Thursday, July 13, 2006

Georgia and Armenia

Ok, it's the return of mr. negative. I just have to say that it is no contest and the worst country of the trip so far is definately Georgia. It rubbed me the wrong way as soon as we crossed over and never recovered. The only redeeming quality is that the country is beautiful and unfortunately for them, I can see that kind of scenery in lots of other places too.
The people are ugly. Ugly in body, heart and mind. They are not curious at all and it's the only place we've been where nobody ever came up and talked to us though they knew we were foreigners. No help at all and I think we missed our bus stop every time because nobody helped us. I suppose that is the advantage of travelling somewhere where you totally stand out, it's obvious you are lost and people help you. Here I guess they could just assume we were one of them and knew what we were doing. Not that we fit in at all or you could even pretend that we weren't stupid tourists.
Armenia is very similar but at least they have a little more heart in them. We did meet up with a group of kids that wanted to chat (even though they were actually skipping their english class at the time) and it was a little cleaner. One thing I've definately noticed lately is the smell. Now that we are out of Asia things definately smell different, especially the people. Diet must play a huge role in it as we smell different too. That might sound wierd but I'm sure of it. The Georgians smell really bad. They don't wash or something. I guess if their water is unreliable and it's always cold (and the country is not very warm) but in India the people wash all the time, even if it was in the ditches with muddy water but lots of soap. Here they just don't bother and it's gross. They are also huge, rude and like to fight or something because they are always yelling at each other. I'm totally starting to see how their only national "hero" is Stalin......
I know that Georgia has had hard times recently with lots of civil war stuff but that was 10 years ago and it's not an excuse. Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are in much worse shape and have way nicer people and a better feel about them. Honestly the place needs a few more years of tourists to get something organized better. Everything is totally run down and it's only been in the last 2 years (since the rose revolution) that the street crime and corruption have finally disappeared. You can still feel the echo of that violence around though and I'd feel less safe in Tbilisi than just about anywhere else on this trip. In fact, I swear the whole population looks like someone cloned the 10 scruffiest dock-worker ruffian types they could find until they had a few million people. They all look rough and the same. The women look perfectly wrecked for these type of guys too. Ugh!
Armenia was a little better but again the transportation and accomodation mostly suck. Some people were a little more helpful but in general their attitude needs some work too. Yerevan is a nice enough town and we enjoyed it but it is very, very Soviet block style and is currently a huge construction yard. Again, a few more years and it should be good. Unfortunately the summer weather creates too much haze because they have great views of Mt. Ararat in Turkey (the resting place of Noah's ark btw). We left the country rather quickly though and head back to the Black sea coast in Georgia where we encountered more of the same but with 25C and rain as well. The surroundings of Batumi really look exactly like Vancouver, complete with bad weather.
Our diet has also changed. Out of kebabs and rice and mutton in central asia finally. Georgia is known for it's cuisine but to be honest we never tried any of it. We mostly ate the little street food snacks (cheese-stuffed bread) or are living off Nutella and fresh bread. It is apricot season over here too so we've been eating them by the bucket load for the last couple weeks. Delicious, if you can get past the worm in the middle...... Savannah quickly gave up and decided the worms were just extra protein, eating them first before the fruit. Eww!
In Batumi we ran into an Israeli backpacker (there are very few in the Caucasus) that hung out with us for a few days. Fortunately for us, he loves cooking and we kidnapped him and made him our chef for those few days. Finally a good home-cooked meal again. Never mind the fact that the huge, scary, monstrous ladies whose place we were staying at hated the fact that he was using their outdoor kitchen and were totally paranoid whenever he went in there. I still can't figure out what their deal was, but we left there under bad terms again (no surprise in Georgia). Why be a homestay if you hate people? It's so common over here. Even in Yerevan. I'm convinced the people there were trying to kick us out too. Why else do you ask 4 people (that fills the place) when we are leaving so they can have 1 or 2 others come in?
If you are starting to think that it is just us let me just say that I have heard plenty of horror stories from Georgia and lots of people have had nothing good to say about the people here. The countryside with it's monasteries on the nice green hills is great but just wasn't worth the trouble for us.
I promise next time I'll say something nice again.
Ammon

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