Another lovely example of a Soviet-era art project, The Cascade is a giant staircase built onto the side of a hill in Yerevan, Armenia. If you don’t want to walk up the stairs, there are escalators that will take you to the top. Seriously.
Waiting in no man’s land at the Georgia/Armenia border so we could complete the final leg of our Baku-Tbilisi-Yerevan trip.
Located in Haghpat, Armenia, this monastery complex was built in the 10th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in a rather remote location, and when we arrived at the monastery we were the only tourists there. More on this trip (including a slight problem with our transportation) here.
In the background of this photo is Mount Ararat, the national symbol of Armenia. There are literally hundreds of products and institutions that are named after this mountain: Ararat wine, Ararat vodka, Ararat cognac, Ararat bank…it’s even on the Armenian coat of arms. In a sad twist of irony, however, Mount Ararat lies not within the borders of Armenia, but those of Turkey. While the citizens of Yerevan may gaze upon Ararat, they may not cross the closed Armenian-Turkish border and travel the mere 20 miles to actually visit it. Photo taken during our July 2006 trip to the South Caucasus.
While looking through my files, I noticed that I had a few videos that I never uploaded. While none of these are really entertaining or incredibly mind-blowing, I’m uploading them because I really have nothing else to post at this moment (37 days until North Korea!).
This clip is from July 2006, when Crystal, Laura and I traveled to the South Caucasus to visit some friends who were working in Yerevan. The three of us hired a driver and guide to take us to the Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries in northeast Armenia, about a three hour drive from Yerevan. Unfortunately, the Ford minivan we were riding in broke down shortly before arriving at the first monastery, forcing us to take a village bus, hitch a ride with an Armenian family from Los Angeles, and then enjoy an incredibly delicious meal of khorovats at a sketchy roadside restaurant while our driver and guide figured out what to do. Our driver had somehow managed to enlist the help of one of his friends, and we soon found ourselves speeding through small towns and villages in an old Volga. Unfortunately, I did not capture any footage of our driver swerving to avoid the occasional pig and cow standing in the middle of the road. Just massive potholes in this one. Bonus: Random small fire on the side of the street.
Deposit several scoops of ice cream into a tall glass, garnish with an entire orchard’s worth of fruit and one ice cream cone. Serve with a dash of disinterested Eastern European customer service.
This is the most bizarre sundae I’ve ever seen in my life, and that’s saying something, considering how much ice cream I eat. I love ice cream, and, in particular, that delicious soft serve ice cream that costs less than 25 cents and can be found throughout the former Soviet republics.
Late one evening in Yerevan, after finishing dinner at a decent Chinese restaurant, everyone hopped in their respective SUVs (American diplomats, natch) for a morozhenoe run. We ended up at some outdoor pseudo Middle Eastern cafe that looked as if it had been jacked from a Hollywood movie set and deposited in downtown Yerevan. All that mattered, though, was that they served ice cream and coffee. I opted for a traditional vanilla/chocolate combination, but Andrew decided to be the brave man in the group and order the descriptionless “Sharm-El” sundae. The above photo shows what he ended up with. I’m glad I stuck with my highly unoriginal ice cream order, as a smörgåsbord of fruit only serves to defile the ice cream. Too damn healthy.
In many cities throughout the former USSR, the utility lines (gas, water, etc.) were run above ground rather than buried below. This particular water line was right in front of Liz’s apartment, and surrounded by a large, and constantly growing, pool of water. Check out the awesome “repair” job performed by the local utility workers (or, most likely, a frustrated local). At the very least, the pipe was no longer hemorrhaging water.
Our flight out of Yerevan left a little after 10am. Prior to leaving, we had to pay a “departure fee”, which is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard of. You guys made me buy two visas and yet I still have to PAY to LEAVE your country? Whatev.
The flight to Heathrow absolutely sucked. It was full of wild diaspora kids (on their way back to LA, I’m guessing) who were running up and down the aisles screaming their heads off and knocking down the flight attendants who were serving everyone their drinks. I had to try very hard to restrain myself from sticking my arm out and clotheslining one of the brats. Hey parents, wanna control your kids? Oh, right, you’re too busy fidgeting with your iPod to notice that little Aram and Stepan are terrorizing your fellow passengers and convincing Lindsay that she will never EVER EVER want kids…EVER!
I had purposely spaced out my Yerevan – London and London – Washington flights (8 hour layover) so I could head into the wonderful city of London and have a few pints at a pub I used to frequent. We went to Churchill Arms in Notting Hill, which has the most amazing Thai food for six quid (yeah, the dishes went up a few pence since I lived there, but I’m not complaining). When I was at LSE, we’d eat or drink at Churchill Arms at last once a week, so I have some very fond memories of that pub. Saalim, a friend of mine from LSE, met up with us. Just like the old times, innit? (Thanks for the Strongbow and Pimm’s, dude, looking forward to seeing you in January.)
I rode the Heathrow Express back to the airport in a semi-inebriated, near catatonic state. I couldn’t believe I had to go back to Washington-effin’-DC, that goddamn hellhole swamp. I missed London’s pubs, outdoor markets, black cabs, red double decker buses, efficient train system, and generally polite population.
Maybe…MAYBE I could just stay here…no, that would be pretty goddamn irresponsible, eh? Anyways, my visa’s long since expired.
Upon arrival at Heathrow, I purchased two bottles of Pimm’s from duty-free, because I needed some gin-based liqueur to blunt the trauma of my imminent departure from London. The flight was two hours late leaving Heathrow, due to the fact that it’s, well, Heathrow, and massive screwups seem to be par for the course at that airport.
Nothing memorable happened on the flight to Dulles, which arrived a bit past midnight. Customs was surprisingly easy. There weren’t any ridiculous questions that the agents at LAX like to ask: “How did you get to all these countries?”
“Uh, by airplane.”
Or, “Armenia? Were you participating in jihad against the United States of America?”
“Uh, Armenia is a Christian nation, but no.”
Got home at 1:30am, 21 hours after leaving Armenia. Four former Soviet republics down, eleven to go!
THE END…of the most drawn-out vacation description EVER. Took this trip in July and finished writing about it in December…way to go, Lindsay!
Anyways, this post wouldn’t be complete without a big thanks to Liz and Taline for putting us up (and more importantly, putting up with us). Thanks to Brian and Andrew for their brilliant toastmaster skills at our welcome dinner…and for ensuring that the Russki Standart vodka was constantly flowing.
I’m trying to figure out where to go for my next trip. I was thinking of hitting up London over President’s Day weekend, but might switch that to Berlin because flights are cheap and I’ve never been to Germany. A summer surf trip to Costa Rica might be in the works. Let me know if you want to come along.
Also, I’ll post to this “blog” (I still hate that word) a bit more often, so you guys can stop complaining about how I never update it.