESCO Industrial Landscapes – The Mainstreaming of UrbEx

While I was browsing my favored geography/travel news related outlets this morning, I happened upon a slideshow of the new UNESCO world heritage sites for this year.  I used to pay a lot more attention to the UNESCO lists than I do today – when I was younger, UNESCO’s curated lists seemed to apply more to my travel style than they do now.  That said, looking through the list of 2015 inscriptions was a bit surprising to me – included were several places I would have never thought of as being UNESCO World Heritage material.

Hashima/Gunkanjima, Nagasaki, Japan - by https://www.flickr.com/photos/stefansgallery/
Hashima/Gunkanjima, Nagasaki, Japan – by https://www.flickr.com/photos/stefansgallery/

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The Accommodation Paradox – Apartment or Hotel?

I am not a graphic designer, clearly.
I am not a graphic designer, clearly.

I’ve been traveling in fairly offbeat/exotic places for a solid chunk of time now, and one thing I find myself talking to folks about over and over is how I choose a place to stay.  Now keep in mind that, despite having closed the hostel chapter of my life (temporarily, at least), I don’t crinkle my nose at staying at places that wouldn’t be considered luxurious.  Quite the opposite – as a story collector, I often find that a night or two at a grotty “hotel” in a random corner of the planet (I’m looking at you, Casa Iguana on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua) can yield some incredible memories that dazzle at cocktail parties.  And while I admire the long term travelers who stay at such places without qualms (as being thrifty with accommodation is one prong of a strategy that allows those folks to stay on the road for so long), putting in my time at my 9-5 for 11 months a year financially allows me to spend a moderate amount of coin to ensure relative creature comforts while on the road.

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Church and Monastery Fatigue in Armenia – The Debed Canyon

When I was planning our trip to Turkey and Georgia last year, I hadn’t originally thought to make a little jaunt into Armenia.  But after doing additional investigating into various places to see and things to do, I couldn’t help myself and booked a shoddy hotel in Yerevan – the Erebuni Hotel, if you’re wondering – for three nights in the middle of our 10 days in Georgia.

We had planned to spend 4 days and 3 nights in Armenia in total, one of which would be spent in Yerevan, one on a day trip, and two going to and from Tbilisi.  I arranged transport (with the help of lovely folks at Envoy Hostel in Yerevan) so that we could see different things coming to and from the border – an arrangement that basically meant we took two different routes when coming from the Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border to Yerevan and back.  Basically I was a total ninja in making sure we used our time in Armenia to see as many damn churches and monasteries as we could.

What could possibly go wrong??
What could possibly go wrong??

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