In early August we arrived in Europe. Budapest was the lucky city. We were here to catch up with some friends for a music festival. As it turns out the music festival was extremely popular with antipodeans.
I swear the most popular passport in the entry queue was the New Zealand one. We had a good time in Budapest and saw a lot of the old city. The houses of parliament along the Danube river was amazing. We found out that Budapest is used to be two cities, Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other.
In total we spent a week in Budapest, thoroughly enjoying our friends company after months of only talking to each other.
From Budapest we flew into Tblisi the capital of Georgia. We arrived pretty late at night and were feeling tired after week at the festival, so we stayed quiet in our AirBnb for a couple of days. We also sort of forgot about photos for a few weeks so don’t have much.
Tblisi means warm and is known as such for its famous hot springs. Unfortunately for us, the receptionist at the baths we had booking at was not so ‘Tblisi’, and we were short changed out of our booking by a suspicious ‘change’ in our booking time.
We managed to squeeze in a walking tour (as has become customary for each city we go to) This tour was interesting as Tblisi and Georgia have had such a fascinating history.
Georgia is located on the edge of pretty much every major historical empire, somehow never being fully assimilated each time it was overrun. This has led to a very distinct Georgian culture being established and the city has begun to reflect this since the economy stabilized after leaving the soviet union in the mid 2000’s.
Tblisi was quite captivating, particularly at night, the old city having a real vibe to it. This is helped by the food, beer and wine. Georgia excels at these pursuits. The wines were incredible, with names and styles I’ve never heard of, but after a few tastings we had a real taste for it. The food tasted amazing, but being 50% cheese by the end of four days our belts had gone out a notch.
In typical Chris and Issy fashion we had neglected to plan our time in the caucauses very well at all. We did not manage to explore any of the Georgian countryside, which is supposed to be full of great walking and mountains. But, with time up on our Airbnb and a few days before planning to go to Turkey we were looking for things to do. Enter Armenia.
We had met a number of travelers in Iran and Central Asia who had come from Armenia and had nothing but good things to say about it. So we headed to the bus stop in Tbilisi and waited for a few hours for our marshrutka to fill up. We had free entertainment from the Georgian bus drivers, who between puffs of cigarettes, yelled at each other. This was interspersed with riotous laughter. To this day we still can’t figure out if it was good natured yelling or not.
We misjudged the length of the trip. We were anticipating a four hour journey to get to Yerevan, It took a full 10 hours. The border crossing was one of the most hectic we have been through, just a crush of people for 2 hours masquarding as a line. To be fair, the mountains and countryside on the Armenia side was quite pretty.
Yerevan is known as the pink city and is about 3000 years old. It is so named as most of the buildings are made from pink granite. It is a sparsely vegetated city which makes the effect even more pronounced. We spent a few hours both nights checking out the city, which has a vibrant food and beer scene.
We went on a tour to check out some of the highlights of Armenia the next day. Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world around 3rd AD century. So naturally some highlights include Mount Ararat of Noah’s ark fame, old monasteries and religious sites. These were broken up with some natural features such as waterfalls. We closed the day with a wine tasting and this made watching the sunset over the countryside all that much better.
The next day we had to get on our way to Turkey. So we booked an overnight train from Yerevan to Batumi which is on the Black sea. We got the last seats and were in different carriages for the trip. It was exceptionally hot on the train and it moved at a top speed of about 35km/hr.
When we arrived in Batumi we were surprised to find what can only be described as a Russian tourist town. We spent two days here, and spent our time on the beach, and looking around the town. We ended up at a dolphin show. This was a very surreal experience, but overall quite sad. The dolphins were incredible athletes but it all felt very cruel. The audience was packed and apparently every show (3 a day) sells out in peak season. From Batumi, it was another marshrutka to Trabzon in Turkey.