Another epic journey has come to a close and we are awaiting our homebound flight in yet another airport lounge. We are the last of our little group to leave Armenia so we have had the day free, which has given us plenty of time to talk about what we have seen and learned over the last fourteen days. Every travel experience with Exeter International has afforded us an extraordinary learning opportunity and this adventure was no exception. I want to share some random photos and thoughts before the wheels go up on the Doha-bound Airbus. (It’s a good idea, as usual, to scroll down to the bottom of this email and click on the green “Read The Post” box so that you can read the captions.)
It seems like years since we landed in Baku, Azerbaijan when, in reality, it was only two weeks ago. Rick describes Baku as a Dubai wannabe because of their embrace of unconventional architecture. We were in Baku for three nights. It is located on some prime real estate on the Caspian Sea and that adds a lot to the city’s appeal.
We spent eight days in Georgia. As I mentioned in another post, the scars of the Soviet Union’s time there are still everywhere in Georgia. But the country is beautiful and the people are optimistic about the future. They are very resilient people and are doing a great job of preserving their very old and very rich cultural heritage.
We spent three days in Yerevan, Armenia. Armenia was a nice surprise to us. We liked the food and wine much better here than in Georgia. We enjoyed the city of Yerevan. The downtown area was very walkable.
On the way to Yerevan from Tbilisi, we passed by the ruins of a city that processed copper in Armenia during the Soviet times. The Soviet Union designed the operations of the countries under their control so that no one country produced a product from start to finish. When the Soviet Union fell, these countries were not capable of producing finished products. Georgia was tasked with making wine; Armenia made the brandy. Here is another example: one country would make jet engines, another would make airplane wings, and another would make ball bearings. No one country could build an airplane, so when the Soviets were no longer there to do the final assembly, these countries had to figure out how to produce the needed parts and build airplanes independently of each other. It took a very long time for these countries to get on their feet and move forward. Below are pictures of the ruins of that massive copper production town just slowly rusting and rotting. It was sickening to see that ghost of a town.
Several friends have texted and emailed concerned about the fighting between the Azeris and the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. When the current conflict broke out, there was a discussion about the possibility that we might have to change our plans and not come to Yerevan. Since a truce was worked out fairly quickly, we were felt comfortable coming here. There are protests every day, but they haven’t affected our plans. Today we walked to the opera house and there were protest organizers, but no protest was taking place this morning.
I will finish with my favorite people pictures. The first is a beggar at one of the cathedrals in Georgia. I thought her face showed such despair and resignation, so Rick gave her a few coins and we asked if I could take her picture.