Armenia…TLG Vacation Spot

Posted on May 7, 2012 by

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One thing I never thought I’d say…”I spent my Easter in Armenia.” Although it was an entirely unexpected vacation spot, I really liked Armenia. I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was old and interesting and full of history. I’ll admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by the fact that I felt like I should be able to speak Georgian, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t speak English most of the time. I have a few words of Russian, but they only came after I had translated something into Georgian and English, so by the time I thought of the Russian word I wanted, it was too late. However, for those wanting to head to Armenia for a glimpse at another random country, let me give you my experience.

First of all, there are a few ways to get there: train, marshutka, and plane. Planes are expensive, so on my meager TLG salary, that option was out. The train leaves from Yerevan (on the even dates) and from Tbilisi (on the odd days). Because my friend and I were leaving from Tbilisi on an even day, we picked marshutka. To get to this marshutka, you must make your way to Ortachala station, which happens to be the station across from the Bazaleti Hotel, where we spent a week for training. You will find the Yerevan marshutkas on the bottom level; if you walk around a bit, you’ll find it.

The marshutka ride is 5 ½ hours, during which time you’d think there’d be a stop or two; however, we had no such luck. Any food or drinks you want should be with you when you leave unless you buy something at the expensive touristy store at the Georgian-Armenian border.

Eventually, you will reach the border, at which point you’ll be told to get out of the marshutka and make your way into the official-looking building on the right. There, you’ll get your passport stamped so that you can leave the country. Walk down the corridor, taking the door on the left outside, and continue down the “driveway” and across the bridge; at this point, you’re walking across the border. For those who need visas (most everyone who’s not Georgian), cross the street and go to the stand on the left. It’s 3000 dram ($8-9) for a 21-day visa. After you get your visa, you can cross the street again and go to the entry point on the right, where you’ll get a stamp into the country. Walk a little further and your marshutka will be waiting there. If your travels are anything like mine, my friend and I were the only ones who needed visas, so everyone was done by the time we got back to the marshutka. For this reason, try to get into the passport stamp line first so that you can get through quicker.

Another few hours, and you’ll be in Yerevan. I don’t know where you’ll want to stay, but we stayed at Envoy Hostel, which was highly recommended to us by a few people. They have good rooms, a very small breakfast, and tours around Armenia. It’s a bit of a walk, but it’s possible to do so from the station to get to the hostel; you just have to get onto Mashtots St, which is the main street in Yerevan. However, you could also get the address and take a taxi there. We found a nice guy on the marshutka who spoke English and offered to walk with us to show us where to go.

Each day, we took a tour with the hostel to see a bit more of Armenia. I wasn’t up to figuring out another country’s public transportation system; I’ve done it once and don’t care to do it again. The tours are reasonably priced and the guides speak very good English. We did multiple tours, and it took a lot of time, but I saw all the highlights of the country, so I feel that it was worth it. At night, Yerevan is a lively city with open-air cafes and restaurants on every street. We found a Mexican restaurant, KFC, and Pizza Hut that served us well for dinner.

On our way back, we took a taxi to the station and took the overnight train back to Tbilisi. It’s a bit difficult to find reliable information about the train, but it was fairly simple. I’d use the comparison I’ve heard from another teacher that the train has the feel of a Communist Hogwarts Express. It looks a bit…sketchy. We bought tickets at the station; 12500 dram ($35) for a 4-bed room. After buying a Fanta, eating sweet bread, telling the 14-year-old boys we weren’t interested in taking pictures with them, drinking wine with them, or taking their cigarettes, we were finally able to get on the train, which left at 10:30. It wasn’t the best night of sleep that I’ve ever gotten, but it was better than I expected. Around 5:15am, we were woken up to show our passports to leave Armenia and then again at 6:00am to enter Georgia, at which point we were able to sleep until about 8:30, when we were woken up for our 9:00am arrival at Sadguris Moedani (Station Square).

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