When I filed for a week’s leave to the Caucasus, my boss had this puzzled face as if telling me “what are you going to do there?” And then I returned after a week with a lot of stories and photographs to share. Apparently, Armenia and Georgia are countries only few have heard of. It’s “exotic” and “something new” as they would say it. I consider travelling to the Caucasus the most adventurous of all my trips thus far. Of course we did not dare go there without a guide book and plenty of research, but still, we felt a little helpless. Let me tell you why:
- There were a handful of package tours and they always go on a particular day of the week (unless you’re gonna do it privately). And they’re a bit expensive too.
- We tried to book day trips but the amount of interested tourists was not enough for it to push through so we had to go on our own.
- Guide books and maps aren’t as updated as they should be.
- Even if you know the place where you want to go, it doesn’t help if you cannot pronounce the name of the place properly. Just… how do you say Uplistsikhe?
- The alphabet is different. Need I say more?
- English speaking people are a rarity. Like 1 in 1000? There were times that we had to transact business using a mobile phone. Upon going down the marshrutka, an old guy approached and talked to us. We recognize the places he was saying so we expressed are interest to get his service. Then, he pulled his mobile phone out from his pocket and keyed in the amount. We did the bargain and stuff through phone and after that, off we went!
The independence of both countries are still young following their being part of the Soviet Union until the early 90s. Remnants of war are still visible everywhere. Not to mention the art and architectural influence of USSR. Both countries are trying to catch up with its contemporaries and it’s clearly seen in its capital cities.
We entered via Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. It’s good to know that we Filipinos can get visa upon arrival. So we changed our dollars to Armenian drams, filled out the form, paid the dues and voila, our passports were stamped with a visa! We stayed in a hostel in Yerevan for 5 days since most of the interesting sites are just a day trip away. It’s no wonder Armenia offers a lot of churches and monasteries since it’s the first Christian country in the world. It’s also fascinating to know that the country rests on a land surrounding Mount Ararat – where the ark of Noah was “found” after the great flood. Isn’t it interesting?!!!!
Then after a few days, we travelled to Georgia by road. It’s visa upon arrival for us again! But we kinda stayed in the immigration office for quite some time because apparently, the immigration guy haven’t heard of the Philippines. Yes, he didn’t know our country exists! We spent a good hour in the border before we get stamped for entry. Anyway, we based ourselves in Tbilisi and took day trips from the city everyday. Tbilisi in itself is nice, though with an eclectic mix of architectural styles. It’s the first thing I notice and I’m pretty sure you’ll understand why.
This is getting long and I think I’ve introduced Armenia and Georgia quite well. Typing these words made me feel like lying on the bed reminiscing the days we spent in Caucasus. Now, I wonder how we were able to pull everything off and manage to get home in one piece. Haha! I can’t wait to share more about our adventure! Soon!