Yererouk basilica in Anipemza

Last two days were easy. Now it’s for real, I’ll leave Yerevan and drive two weeks on my own through Armenia. Of course I knew this wouldn’t go without any problems. But isn’t that all part of the big adventure? The first problem started already before I left Yerevan.

The father of Anush would drive Anush and me to the center. Anush had to go to work and I had to pick up my Suzuki Vitara. The car I would be driving the next 13 days. From Mohit, another couchsurfer where I stayed last night, I took a taxi to Anush. In the taxi I noticed again how hard it will be to communicate with the people. But I managed to arrive on time at Anush her home.

After a small tour at the office of Anush, I went to the Northern Avenue Hotel where the car rental company Sixt have their office. When asked for my car they told me the navigation system I booked with the car was not available at that time so I would have to manage without. Of course I was not happy with that – I think they noticed – but they said they could impossibly get a navigation system for me.

I started calling other car companies to know if they had cars with navigation system available but without success. At the end I could rent a GPS from Hertz and the car from Sixt. The man at sixt was really surprised I suddenly appeared again with a navigation system. You should know those things are really exotic in Armenia.

My goal for today was Gyumri. The second largest city of Armenia. Using the main road, that would take me around 2 hours. But of course that’s not what I did. I headed first to Talin from where I would continue on a small dirt road passing several very small villages.

My planned trip looked like this:
Yerevan – Talin – Nor Artik – Norshen – Anipemza – Jrapi – Artik – Gyumri

I even planned to visit Gyumri in the evening and find a place to sleep north of Gyumri. But the extreme hospitality of the people I met on my first day prevent me of reaching Gyumri that day.

It all started when I arrived in Talin. My first thought when I arrived was: “What am I doing here?”. My guide said there was a ruined cathedral. But I couldn’t see one so, I parked the car and started to walk around.

I entered a side road where I saw some kids playing. It was my first experience with photographing complete strangers. The kids were happy to be on the photo.

I moved further from the main road where a car was loaded full with peaches. I said “Barev dzez” to the people around the car. I was immediately offered two peaches. unfortunately, none of the spook a word English. I returned with the peaches to the car where I took some Belgian cookies to give to the people in return for the peaches. A few minutes later I was at there home with half of the inhabitants of the street, curious to see what a tourist is doing in there street.

I was so surprised how people open their house to a complete stranger with who communication is only possible with gestures. Only after half hour there was a girl who, apparently, spoke English and who could translate something for me. I think she might was a little shy to speak to me earlier. One guy, who arrived later and also spoke English, offered to visit the cathedral.

The main part of the cathedral is roofless, but the front still has a roof with two secret rooms where for you need to climb on the walls to reach a small hole that leads to a dark room. Here I realized I should always take my flashlight with me. Wherever I go, no matter what time of the day.

They also took me to their house in Talin where I was again served Armenian coffee, cake and homemade honey.

If the next two weeks would continue like this, I would never be able to complete my trip on time. So I told them I had to go and left there house loaded with cake and fruits from their garden.

Half hour later I saw a farmer with his sheep. He was very happy and surprised at the same time that I wanted a picture of him. I assume he was talking in Russian to me. But none of us could understand the other. Soon a younger guy, Manuk, arrived. He spoke a little bit English and I offered him to share the sandwiches I still got from the mother of Anush. (It really was to much for me on top of all the fruits and cake I already had).

Not much later I was inside his house where I met the other members of the family. Here I got my third coffee of the day! There was also Matzoon. Something similar to yogurt. Typical for the Caucasian region. Manuk is a musician, he gave a small living room concert for me and the family. We also played the game Nardi and this time I even won!

In the next village, Norshen, a boy, Harut, joined me in the car to show the road to Anipemza. He spoke just enough English to communicate a bit. He told me he was studying for movie director in Yerevan. We managed to reach the Yererouk basilica in Anipemza just before the sun went under. It is one of the earliest Christian monuments in Armenia.

Anipemza is located just next to the closed border with Turkey. We could hear regularly a voice through speakers. Ani, the ancient capital city of Armenia is located on the other side border. On ground that used to be Armenian. I hoped to go and see the city from the border but it was already dark. I still had to bring Harut back to his home and find a place to camp for myself.

So I drove back to Norshen where, Harut made a quick coffee for me.