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. Read more
And now, the continuation (and conclusion) of the story of the longest travel day of my life… (for Part 1, click here)
Scene 5: Didube Marshrutka Depot, 9am, Christmas Day. We stumble into Didube metro stop and light is just breaking. With our bags, we trudge across the dirt lot that is Tbilisi’s largest marshrutka stop. In Georgia and Armenia, marshrutkas quickly became my favorite method of transportation – egalitarian shared buses or minivans that depart for their destination only when enough passengers board to turn the driver a profit.
I like to make travel difficult as possible. While I wouldn’t typically openly admit to this, the behavioral patterns I engage in leading up to and while on trips says otherwise. I like really involved, complicated travel plans that often leave me tired, hungry, whiny, or some combination of the three. I wasn’t thinking about my propensity for tantrums when I made my plans to travel from Istanbul to Tbilisi during Christmas Eve night, followed by another trip leg to Kazbegi on the following Christmas day.
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.
Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, no doubt about it. I was awestruck by the city’s beauty from the moment the plane made its initial approach to Ataturk Airport. It was dusk, and the last remnants of the sun were flickering across the Bosphorus, as well as casting shadows of the great mosques all over the city. Aside from its breathtaking beauty, it had easily navigable public transportation, and the people were all incredibly friendly. But since returning from that trip and starting this blog, I have not felt extremely compelled to write about my time there. I have sat down time and time again to try and write a story about my experiences in Istanbul, but have been left bereft of words.
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!
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.
Georgia (the country, not the state) had been on my bucket list of travel destinations for many, many years before I developed the chutzpah to buy a ticket there. When David and I were looking into places to travel this past December and January, we knew we wanted a more “difficult” vacation – that is, one that wasn’t relaxation focused. We had recharged on the idyllic beaches of Little Corn Island the past March, and were ready for a real adventure. So, as I do for every trip, I started obsessively watching plane fares, and when I found a cheap ticket to Istanbul, an easy hop away from the South Caucasus, I knew it was time to check Georgia off my list.
My travel adventure to Chiatura began like most of my travel obsessions – with an internet-acquired obsession that set upon me like a flash flood.
I fall down rabbit holes easily, especially when I’m bored at work, thinking about where I’m traveling next. It may or may not be related to my OCD, but when I am fascinated by something, I will stop at nothing to learn everything I can about it. This extends to searching for hashtags on social media on a topic, looking at pictures tagged on flickr or google maps, to asking ridiculous amounts of questions on tripadvisor – I will go to any length to obtain every last bit of public information on an obscure place. This obsession became all consuming one day while I was planning David and my trip to the South Caucasus last year.
Chiatura, Imereti. A small town in Georgia, near the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Former Manganese mining capital of the world. I don’t know where I found the page, but it was likely through some serendipitous hub and spoke chain of hyperlinks. This town: