Mountain ranges. First things first: A few days ago I was entering a mini-market to buy some food when the shop-owner, who happened to be eating at that time, just waved me over to his table and gave me a piece of his sandwich without even saying one single word. This strange act of hospitality made me smile. He didn't even bother to ask who I am or where I'm from. He didn't care. He just wanted to share his meal with a stranger.
It's easy to feel welcome in Armenia. Even more if you have a German passport since the German parliament voted for calling it a genocide what the Ottoman Empire did to the Armenians about a century ago. This resolution, though it was just a symbolic one that doesn't change anything, pissed of Turkish politicians on the one side, and made Armenian people very happy on the other side.
Despite of this year-old hatred between the two countries that still lingers on today (the Turkish-Armenian border is closed for example), I have to say that these two nations have more in common that they would like to admit. At least when focusing on the hospitality towards foreigners. Several times I got invited to have a picnic on the side of the road. The only difference to Turkey? The alcohol.
Everybody seems to carry a bottle of Vodka in their cars at all time and yet I didn't find the right strategy to keep them from refilling my glas over and over again. My favourite experience of the last days (besides the one in the mini-market) was when I was having breakfast with some teachers and their class on an excursion. While the students from twelth grade were sitting on one side, I was invited to the teacher's table where I got immediately got served chicken, potatoes, cheese and of course vodka. Now you have to imagine that it was 9 o'clock in the morning and every single teacher was downing one vodka shot after another. At first I was trying to figure out how they will be able to supervise the students on this trip but after my fourth vodka I basically stopped caring.
Since it is already July the sun can burn down really hot. Over 35 degrees in the valleys is not an exception. But the permanent up and down leads to a great fluctuation of the temperature. Almost every day I cross a mountain pass and after enjoying the view and a pleasant ride downhill the heat in the lower altitudes always strikes me with full force.
Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's the food I got offered. Maybe it's the water from fountains at the side of the road. All I know is that, although I was very careful, my stomach started to cause me trouble again. So I decided to rest in a hotel for one day. A hotel in the middle of nowhere with a lot of rooms but me as the only guest. I felt a bit haunted alone in this big building.
But on the next day already I felt better and that was necessary because the next mountain pass was already waiting and this time I had to climb it up with an extremely strong wind in my face. Fortunately that day I met Rene and Johanna, also from Germany, and joined them for a while. Johanna was here with her motorbike but Rene could help me through that tough day by giving me wind shadow and keeping up my spirits by being funny. In the evening the three of us were camping in the middle of 'Armenian Stonehenge' - a thousands of years old stone construction, erected in order to praise some gods. Apparently nobody cared that we were camping right in the middle of a tourist attraction and this way the next morning, a group of tourism students were getting taught about this ancient place by their professors while we were having breakfast in front of our tents.
The following morning again was very exhausting. The wind was blowing like crazy and we had to climb up yet another mountain range. Johanna was waiting for us every few kilometer with some food. This way Rene and I had our own supporting vehicle like we were participating at the Tour de France. On the following climb we cheated by taking the 'WINGS OF TATEV' - with 5.7 kilometer the longest aerial line in the world. With the Wings of Tatev, Rene, I and our bicycles were flying over a huge canyon towards the beautiful Tatev monastery. Again meeting up with Johanna we camped in front of the tourist office and said our goodbyes the next morning.
I very much enjoyed the company of those two but since they are basically travelling without a plan and I already wanted to be in Iran at this time, I decided to move on. With their attitudes they helped me to slow down a bit and to just enjoy the day. On the other hand my visa are telling me that I have to move on if I want to see the rest of Asia...