Day five in Armenia started off with a teeny tiny kitty. Sam made fun of me for a while based on the way I acted, but look how cute this thing is. (He specifically referenced this comic in doing so.) Teeny tiny animals just aren’t fair and no one should be held responsible for the stupid things they say when confronted with a teeny tiny animal. Also, yes, this kitty was eating its breakfast from a plastic bag. No further comment.
While our guidebook had tempted us into taking some extra journeys by bus or taxi around the area of Dilijan to see Molokan villages or more churches or monasteries, the beautiful weather convinced us that a nice, relaxed, long walk was a better way to spend the day. We stocked up on some picnic supplies and walked 6 kilometers up to the ruins of an old church called Jukhtakvank. That one was a mouthful to get out as we asked locals if we were headed in the right direction, to be sure. As we got up to the ruins, we saw a sign informing us that we were at the beginning of a 4-5 kilometer nature trail through Dilijan National Park that would be well marked and take us past another really old ruined church.
We did find the ruins, despite the hard-to-say name
We could tell it would be way prettier in a few more weeks, when all the trees turned green, but the weather was just perfect
This was a very cool thing. There was a sign next to this that said it was a nature bed, and inviting us to just stretch out and really let nature sink in, to listen to the birds, to look up at the sky, and to smell the smells. All parks need this!
We picnicked at this nice shaded table, looking out at the valley below
There was just this one questionable crossing point
The final ruined church at the end of the hiking trail
Boy was the walk the right call. We hiked our way along, constantly remarking at our luck on the weather. It was gorgeous out. Our long hike left us happily tired and we made it into Dilijan just before dinnertime. We ambled along through the remnants of a kids park/fair/amusement park and up to the rather impressive and cool World War Two monument. After thoroughly wearing ourselves out, we headed to a nice Armenian restaurant in the newly restored old town and sat out on the balcony watching the sun set.
World War Two monument in Dilijan
Broken down kiddie coaster
Another view of Dilijan
The restored old town
Another look, restored old town in Dilijan
The next morning we got up early to start our massive commute back to Akhalkalaki. We took a rickety old bus that somehow managed to get started and move to a neighboring town (40 kilometers in 60 minutes), where we managed to smell out the lies of the taxi drivers (there aren’t any buses going to Gyumri! You’ll have to take a taxi! My taxi!) and find a bus going to Gyumri, where we just had enough time to eat some lunch before hopping on our minibus back across the border.
Inside bus number one... it was a close one, but we made it!
In all, it was a fantastic trip (as my obsession with posting way too many blog posts about it probably shows), but it was again especially rewarding to get a chance to really speak a lot of Armenian and feel like we’ve accomplished some language learning here. We don’t really get too much of a chance to speak Armenian in Akhalkalaki (or rather, I don’t; I guess Sam does at school). People know we know Russian way better than we know Armenian, and it’s asking a lot to have the patience to listen to us figure out what we want to say, when we can say it without thinking in Russian. Also, in a completely un-Peace-Corps twist on things, we really still have a hard time speaking the local dialect of Armenian and are way more comfortable with the standard literary language. It means that even though we spent a lot of time and frustration in studying a language, I often feel like I don’t know anything in it and get really down about things. Traveling to Armenia (where most people tend to speak a language way closer to what we studied) helped me feel a lot better about things. So in addition to just having a great time, it was a feel-good experience that made things overall better. Oh yeah, and Sam ate a soft pretzel.