Pilot

On the evening of August 9 2013 a turbulent flight brought me from Brussels to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with a transfer in Vienna. Due to a thunderstorm in Vienna, my plane was delayed almost two hours so I arrived only at 5 a.m. in Yerevan. Still dark outside so I decided to sleep in the airport until the sun rises.

I felt a bit uncomfortable in this unknown country so I was happy I found a guy from Iran and another one from Russia to share a taxi to the center. We payed each 3000AMD. I got into a conversation with the guy from Iran and we decided to explore the city together until my Armenian contact, Anush, arrived in Yerevan.

We first dropped our luggage at his hotel and went looking for the Blue Mosque. It’s not mentioned in my guidebook but my Iranian company really wanted to see this. We passed the republic square, where it was still very calm because of the early hour. Arriving at the Blue Mosque I realized how funny it was that the first thing I visit in Armenia is actually a mosque. Since Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion it is scattered with churches and monasteries and still I manage to go and see the Blue Mosque first. Unfortunately, the mosque was closed so we could only see the big outer wall with closed doors.

After visiting the mosque I bought an Armenian sim card and also learned my first Armenian word in a small supermarket: Shnorhakalutyun (շնորհակալություն) which simply means ‘Thank you’. Meanwhile my contact in Yerevan had woken up and we agreed on meeting each other in front of the Opera Theater. I know Anush from the couchsurfing website. She helped me with gathering information about Armenia. Finally I would meet her.

Anush brought me to her home where I was welcome with open arms by her family and a table was covered with Armenian specialties.

After the late breakfast/early lunch, the mother of Anush learned me how to play Nardi. I saw a lot of man already playing the Armenian Backgammon game on the streets and in parks that I was really happy to learned it myself. She learned it to me using gestures and some French words. After this game, which I lost, Anush took me for a small walk in the neighborhood of their apartment.

This small walk made me realize I might not survive my first day if I didn’t get some sleep first so we went back to Anush home where I had a nap. Two hours later we prepared to go for a bicycle tour in the city. Together with a friend of Anush we rented three bikes and made a small tour in Yerevan.

Later on the evening I got another chance to practice my Armenian. I ordered bambak (cotton candy) reading Armenian phrases from my guidebook. Luckily my friends interrupted the conversation just on time to avoid that I was paying more than the double of the usual price!

We ended the evening watching the dancing fountains at the Republic Square. A beautiful end of my first day in Armenia.

I was invited stay in the apartment of Anush and family for the night. When walking home we passed the house of Charles Aznavour. A villa with a beautiful view over Yerevan.Until that day I thought Charles Aznavour was French!

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