I think this is now the last blogpost about the trip. And kind of a conclusion. Would I want to go to Armenia again? Would I recommend other people to travel to Armenia?
Armenia is as big as Brandenburg. So it is quite small for a country. I.e. you can travel everywhere within a day. Even from the very northern tip to the southernmost point. Just like Brandenburg, it is not so densely populated – but there are about 400,000 more people living in Armenia. However, the concentration of people is distributed differently, in Potsdam, the largest city in Brandenburg, live 180,000 people, in Yerevan, on the contrary, more than 1 million. I.e. that it is much emptier in the countryside in Armenia.
Unlike in Brandenburg, the nature is much more varied. 90% of Armenia is above 1,000 m – the lowest point is at 380 m, the highest at 4,090 m. The average altitude is considered to be 1,800 m. This is due to the fact that the Small Caucasus runs through the large part of the country. The mountains have quite a lot to offer from steppe-like plateaus to rugged cliffs, canyon-like depressions, a huge lake, grassy alpine meadows and forested slopes. This definitely makes Armenia very attractive as a travel destination.
The roads are not bad either, sometimes bumpy, dust roads in very rural areas, but there is also a lot of asphalt. Taxi is absolutely affordable. But there are also minibuses (marshrutka) that go to many destinations. From Yerevan, you can get almost anywhere – but the connections between the destinations are not quite as good. You can also rent a car, but I wasn’t interested in that. In the minibuses, which can range from brand new to ancient, people usually sit quietly and to themselves. But if you need help and speak to someone, they try their best to help you.
Language-wise, it’s not easy – unless you know Russian. English is being taught more and more in schools, but it hasn’t reached the village areas at all. I tried two translation apps – and both were no good. You get Latin and Armenian characters, but people often look at you questioningly. I tried German and English as the original language in the apps, and always got the same unsatisfactory result. And it starts with simple phrases like “Good morning”.
Overall, I found the people to be rather reserved – so very different from India. 😂.Most people quickly recognised that I was a tourist: by the camera I wore, my style of dress, my daypack maybe and possibly also my blue eyes. Perhaps also by other characteristics – all in all, I rarely had the feeling of being unrecognised as a tourist, even in Yerevan.
The people were friendly throughout. And when I spoke to them directly, they were also helpful. Even when we couldn’t find a common language, they tried to find out what I wanted (often wayfinding). What I found difficult was finding something to laugh about together. This may well have been down to both parties. I felt I had never laughed so rarely on a trip. I need a certain basic mood and a counterpart so that I can discover funny sides and joke around. It is not automatically the case that sad circumstances automatically mean little joking. I remember quite a few laughing occasions when I was in Pakistan in the ex-earthquake area. So many dead, so much broken. And yet many people were looking for a good joke. I’ll think about it some more and watch myself.
Definitely be prepared to encounter a lot of sadness. The genocide of 1915 is still so much in the back of everyone’s mind, especially since there is neither international recognition nor a Turkish apology. And Nagorno-Karabakh (Arzakh) is not only an ongoing issue, but in my case was very present with the war that took place less than a year ago. And it is with these two enemies that they have the most border lines. And then there are the constant Soviet buildings, the blocks often patched up, weathering, crumbling, the ex-factories only standing around skeletally and the brutally bombastic concrete as sculpture or square design in public space.
What I can definitely say about Armenia as a travel destination: very little tourism (and 90% Russian), very cheap (1 month 1.250,- Euro incl. flight and train to get there), a great opportunity to learn more about little known things – and if you are enthusiastic about old church buildings, you can get your money’s worth here! The general sights here are mainly churches and monasteries. I actually liked the smaller, more hidden ones best.
Armenia also boasts the oldest shoe! Exhibited in Yerevan. But I didn’t visit it. There are also masses of engraved old stones – little joys along the way for me.
But most I liked the hiking possibilities – best documented by HikeArmenia and to choose from. There really is everything from shorter walks to multi-day tours with tents, from flat routes to many metres in altitude. And new marked routes are created year after year.
You also have a choice of accommodation: from simple rooms with families to more elegant hotels. I don’t think booking portals are really that great, but booking.com is in Armenia moreorless a must. It offers better conditions than Airbnb or others, especially for families who only offer a few rooms. They don’t have signs outside so you wouldn’t find them. And having their own website wouldn’t be that practical either. I mainly went by good reviews or rather my main focus was on cleanliness, hosts and sometimes location. I actually got 90% good hits (though the other 10% weren’t really off either). The only thing that bothered me: almost all of them had incredibly thick, firm pillows.
Another part of the (tourist) infrastructure is that there is very good reception everywhere – better than on the mountains where I live. And you can get a SIM card quickly, easily and cheaply.
And of course the coffee! These vending machines are really everywhere! And I also got Armenian mocha everywhere.
Food was also OK. I didn’t make any culinary discoveries now except for the honey cake in Tatev – but I didn’t miss anything either.
Would I want to go to Armenia again? Maybe. I was moved. I got so much insight into a completely different way of life. I enjoyed the mountains as much as all the other mountains. There are so many small things to discover. But I think I would rather do it with someone else. Or look more for English-speaking contacts on site (yes, there are guides too, but somehow I did without this time). Exchange and sharing thoughts is also important. I had this blog after all – which also helps for sorting 😁.
And here are two more little (German) discoveries: