Armenia / Caucasus

Northern Armenia. Fight fire with fire.

We’ve had enough. Enough of everything – males, south of Armenia, hitch-hiking. We are travelling to the north by bus. The goal of the day is to reach Sevanavank and then figure out the rest. After our hitchhiking nightmare (haven’t read it yet? Quick catch up HERE) we are so grumpy. This trip could end up NOW.

We got used to hitch-hiking so much, walking to the bus stop seems like climbing Mount Everest. When we finally reach it, the bus that goes to Sevanavank is empty. What does it mean? We have to wait until it’s full. Luckily it ONLY takes an hour! 🙂

Sevanavank is a monastic complex located on a peninsula at the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan. The location is beautiful, from the top of the hill you can admire a beautiful view of the lake. We really wanted to see this place and here we are! What’s next? We’re flicking through our guide book to find out where we can go. Flexible itinerary – this is how we call it. 🙂 Dilijan. Sounds good! There is only one problem. There is no bus from Sevanavank to Dilijan. Only taxis and private tours. We have no other option that hitch-hiking. Have I just seen you cringe?

Although it sounds insane we decided to fight fire with fire and hitch-hike again. Otherwise we would stay traumatized forever. No man ever steps in the same river twice. The theory of probability guys! It was unlikely for us to meet another psycho.

When the first car stops we are a bit scared, but it’s a family so we don’t think twice, we jump in! Unfortunately they take us only to the first gas station. Then there is a cab. I politely decline, explaining we don’t want to pay, but the driver insists on taking us, as he just finished his work and he is going home anyway… The whole way down to Dilijan. This is awesome!

The monastery of Sevanavank was founded in 874 – now you can see that what’s “old” in Europe is fairly “new” in Armenia. The history of the country is just incredible!
The view from the top of the hill is pretty nice. 
Armenian cross-stones from IXth century. Beautiful! 
Sevanavank is off my bucket list. It was pretty touristy as this is one of the most popular and picturesque tourist spots in Armenia (along with Tatev). 

In Dilijan we sit on a small bench thinking what to do next. We don’t want to go back to Yerevan tonight, so we have to find a place to sleep. I was trying to google what’s available beforehand, but at that time the only option (within our budget) was a TENT.

What are you up to girls? – a young guy asks us. After a short convo, it turns out he has a guest house. It’s fairly cheap and seems to be close to the town centre. Right. How many of you would turn that guy down thinking “oh.. here we go, yet another psycho”? If you replies YES, maybe the Caucasus isn’t for you. The best thing about Georgia and Armenia is the people. They will talk to you and if you are lucky, they’ll invite you to their house to eat together with their family. I personally think it’s something FANTASTIC and AUTHENTIC yet all my colleagues say they would never ever even talk to a stranger!

The Guest House turned out to be a room in a super cold basement. The temperatures in the north of Armenia are usually lower than in the south so it was a big “no-no”. Who wants to sleep in a freezer? The guy suggests that for a bit more money, he can upgrade us to a room in his actual house. We agree as we don’t want to spend the whole afternoon looking for a place to sleep. It’s way warmer upstairs and his mum is there and she is lovely so we immediately feel at ease. 🙂

Dilijan is super small. It has a really tiny, yet charming, Old Town but there are no bars, no buzz, NO LIFE. It’s very quiet. There are some monasteries around but, if you don’t have a car (again!), you won’t see much. The guy from the guest house offers to show us around but he does want money for that. Where is the famous Armenian hospitality? We decline and opt for DIY sightseeing instead.

“DIY” doesn’t quite work when you are in the Caucasus. Surprised!? There’s always someone who wants to be your self-proclaimed guide, following you everywhere, for better and for worse. This is how we met Kristian. We spent the whole afternoon walking around with him. The good vibes returned for good!

Dilijan’s sleepy streets.
Dilijan – some random shots to show you the real life.
Old Dilijan is very pretty.
Visiting old Dilijan will only take you half an hour, it’s really crucial to rent a car in Armenia so you can fully enjoy its beauty.
In old Dilijan you can visit craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum.
Drinking Armenian wine with Kristian.

The following day after breakfast (it was a Russian style breakfast with jam and fish) we want to spend a few hours walking around the forest. One thing I forgot to mention is that Dilijan is beautifully situated next to a national park so it’s very green and the air is so fresh! clearly shows a cave somewhere not far from our guest house. I was traumatized after finding 3 ticks in my body last time I went to the forest, so this time, I prepare myself the best I can – I put on my hoodie (even though it is fairly hot) and the hood so tight I can barely breathe. I can finally follow my best friend into the wild!

The path was supposed to be suitable for bicycles but I would die cycling here. The first 500 meters is up the muddy hill. Eventually we get to the cave but it isn’t impressive at all so we decide to return and go back to Yerevan.

Ready to tackle that trek!
Treasures of Dilijan forest. 🙂 
The cave! We didn’t dare to go inside.
Dilijan National Park, is one of the 4 protected national parks of the Republic of Armenia. It is known for its forest landscapes, rich biodiversity, medicinal mineral water – the views are indeed beautiful!

Next bus to Yereven is in 3 hours. Great. Are we gonna wait? No we’re not. We will hitch-hike. This time we end up with 2 young guys. One of them is a real chatterbox, the other doesn’t know a word in Russian. They go to Yerevan. Perfect! It’s going to be a smooth ride. Suddenly in the middle of the journey the chatty one says “actually girls, we have to pick up my friend’s father so we’re going now to the village”. Ops…did the theory of probability let us down?

No man ever steps in the same river twice so how the hell did we manage to get into it again? The only difference is that now there’s two of them and we didn’t have any gut feeling whatsoever. Shit. The chatty guy casually comments “by the way, this village has the highest crime rates in Armenia”. His words linger in the air for a long time. My heart is pounding. It can’t be true… 

Then we see the father. What a relief! But seriously, think about it – no one has ever had such a bad luck to get into trouble twice, day by day. We tell them our yesterday’s “adventure” and the start to laugh. “Oh he didn’t want to kill you, just you know… RAPE you“. Very funny. I’m serious. Unfortunately all of the guys in Armenia reacted the same way when they heard the story. Super weird right? Well, at least we managed to give them a good laugh.

As the guys were really nice and helpful we went out with them in the evening. We had dinner together and drinks, then we talked and laughed and talked and laughed… it was already midnight (and a school night for them as well!) and we really wanted to go back to our hostel, but they were clearly ready to hit the club. That Caucasian spirit! We had to insist on coming back (and we finally did at 2am) coz the next day we wanted to explore a canyon not far from Yerevan. A short trek we did there, was probably the most demanding one in my life so far. Not physically though, mentally. It was insane. One more post from Armenia to go! Stay tuned.