Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Since I’ve come to Armenia & Georgia I realized that i knew sweet F*ck all about these countries but hey I'm always open to learning & its interesting

Got to Armenia via Georgia cus no border crossing between Turkey & Armenia or love lost!!!

Pics of the apt/flat that my German friend Andre is staying while in Yerevan. It actually belongs to his friend Lucas who I also met one night in the pub! The apt is in an area referred to as Bangladash by the locals cus it's a bit out of the city center! It's a 3 bedroom place as it's spacious and looks quite nice inside!

Area around the Armenian National Football Stadium plus u can see the Genocile Memorial further up the hill from the Stadium

The Blue Mosque in Yerevan and as far as could see it's one of the few Mosques in the city!

Got a pic of myself and a policeman cus their hats are so different and large!

Andre and I took a trip to see Thor Virap Monastery near Yerevan and the Turkish border and Mt Ararat!

The Thor Virap Monastery is built on a hill with a good view of the surrounding country side! But unfortanately there were clouds covering Mt. Ararat!

You can tell that this church is very old by the pics of inside! I think it dates back to around the 11th century. But hey I'm going on memory and it's not that good to begin with plus I've checked out so many churches, monasteries, mosques and ruins, etc that I get a bit confused. But you get the msg it's friggin old!

When we looked in one direction we could see Azerbiajan which is embroided in a conflict with Armenia and it's neighboring country Nagorno-Karabakh!

Thought I'd add a couple pics of the Russian Lada and bus that are widely used in Armenia!

Went for some Armenia food and had some Borcht (beet soup which I love cus know all about Ukranian food which is similar). Also Andre has this stuff that looks like minature perogies!

Pic of my German friend with the French name Andre and his Armenian girlfriend Armine (may have spelled it wrong)

I'm really intriqued by the gaslines installed during the Soviet regime. They didn't bother to bury the lines but ran them above ground. Shit did they ever think they were open to terrorists setting them ablaze?? Shit they were really into dong things cheaply but then they had so many conquered countries under their control guess they had to do it cheaply! Check the outside of the apt buildings as they look very much like slums!

A trip Andre and I took to Lake Sevan the largest lake in Armenia. Maybe you can notice the Soviet influence.

We saw this old Soviet hotel near Lake Sevan which was probably an important place in it's day but now is vacant but on closer observation it seemed like there were work going on but no windows in the hotel!

Had this amazing bbq fish lunch by Lake Sevan and it was so good!

Well the area around Lake Sevan is like most in Armenia as it has an ancient church, built on you guessed it - on a hill! But hey by visiting the church on the hill we got a good view of the surrounding country side!

check the old Armenian made van as it's the only vehicle I think they've built cus they use Russian vehicles

check the old Russian bus that we took to Lake Sevan.

So back in Yerezan to check out some sights and sounds of the big city. Yerevan and the villages are like night and day. Yerevan is so modern with people dressed like in the west. But they are still so conservative! I get more stares cus of my idiotic appearance ie mostly piercings and tatts as guys here don't have piercings so maybe they think I'm gay!! But hey they better not approach me cus I don't care if others are but don't like to participate in that kind of action!

Stayed in the Envoy Hostel (in Yerevan the capital city of Armenia) and was pleasantly surprised to find it is one of the nicest hostels I've stayed in anywhere. It was clean, secure as it had lockers in the dorm. Heck I was lucky cus I had a 4 bed dorm all to myself. Plus even got breakfast and free internet and cable tv with BBC news to catch up on what was happening in the world (well at least the news English style!)

The Russians left the Armenians with a inventory of their cars - Lada, a sort of SUV 4X4 and medium sized Car. I've never been exposed to these vehicles before but they are strong but not particularly comfortable riding.

Was in Yerevan on May 9 which I found out later was the day WW2 ended so they were having a big celebration everywhere.

In 1915 the Armenian suffered a Genocile at the hands of Turkey and 1.5 million died. Visited the Memorial and there were many placards left by various World politicans who visited the Memorial over the years.

The following picture isn't too clear cus it was a bit of a misty day but it shows Mt Ararat the most famous mtn in Armenia.

Stopped in at a small village in the country side to Yerevan to get some tasty pastry at this bakery and they used a kind of tandoury oven to bake the bread!

We took a trip by Marshruska (mini bus) to this little village as we were on our way to see Khor Virap Monastery, yes another monastery as seem to catch one in every country!

Well I'm slowly learning about the history, culture and politics of these countries especially Armenia!! But want to learn more about these countries.

Armenia has a on going feud with Turkey over the long simmering Genocile argument which occurred in 1915 and over 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks. However it seems that Turkey continues to not acknowledge this fact. It has become a real issue between the 2 countries. So diplomatic relations are frozen and borders closed. However I went to the Genocile Memorial in Yerevan and read the many placards sent by many countries around the world recognizing this fact in history. When I spoke to one French Armenian who was staying in the hostel with me he was very vocal about this issue with Turkey. This was the first time he has visited Armenia and doesn’t speak the language. However he says he would not visit Turkey as he believes with an Armenian name he would probably be pestered by the Turks and could even be jailed for any reason. I find this all a bit hard to believe but also don’t doubt his word as he studied Geopolitics and is working on his PHD in Armenian affairs so he knows what he is talking about on this issue.

Also on the eastern border of Armenia the relationship with Azerbiajan is downright poisonous! Official fighting between the 2 countries ended in 1994 but the matter still feels closer to war than peace. The status quo is with Armenia officially occupying 16% of Azebiajan (which is called Nagorno-Karabakh) and negotiations are at a standstill and should remain that way for some time. Azerbiajan is mostly Muslim while Nagorno-Karabakh is Christian. So with the situation the way it is if a person goes to Nagorno-Karabakh and has a stamp in their passport then they are not allowed to enter Azerbiajan.

However Armenia has good relations with Russia, US and Iran which few other countries probably have. In fact there are probably 15,000 Russian troops in Armenia helping protect Armenia from Turkey!

So since I've got a taste of it well I find all this geopolitics very interesting. Also find modern history is more interesting to me than something that happened 1000 years ago! Yes to me I find it interesting to learn about the remenants of the Soviet Union which still exist especially in Armenia! I see some of the Soviet things here in Armenia for example the cars. There are a lot Russian vehicles like the Lada which is the smaller compact cars used a lot as taxis. There are also the mid size Russian car (can't remember the name) which is their luxury car. There also their SUV 4X4 which is a smaller size than the SUVs in the western countries probably as it’s more fuel efficient. They all seem sturdy and run for a long time. But they don't appear to be very comfortable or are nice in appearance. But hey that seems to be the Soviet way which is to just have the basic things that are functional without the bells and whistles! I also rode on one of the old Russian buses to Lake Sevan to see the country of Armenia’s tourist hangout in the summer. The bus was old and uncomfortable but hell it got us there and bloody cheap!

Then another day we took this bigger bus which the driver had trouble starting and keep running. Hell didn't think we'd make it to the Khor Virap Monastery. Shit we went to catch a bus or marshrutka around noon but the bus didn't leave till 2. But at least the bus took us to with a couple kms of the monastery so we didn't have too far to walk! This was the 3rd monastery I've checked out in 3 countries so started thinking that this was about enough of this stuff! Can't understand but it seems every monastery I've been to has been built on a mountain or cliff! But I think this one was built on a hill away from the town cus it was built in a war zone and they didn't want the monastery and church to be destroyed when the town was! So what was their theory “kill the towns people and destroy the town but leave our precious church and monks alone!”!

The monastery was nice to see it is perched on a hill! But the real reason I wanted to see the place was cus there was a great view of Mt Ararat from there. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so couldn’t see the mountain as good as wanted to. But we could see the Turkish border and the guard posts! I guess I’ll see Mt. Ararat when I visit Turkey since it’s actually located in Turkey. But Armenia has a long history and associates quite closely with Mt Ararat as it mentioned in many of their legends and currently in names in Armenia.

It seems legend has it that remains of Noah’s Ark were found on Mt Ararat! But this claim has been told over many years and also just recently. It’s actually 2 mtns that make up Mt. Ararat and the taller one is about 5300 meters. It seems many people have climbed the mtn with it’s snow peaks. But recently some German climbers were kidnapped by some Kurdish rebels so no seems to climb it now. However any climbing to be done is done while in Turkey and not from Armenia as borders are closed!

If Noah's Ark ever survived into modern times and is somewhere on Ararat, there are few new places remaining on the mountain to search unless it is buried under the ice cap or lava. There have been many expeditions, accounts, alleged sightings, anomalies, and claims of discovery involving Mount Ararat. What is lacking is any scientific evidence or photo that shows that Noah's Ark survived until today. However, one should also consider the possibility that Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat and was subsequently destroyed, which is the possibility alluded to in the article Even If Noah’s Ark Is Not Proven, Noah’s Ark Still Could Have Landed On Mount Ararat.Given all the ground and aerial expeditions (and one with sophisticated mapping capabilities), one should surmise that if the remains of Noah's Ark are indeed on Mount Ararat, they are not in plain view; if the boat is there, it must be buried.

I found the capital city Yerevan to be quite modern and nice in the downtown core and the outside area a bit more modern than Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia which is also modern and nice downtown but it’s outlying areas are really a work in progress or a mess in a lot of areas). Yerevan has a metro that is onoy 1 line and not as many people use it as in Tbilisi where the metro is so crowded that it’s not easy to use. In Tbilisi the signs are all in Georgian characters so it’s so hard to figure out where u’re going and which station or direction u’re headed) But in Yerevan the names are also in Latin characters which helps!

One thing I notice to my mind are the remains of the Soviet influence are the buildings and other structures. I probably notice these more in the villages and smaller cities but they are also in Yerevan. There are these big apartment blocks which to me look kind of depressing. They are built to house families and may be nice in side as I visited my friend’s apt in Yerevan. My German friend Andre is staying at Lucas’s (this Spanish guy) apt/flat. The apt is a 3 bedroom and quite spacious and bright inside. This apt is paid by an NGO as Lucas is volunteering for the NGO as a film maker. It is bright inside which is nice and has the conveniences of a washing machine but everyone hangs their clothes outside the apt window! What I find about these apt buildings are how dingy the outside looks! The building wasn’t built with any outside stucco or finishing so to me it looks like a run down building. The doorways to enter, hallways, stairs and elevators if there is one are all very bleak and look run down. There is just bare cement on the floor & the walls and ceiling are not finished. So it is very dark and looks like a vacant building to me. I guess Canadians are a bit spoiled as no one would want to live in a dingy looking buildings like as they appear to be slum dwellings! I suppose that is the #1 thing I notice about the Armenian cities and villages. But in the villages and small cities the Soviet influence is more noticeable! I suppose when they laid the gas lines to buildings that they cheaped out! They didn’t bury the gas lines underground like we are used to! But they built them above ground like 1 meter and elevated them over streets and around buildings. They are a bit of an eye sore as you can see them all over in small cities, villages and in the outlying areas of Yerevan. But guess the Soviet way of thinking it was “just do the job as cheaply and functionally as possible!”.

Andre told me that all Soviet villages were built with a Social center in the center of town with a small square for people to gather! I found that the shops in the old Soviet style were also basic. I could walk by a grocery store/convenient store with out even realizing it was one. There are no signs (at least to a visitor to Armenia) that state it’s a store. Then when u enter the store all the products are behind the counter. However it seemed to me that there was a limited variety of products. When I’ve gone in these shops there wasn’t much to buy! Now it seems from what I’ve read and heard that this was the way it was in the Soviet times. I find all these things a bit foreign to me so find them interesting.

But I guess what I notice the most are how conservative the Armenians seem to be. I suppose I notice it more cus I’m a bit of a freaky looking guy to anyone. But when I walk down the street in Armenia (even in Yerevan) it seems everyone stares! I guess in their eyes if a person is an individualist then they are stared at! They all dress nice but the same! The chicks look great and dress very western in their styles. But they are very conservative as they have had a strict upbringing. In Yerevan I notice guys and chicks sitting in places holding hands, etc. But I’ve been told the girls have to a curfew and aren’t allowed to go out without their parents permission (however I may be wrong on this point). I have never spoken to an Armenian girl except for Andre’s girlfriend and we talked about other things!

The people are nice and friendly whenever I have contact with them. However they would never come and speak to me first. But they sure the hell stare, especially the young guys! Hell if I didn’t know better I’d think they were Gay!!! But I guess in their society no guys have Piercings so maybe they think I’m Gay as only girls have earrings but only on their ears! But hell I’ve noticed people staring in all the countries of Afica, Middle East, Turkey, Georgia and now Armenia. So shit I’m kind of getting used to it but it gets a bit annoying! So sometimes when I get really annoyed I stare back or a couple times I’ve even walked up and stared at them in the face about a foot away! Most of these peoples have never left their countries so fads in the rest of the world are strange to them but to Canadians it’s like common! Most of the time I wear only shorts but have gotten a new wardrobe (a pair of pants with legs) for my visit to the Middle East and these countries. But I never felt so awkward in the Middle East countries as I do here!

But to me it’s all an adventure and experience so try to take it all in stride! But at least in Armenia the Marshuska (minibus) drivers seem to drive a bit more carefully, not like in Georgia!!

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