Man, I really wish you’d been here for these past few days. Yerevan is a nice city but the backpacker scene here is really bad – especially now in October, it’s low season and hostels are mostly empty. This morning the Spanish girls in my dorm checked out, and I was left alone in the entire eight-bed.
I guess I didn’t realise how off the beaten path Armenia still is. Its closest neighbour – at least culturally – is Georgia, that was even featured on a Lonely Planet best destinations list two years ago, and I thought that since most people seem to combine a trip to Georgia with Armenia, I’d find lots of other backpackers to hang out with.
Of course that was a dumb idea. I mean, remember how underdeveloped for tourism Tbilisi was? There’s pretty much only one modern, well-established backpacker hostel, and transportation between cities is arranged through tiny little minivans that spell out their destination only in Georgian. Armenia is similar and, since it does get even less tourists than Georgia, even more underdeveloped.
So, I could’ve really used a friend here. I’ve been travelling for almost two months now and I’m tired. It’s a weird mixture of being tired of travelling and always having to talk to new people, and being tired of travelling alone and needing to talk to people. I’m sure you understand – I think it’s an introvert thing.
Anyway, I figured I can’t stay in moping around the hostel all day, and I hitchhiked the hour out of town to the Khor Virap monastery. I think you also visited here when you were in Armenia – it’s the emblematic image in all the postcards, with the monastery contrasted against Mount Ararat. It’s where Gregory the Illuminator was kept in a hole in the floor for 14 years almost two thousand years ago. (The monastery was built on the site like 600 years later.) I don’t really know who this Gregory guy was – I know they made him a saint after he became the religious mentor of the king who trapped him there, and Armenia was apparently declared the first Christian nation in the world in the 4th century. (Georgia also claims this.)
The monastery is just one kilometer away from the Turkish border, you can see it if you climb up the little hill by the building. Armenia doesn’t get along well with them. Even after more than a 100 years, Turkey still hasn’t acknowledged the Armenian genocide as such; and I’m sure it doesn’t help that Mount Ararat, an Armenian symbol where Noah’s Ark is said to have landed, is on the Turkish side.
I had this whole plan to visit other sites around Yerevan too – there are at least two other famous monasteries outside of the city – but this Portuguese guy asked me to take a picture of him and we got to talking, and now I’m on my way back to the city to go hang out with him and his German friend. They want to climb back up the Cascade – do you remember that? It’s the big stairway where you can watch the sunset -, and even though I already was there yesterday, I said I’d come with them. Fuck it. Sometimes you just gotta trade sightseeing for having friends.
So, things are looking up. Hostels in Yerevan might be antisocial but travel magic still isn’t completely gone. I don’t think I could’ve just started talking to a stranger like that, though. Bless south Europeans and their social ways.
Anyway, hope to see you soon! Hopefully you’re enjoying your travels and making tons of cool friends, too.