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The 24 hours that I spent in Armenia was probably the strangest experience that I had in any country. Please let me explain what happened in my 69th country visited around the world.
I had spent the previous 5 days touring around Tbilisi, Georgia and I really loved it. After running out of things to do in Tbilisi, I figured that I’d hop over to Armenia because the country is only a few hour drive away and I had the chance to explore a new culture.
So, I went to the bus station in Tbilisi and shared an early morning taxi-bas (called a Marshrutka) from Tbilisi to Armenia with 3 old Russian ladies.
The taxi-bus was heading for Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, but that was too far away (6 hours) and I only had 24 hours for the journey… So instead, I decided to get dropped off about half way at tiny town called Dilijan that’s hidden in the mountains.
Because I looked at a Map of Armenia and that was the closest city on the route we were taking. I did a 10 second Google Search and I saw that Dilijan was compared to “the Switzerland of Armenia,” and that’s all it took to convince me.
After 3 hours of a funny car ride with the 3 Russian ladies, the taxi driver dropped me off, alone, in an impoverished land where nobody spoke a lick of English. It gave me flashbacks of being in India.
I was nervous to get outside of the car. I almost told the driver to just take me to Yerevan and forget Dilijan — but I built up the courage and stepped outside the taxi.
For one of the only times in my life, I felt completely clueless.
I didn’t know a single word in Armenian, I didn’t have any Armenian currency on me and I didn’t do any research for hotels or things to do. This place felt about as foreign as any place has ever felt to me before.
After walking around for 30 minutes, I found a sign that says “hotel” so I walked inside. Of course, the lady inside didn’t speak English, so we communicated using the 20 Russian words that I know. (Thankfully, I’d been studying Russian the past 4 weeks.)
I barely managed to get my points across to her, but we did communicate. And she was asking for too much money for the room, so I told her that I couldn’t afford it.
Then, she took me outside the hotel and called her friend to assist the situation. Some guy in his 50s showed up (also didn’t speak English) and he told me to come inside his car.
WTF was happening? I had no idea.
The man took me to his nearby house which had a beautiful guest room, and he let me rent it for $7USD per night. BOOM.
The place was clean, had a big bed and had A/C.
Despite getting an nice room, there was literally NOTHING to do in Dilijan. I was trying to meet a foreigner or someone to relate to, but nobody was in sight. This was the only place that I’d been to where people couldn’t understand the word “hello” when I said it to them.
To be honest, this trip was a nice semi-getaway because there was no Wi-fi and it was refreshing to be alone in the middle of nowhere. The pristine countryside and green forests surrounding Dilijan were breathtaking. And the people were actually pretty nice (except taxi drivers).
I did find some delicious Khinkali (Georgian dumplings with soup and beef inside), and devoured them for the 4th time in 4 days.
I also discovered a Monestary from the 12th century, which you can see behind me in this photo.
By night, the only café in town had Karaoke night, and I witnessed about 10 hammered old Armenian men singing outside in extra loud speakers. It was disturbing, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
That night, I went back to my $7 hotel room and slept like a baby.
The next morning, I got up at 7 and tried to get back to Tbilisi, Georgia to catch my flight back to Europe, but nobody had a clue how I could get there! I asked 4 different people where I could take a bus and they all shrugged their shoulders at me.
Perfect. Just what I needed.
So finally, some taxi driver told me that I have to take a one-hour taxi to another city called Vanadzor and then take a taxi-bus from there back to Georgia.
I agreed, and he was the coolest driver ever! He kept singing and dancing at the Borat music he was playing in the car. I loved him.
Here we are together:
After a hour with him, I showed up in Vanadzor. I asked around how to get to Tbilisi, and they told me that all the buses are finished for the day (it was 9AM).
Slightly panicking because I had to catch a flight the next day, I negotiated a random taxi driver to take me 4 hours across the border to Tbilisi.
I bargained him down to $30 for a 4 hours drive. And then, he had to make the drive back home that night. Talk about a cheap taxi!
So that’s pretty much my whole Armenian experiences in a nutshell. Next time, I’ll have to visit Yerevan and I’ll probably have a better experience!
Thanks for reading 🙂