Armenia / Caucasus

Tandzatap. Pie in the Sky.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a country that doesn’t exist. They have their own flag and separate government, but they use the same currency as in Armenia. It also is predominantly Armenian-populated. Historically it belong to Armenia, geographically… hmm… it’s complicated. At the beginning of the XXth century the USSR  recognized it as part of Azerbaijan and the never ending war broke out. The war that was later on beautifully called a “conflict”. Damn political correctness!

Karabakh is the Russian rendering of an Azeri word meaning a “black garden”, while Nagorno in Russian means “mountainous”. It’s a truly beautiful region, very rich, with lots of interesting sights yet not many people visit that part of the world. Only a fool would travel there, you think, it’s so dangerous!

We’ve heard many beautiful legends about Nagorno-Karabakh from Arthur, on that magical night in his house in the middle of the deep Armenian forest and as you remember from my last post we were about to travel there with Arthur as a guide. Cool beans!

Close but not quite there…

We get up really early, ready to hit the road. We are going to Nagorno-Karabakh! Happy as never in the mornings (I am definitely NOT a morning person) we pack our stuff. In the kitchen Arthur’s mum has already prepared a tasty Armenian breakfast for us. One thing is certain – in Tandzatap, you eat like a king. I loved those wraps filled in with fresh, organic herbs straight from the garden, home made bread, sauteed aubergines and pomegranate juice! Yummy! Whatever we’ve got, you are welcome to it – they say. We like it. 🙂 After breakfast Arthur is already waiting for us in the car. The adventure begins! But… hold on, what is Misha doing here? Is he going with us? Does he know where are we going? Well, you know – the more the merrier. Arthur starts the engine…

Misha is always ready for the adventure. I’m afraid we won’t go anywhere if we drink whatever it is in that bottle. 🙂

Holy cow! We are so excited! Like SO EXCITED!!!

Our joy doesn’t last long. Arthur stops the car on a small side road.  – Ok girls, you can jump out. – he says. – Are we already in Nagorno-Karabah? I prefer to be naive rather than to face the truth. It’s impossible, we haven’t done more than 10 km. Arthur takes out a scythe from his boot. Oh My God! he is gonna slaughter us now!! Fortunately Arthur doesn’t want to decapitate us. He gives the scythe to my friend Anna and tell us to follow him. Right, we will have to pay him back for hosting us now, working as slaves on his plantation.

Arthur doesn’t have any diabolic plan on his mind. He starts cutting the grass and picking the nettle. By the way did you know you can actually fry nettle and it makes an awesome vegan meal?

The Nagorno-Karabah trip was a pipe dream. Arthur drunk to much mulberry vodka and he simply forgot about our excursion.

Until the noon, we still have a hope (the hope dies last!) it will eventually happen. When Arthur says the job’s been done and he asks us if we want to go for a walk, we think – that’s it! He wants to go for a trek through the mountains to Nagorno-Karabah. We’re in.

Instead of a trek Arthur takes us on a guided walk through the forest. He shows us what plants we can eat, what herbs to pick, where to find potable water or what to do in case we encounter A BEAR. Remember – you have to stand on your toes, don’t look into their eyes and… ROAR. Roar like you mean it, or die. Simple as it is. Those bears aren’t sweet and cuddly. We walk in the forest for a good couple of hours before we head home. That’s it. No Karabakh for us. Do we regret? Yes and no. Spending another day in Tandzatap was an adventure itself. Sometimes you just have to take the things as they are.

This is where our trip ended. In the middle of nowhere!
Some random pics from Tandzatap – anyone fancy going to work on a donkey?
Even though we finally didn’t go to Nagorno-Karabakh that day was still amazing!
Khachkar in Tandzatap – they are everywhere in Armenia!
Arthur working on a field (what a view in the background!).
Even though Misha was consuming hell lot of mulberry vodka he was still working in the field in the mornings. Work hard play harder – the Armenian style!
Our creative photo session – my friend Anna with a scythe. 
Selfie with a leaf. When Arthur saw me he wasn’t amused, later on he told me the leaf was POISONOUS 😮 !!!
Arthur picks forest flowers for us.
Survival a la Armenia – Arthur shows us where to look for potable water and how to make a cup out of a leaf. I love this photo – it shows perfectly how we trust Arthur. 

Arthur’s mum makes us lunch and Misha comes around again. With another bottle of tutovka. He is offering shots (at 1pm!!) but we decline the offer and he seems to be a bit upset. We promise to visit him in the evening and after another long walk to a different part of the forest we end up at Misha’s, ready for the next set of riddles and stories from Tandzatap. Misha has cooked some beans for us and we eat them like the locals with a piece of lavash (the bread) – no cutlery! It’s a cool experience. We don’t have to drink tutovka now as Misha supplies home made red wine. He also keeps on bringing us snacks on the go. At some point we get a piece of old cake and a boiled egg. Pretty random but never look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s so sweet how they took care of us in Tandzatap. We really felt like home in that little village. 

A real Armenian feast. 
Misha is cooking beans.
A portrait of one of Misha’s neighbours. 
Feast at Misha’s.

Yes, we are slightly disappointed that our excursion didn’t work out, however we still consider our day to be amazing. Not many people can say they walked around the forest with a lieutenant colonel of the Armenian army, right? We are so proud of it! 

The next day started pretty traumatic. When I was getting dressed in the morning I found a TICK in my knee. I got scared but at that point I wasn’t even close to panicking. Arthur got rid of it and I was like “ok, it happens”. And then I found another one…

I’m scared and sobbing when I come to Arthur. I beg him to help me. 2 ticks! Ok, I can handle it. I was dealing with the situation pretty good until I found ANOTHER ONE. The ticks in Armenia were in love with my blood!!! That morning I found 3 of them. Where? A knee is fine. A knee is a knee, but the other two… Well, luckily I’m no prude. The other two I found respectively in my boob and in my buttock. Do you know what I mean now? What a humiliation! 

Fortunately Arthur was really calm and helped me remove all of the ticks. I did cry and for the rest of the day I was a bit concerned as ticks in Poland transmit Lyme disease which is, if you are familiar, a very difficult to get rid of. Arthur reassured me that in Armenia it’s not the case. Now I can tell you he was right! Just got my recent blood test results! Such a relief. Me vs the bloody trio 1:0! I’m a super human!

The view from Arthur’s house.
Arthur’s neighbour. Some of them turned out to be really shy – when I asked if I could take a pic of them they said no because they were not wearing their best clothes. We, women around the globe – we’re all the same!
One of the ladies from Tandzatap.
I love photographing people at work. There is something beautiful in their repetitive, calm moves. 
Relax after work. Tandzatap style. I bet they laugh at us! 

Our wonderful time in Tandzatap is over. We would love to stay a bit more but we feel like we have to go and tell the world about our amazing experience. Even though deep in our hearts we know we should stay, we decide to go. There is still much more to discover after all!

It’s very probable that if we stayed a day longer… or just a couple of hours, we wouldn’t get ourselves into so much trouble. From Tandzatap, where we were literally as snug as a bug in a rug, we ended up shit creek without a paddle. I mean it. The worst story that ever happened to me. Even thinking about it makes me cringe. Armenian horror story is coming soon to the blog so stay tuned.

I’m so moved when I think of those days in Tandzatap. It was undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to me during my trips!