Still being at the border the first thing we did in Armenia was a little Striptease. Headscarf, longsleeved tunica and trouseres were changed for bike shorts and shirts. What a great feeling!
The same evening we celebrated this regained freedom with beer in the small town Meghri closeby. But only with 1 or 2 beers, as we still had to look for a place to put our tent.
But opportunities to proove our drinking skills were not far: The next evening we passed the mining city Kajaran where we were invited by some local guys, more or less our age, to have BBQ and Vodka with them. And we failed. It all started with a little chat but we were told to have a seat, to have a plate and to drink Vodka. Drinking was fun after all this time in Muslim countries but the next morning we had a terrible hangover! We were not able to continue cycling the whole day! So that's how we had another chance to get familiar with Armenian hospitality. As we had put up our tents right in front of the public barbecue place the next day we were inivited again for sharing food and drinking Vodka. We strictly refused the Vodka, something that our hosts didn't understand. It was more, we even felt that we had seriously insulted them. (There was no common langugae, which made this even more complicated. If elder Armenians know a foreign langugae it is usually Russian. And we don't know neither Russian nor Armenian.) In the ongoing or our journey throgh Armenia we had many of this kind of invitaions. On hand hand it was nice that people were so eager about sharing but on the other hand it was annoying because we didn't want to drink Vodka. That's why we mostly refused, leaving people behind disappointed. Compared to their Muslim neighbours we felt that Armenians were not less hospitable but the way of displaying it couldn't be more different: In Iran for example were were many times afraid to accept something because many times they would just offer things because they wanted to be polite not because they really meant it. In Armenia there were no doubts: If you get a plate you get served it together with a command: Eat! And they will insist until you do so. Most comfortable , if you are hungry, difficult when you're full.
But we also got to know other Armenians. Much more descent, less Vodkad-drinking and still very helpful. With Zorhab and his climbing friends from Yerevan we spent 2 beautiful days climbing in the Hell's Canyon, which is about 90 km south of Yerevan and also a very nice spot for hiking.
Later in Yerevan, Armenias capital, Zorhab would also introduce us to Yerevan's clubbing scene. After spending so much time in nature it was a really nice change. We are always looking forward to go to the big cities: being surrounded by so many people, shops, arts, architecture, restaurants and bars, internet, a shower and a bed and especially having the chance to get to know some english-speaking, similar-minded locals of our age! But usually we also have enogh of it quite fast. I feel, that for a city you need time to really get to know it, and otherwise you have seen most of it pretty soon. That's why we left Yerevan after only one full day, although we liked it there.
Back to the mountains. Although the mountains north of Yerevan we comparably easy-going. Overall the Southern Causcasus is quite challange. The first days after arriving from Iran we climbed up to 2400m went down to 700m just to directly climb up to over 2000 m again. But nature was more than making up for it: Most of the mountains would be of an intensive green, only being interrupted here and there by small villages (which were more or less nice, acoording to the degree of influence of Soviet architecture) and monasteries. Further there was water everyehre in form of small rivers or drinking water fountains. And even the main connection road was a small road (although not in best conditions), with not much traffic. Altough the style of driving could be more careful sometimes. Driving with alcohol is apparently also normal here. But all in all Armenia is a very nice country for cycling and being in nature (if you are not annoyed by climbing mountains)!
Anja - 13.08.2014, 15.00