Thursday, July 06, 2006

What we've been up to

Okay, here I am to save the day and wake this blog up! Geez, we sure have been a bunch of slackers on this thing, haven't we?! To prevent everyone from yawning I'm only going to do a quick summary of what you've missed in the last little while. If anyone wants specific details on certain towns I mention just give a shout and we'll deliver.
Crossing from Azerbaijan into Georgia was a quick and easy border as always. Our first stop was in Sighnaghi, a tiny village on the top of a hill, providing a great view of the surrounding land. Georgia is the first Christian country I've been to in a long time and there are lots of little and big churches scattered everywhere. Whenever someone passes one you'll see them cross themselves three times. We only stayed a night there before catching a marshrutka (minibus) 2 hours to Tbilisi, the capital. We went directly from there 3 hours to Kazbegi, a village in the Caucasus mountains right near the border with Russia. The next day we went on a simple but pleasant hike up the hill to see a church perched way above town with great views of the snow-capped mountains. Wow! I have to admit that the Georgian people aren't the greatest and they are very messy BUT the scenery is amazing, I'll give them that!
After a short stay there, it was back to Tbilisi to stay a few days to see it and the nearby old capital, Mtskheta before skippping south to Armenia. We hadn't really planned to go to Armenia so soon but....meh.....oh well. Our plans always seem to change so fast and with so little thought, that I just go with the flow and see where it takes me.
We crossed into Armenia on our bus planning to make our stop in Stepanavan, a little town along the way to see some nearby sites. Ha..ha...well so much for THAT plan. The bus didn't even stop there.....or ANYWHERE really. I'd like to say it was just hauling butt to get to Yerevan, the capital, but then again....I wouldn't call 25km/h "hauling butt"! We hadn't been expecting the 9 hr drive so therefore weren't prepared at all. It wasn't until the 8th hour that the dude finally stopped for a bathroom break!! What's with these people? For the past umpty ump months of bus riding we got used to (though were still annoyed by) stopping every hour for food or toilet breaks. Even on a 2 hr ride. "Seriously let's get on with it" In the Caucasus they don't stop at all and they drive slowly compared to Central Asia. We ended up in Yerevan in a totally deserted bus station, at 7pm! It is the main and busiest station in all Armenia and it completely shuts down at 6pm!! What the heck?! Transport sucks around here and nobody travels.
As far as Yerevan goes, it's a very pretty city and good shopping, if I had the money to do it that is. There's so much variety, design and style. It's all well and good until you look down and see the size heals they're wearing and the kind of streets they're walking on. On our 14km, Ammon walking tour, we went and saw some things and the Genocide Museum. Wow, that's some pretty brutal stuff and I can't believe how people can be so mean to each other! The following day we went on a little excursion to see the headquarters of the Armenian church at Echmiadzin. Since Armenia is the world's first Christian country (1700 years ago) and the church there is on the site of the first one built in Armenia, does that make it the first official Christian church in the world ever? We also went to Garni, with a little difficutly finding the right bus, to see a Greek temple, the only one in the Caucasus.
In the park, right across the street from our homestay they were having a free outdoor concert. Ammon, Bre and I went out for a couple hours and had a good time listening and watching the live performances. It was really great fun. There were kids, teenagers, old foggies, baby strollers and people just walking their dogs in the crowd. People going wild over the folk music. We were wanting to do more in Armenia but cut it short. We saw another church in the next town, Gyumri before coming back into Georgia.
We stopped in a scary, little, hick town called Akhaltsikhe (I'll never be able to pronounce half these places). We took a day trip out to see the very cool cave city in Vardsia. I'll let some one else elaborate on those. We get a lot of rain here in Georgia, some heavy exciting storms. I love it. It's so wierd to go outside and have to worry about RAIN. It's such a foriegn thing for us after barely having any in the last 14 months! (14 months and 1 day on the road, wahooo!) We are now stationed in Batumi on the coast of the Black Sea! Waiting..........


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