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!
  • The Upbeat Path

    We knew absolutely nothing about Tandzatap or Armenia whatsoever!
    Thank you for this story, looking forward to reading many more!

  • Monica Badiu

    Loved your story and your pics. Sorry you didn’t get to Karabakh, but hell you got to enjoy a nice looking feast and found tulips in the wild. Btw, we eat fried nettles in Romania in the spring. It’s a big thing around here, you will find nettles being sold in markets and even supermarkets. And about the ticks…just don’t freak out. I found one got stuck on me in full wilderness, no hospitals, nobody to help me. We actually hiked for 4 hours until we found a mountain lodge and the guys over there got me a big needle with which I sort of performed surgery 🙂

    • Wildesttales.com

      I knew Romanian food was delicious ha! I will have fried nettle on my radar once I’m back to Romania – so healthy! I think people in London would love it as here everything that’s “healthy/organic/home grown” is extremely popular – maybe I can start selling fried nettle as a snack? 🙂

      Brave you girl – I would definitely freak out if I had to carry 3 ticks in my body for 4 hours, I think I will have a vaccination agains Lyme Disease next year as I do love hiking, so just to be safe. In Poland we talk a lot about this disease and it’s a nightmare to treat!

      • Monica Badiu

        You should definitely try it. I’m sure you’ll have customers. There are many Romanians in London btw, I think they’ll jump to the occasion :))

        Well, I did freak out 🙂 but had to calm myself down to perform “surgery”. I love hiking too but in the past few years I’ve been hit by ticks several times. So I had to adapt and took prevention measures. I rarely wear shorts when I go hike in woods or tall, wet areas. Apparently that works, because since 2015 I didn’t get any new ticks to freak me out.

        • Wildesttales.com

          I was wearing long trousers but we were walking in some parts where the grass was really high and the funny thing is I discovered them the next morning and it seems they have just bitten me so no idea how they did that! The fact that we didn’t shower certainly helped I guess maybe they were somewhere on my clothes. It’s certainly a good thing to know how to take them out – a good skill for my hiking CV 😉

          • Monica Badiu

            :)) I actually bought some peppermint essential oil after seeing a video of someone applying this oil on a tick, and it just opened its jaws and moved away by itself. But yeah, “minor needle surgery” is definitely a skill to add to the list

  • Bernie

    What an adventure! I’m glad you didn’t have to drink whatever was in that bottle; working with the scythe looked a lot safer. It#s great to learn so much about a place of which I know nothing. And you’ve left an amazing teaser about what comes next… All we know is that it’s got to be worse than the threat of Lyme Disease!

    • Wildesttales.com

      lol Bernie – I love the sarcasm in your first sentence – it’s brilliant 🙂 I will shortly add a new post and believe me… it’s going to be spin-chilling (although I am a bit gutted I missed Halloween day – I really wanted to post on that day!) Thanks for visiting!

      • Bernie

        Ah, I could have done with an emoji or two there. I really do reckon it was an adventure. It could have been volatile there, especially when you were paying for your stay by labouring. and you handled yourselves with grace and calmness (aside from the ticks, and I can’t say I’d have been entirely composed at a relatively unknown man removing ticks from my bum…) On the edge of my seat waiting for the next instalment!

  • Fist of all, my congratulations to make it so far. This is not an easy region to reach. Thank you for the post. It very well shows what life there is like.
    I am Russian, and we had a case, when a Russian blogger (who is a bit of crazy guy, he has Russian, Ukrainian and Israeli passport 🙂 . He visited Nadgorny-Karabah and was openly writing in his blog that it should get independence. He was arrested in Belarus and escorted to Baku where he has spent some time in jail. Actually Azerbaijan does not recognize Karabah and you are forbidden to enter Azerbaijan if you have been there. The Russian guy traveled to Azerbaijan with Ukrainian passport, where his name was spelled differently. Crazy.
    Did you get any information like this? If you want I can provide you links.
    I really respect the bloggers who don’t deliver generic sightseeing from capitals, but shows like of ordinary people in remote location. Very well done! Looking forward for more stories. Followed you on Facebook.
    Wish you safe travels,
    Alex.

    • Wildesttales.com

      you say ARRESTED? Damn! it sounds crazy!! Maybe we were lucky that we didn’t go there – do you think it’s a problem to travel to Azerbeijan with an Armenian stamp in your passport? I would like to travel there next year to complete my Caucasian quest. I will be in touch with you on FB! x

      • Yes. I will send you all information that I’ve got. I don’t know if there are any problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia. They normally have no problems with EU citizens. Worst thing can happen, they won’t let you in, which I think is unlikely. The guy was arrested, because he was blacklisted from Azerbaijan and traveled there under different passport. I think he also wrote in his blog about how he “fooled” the boarder control.

  • Somnath Roy

    Congratulations and I appreciate that you have gone so far..I have always dreamt of such adventures and tried few in real life..

    • Wildesttales.com

      Ha! I think living in India is one big adventure 🙂

  • Petq Miteva

    I like how you show people’s every day life! Keep the positive vibes!

  • Mayank Nagori

    Armenia looks like a Europe away from Europe. Definitely adding this to my travel list!

  • Jasmine Chen

    I really enjoyed reading about the background and the historic bits. The way you told your adventure made me feel like I was just there with you!

  • Alexi R

    Wow what a wonderful adventure you had there, I was really laughing hard reading about those ticks who love you that much. Congrats for going to this area its really a rural and fine to discover.

    • Wildesttales.com

      Thanks Alexis! I’m happy you enjoyed the read! I’m also laughing now but back then I was crying!! My best friend was cheering me up saying “oh, don’t cry it’s such a cool story for the blog” lol guess she was right!

  • A very interesting article! I saw a documentary on it one day, and I remember thinking the political situation was so strange… It must have been quite an adventure for you to be there!