One month in Iran had plowed deeply in me; I wanted to stay there much longer, but the Caucasian winter was already preparing its grip. Armenia and Georgia – I confess – were two big question marks for me. Knowing nothing at all about them, the shock was immediate.
Ancient Persia was only a few kilometers away; however, already in Meghri, the change was impressive.
So Armenia presented itself like that, subverting everything.
A secret land, tender but sharp, proud and never tame, with a long, incredible and controversial history, where nature and monasteries recall everywhere tales and wounds which are still alive. A rough and difficult corner of the world, dug between boundaries of all kinds.
Nevertheless … of a boundless beauty.
16 November, towards Meghri ◀ Day 415 🇮🇷 – 🇦🇲 ▶
“But you’re such a fake!” – a friend told me yesterday. “You almost never pedal! You’re the worst cycle-traveller I’ve ever met!”, he added laughing, mocking me a bit.
But actually it’s true.
In the first part of this long journey I travelled many more miles on my bicycle than what I’ve done during this “second round”.
But there was also much more to do – and to cross – between China, Central Asia and Iran – and so I chose to spend more time in the cities, using the bike as my private taxi to discover a bit more about those countries I really wanted to explore since a very long time (but losing also something from that truest adventure which is made of simple cycling, remote villages, campsites and endless roads).
Or maybe, with all this going, I just got lazy
Anyway, every time I choose to ride my bicycle … is always a really embarrassing show.
And with today, Armenia 🚲
17 November, Meghri ◀ Day 416 🇦🇲 ▶
So last night I made it to Meghri, Armenia. Instead of leaving immediately to Yerevan, the capital, I decided to stop here for a day. Iran is only 5 kilometres from here, but yet I needed a brief break to get confident with the incredible change. From mountains to colours, from cars to fruits, from rivers to trees, from homes to faces … everything here is so hugely different from where I come from. And I have to confess I really don’t know anything about this country. But if the start is like this, then Armenia will not take long to conquer me deeply.
18 November, towards Yerevan ◀ Day 417 🇦🇲 ▶
“NE PONIMAYU!”, I had learned to say in Russia, over a year ago, whenever someone tried to talk with me, believing I was Russian.
I thought I would have never used it again, but I found myself saying it several times between Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and even, even if for a few hours, in Turkmenistan.
Once I set foot in Iran I thought I could start forgetting it, as with the other few Russian words I’ve learned during the last months.
But then, again, in Armenia.
In Georgia it will probably be the same, for so vast is the part of the world where Cyrillic alphabet and Great Mother’s influence are – or have been – an integral part of everyday life.
“NE PONIMAYU!” – (НЕ ПОНИМАЮ in Cyrillic) such an easy and funny expression to remember – simply means “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!”.
But what is that I really do not understand?
Or the reason I find myself here now, still on the road, after choosing to spend almost two years of my life just travelling?
My beard changed, the wrinkles under my eyes changed, and yet my own eyes have in fact been constantly changing, throughout this time, feeding themselves with continuous experiences.
But me, with my being, my soul, my spirit (call it however you want) … have I really changed?
I often ask myself.
Every day, to be honest.
The answer, moreover, I have not found yet.
Or maybe, as I am more inclined to believe, I always had it with me.
And one day, sooner or later, the entire painting will be clear to me.
I hope so, at least.
Because in the meantime, being still an absolute beginner myself – or maybe because I do not really know what else I could do – I keep going.
And repeating it, even when it’s not needed.
20 November, Yerevan ◀ Day 419 🇦🇲 ▶
Founded by the kingdom of Urartu in 782 BC, place of great importance for caravan routes on the Silk Road, Erevan (or Yerevan) has lived a number of countless lives. Capital of the first officially Christian state in 300 AD, it was for centuries disputed between Persia and Ottoman Empire and then in the early ‘800 occupied by the Russian Empire, which formally no longer left it. After the Bolshevik Revolution was proclaimed the capital of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and, following the collapse of the Union in 1991, became the capital of the newly-born Armenian republic. In short, a city which boasts a colossal story (as perhaps no other in the world), subjected to domination and influence of all kinds.
Yerevan, today, is simply a place where you can not understand anything (at least me); maybe because it stands on a past that is too impressive to be understood, or maybe because it lives on a present which still is impossible to decode. Poor, proud and full of rivalry. A present that is still struggling to find its own way … but whose potential, as well as its forms of expression, is really infinite.
21 November, Yerevan ◀ Day 420 🇦🇲 ▶
Stories of ancient monasteries, of candles in the dark, of Roman temples, of rotten taxis, of free animals and stunning villages, of impetuous rivers, of endless skies and even more endless mountains.
These are the most authentic Armenian stories.
And the more spectacular ones.
22 November, Yerevan ◀ Day 421 🇦🇲 ▶
Sometimes it is difficult to talk about some places.
Or impossible, so deafening and devastating is silence they are able to generate only with their simple presence.
Witnesses to imperishable memory of stories of atrocious inhumanity – more often almost unknown nowadays – and whose mere thought calls only for shame, prayers, and the desire to be wind.
23 November, Sevan ◀ Day 422 🇦🇲 ▶
“In Armenia? By the end of November?”, they asked me.
“But it’s freaking cold!”, they told me.
“You will end up frozen, there in the mountains!”, they prophesied.
They were not that wrong, after all.
But how monstrously beautiful is it?!
23 November, around Dilijan ◀ Day 423 🇦🇲 ▶
Haghartsin & Goshavank.
They could easily be two Tom Bombadil’s snack friends.
But they are two more simple, though imperious, treasures of Armenia.