Before hitting the road to Yerevan I went to the post office and then via Goris in direction to Yerevan.
I arrived at 7pm and stay with Alexander, a former classmate whom I met in Iran. He was living in Yerevan with his wife and daughter.
Later that evening we went to the centre where the play of fountains is accompanied with colours and classical music.
Day 8, July 15th, Wed, Yerevan II, Hatis
Alex recommended many things to do around Yerevan. But since he was busy I contacted R. whom I got to know on Couchsurfing. With her I went to Hatis mountain, taking the bus and hitchhiking then. Unfortunately the people didn’t know the area very well, so our hike took really long, but was super nice.
Day 9, July 16th, Thu, Yerevan III, Aknasar
The next day R., Arpik (Alex’ wife), Arvani (their daughter), Alex and me hiked to Aknasar mountain. We started at noon which was the reason why we didn’t make it to the summit. We passed a camp of Yazidis, who invited us for coffee and very delicious bread and cheese. As we continued an aggressive bull nearly attacked us.
On the way back we went to the Yazidis again to buy some of their delicious cheese.
It was nearly dark when we reached our start position and hitchhiked a truck with straw – but only for 500m to a farmer where we were invited for coffee again. R. taught me that is important for men in Armenia to shake each others hands when one is entering the room – apart from knowing each other or not.
In the end one family member took us to Abovyan and from there we went by taxi back to Yerevan.
Day 10, July 17th, Fri, Yerevan IV
I strolled through Yerevan, going to parks, the Genocide memorial and other sights. I met an American hitchhiker who was going to Georgia and helped her find the right way.
I left Stepanakert to go northbound and from there back to Armenia. Before that I wanted to see Agdam, a town that is officially a military area because it has been completely destroyed in the war and not accessible. I caught a ride with a soldier who was working there and who took me for some money.
Agdam is not comparable to Chernobyl or Pripyat. In the latter buildings are still standing, it’s a ghost town. Whereas in Agdam is destroyed; having some walls standing at the utmost. But the mosque ist still intact. 30,000 people used to live in this town, now it’s only home (a very simple and bad home) to some soldiers and merchants with their animals.
When I arrived in Martakert I didn’t find anyone who would take me further, so I had to walk again. When I passed a fallen electricity pole and a body of an old tank, I decided to pitch my tent there. Some time later a young family passed by and returned trying to convince me to stay with them. It was super nice of them, but I wanted to sleep in my tent.
Day 6, July 13th, Mon, Martakert – Stepanakert
The next day I was taken by a truck and stood on the bed. Since it was a dirt road, the ride was bumpy as hell and I was dropped off in the middle of the forest. While I was walking I noticed many strange insects that somehow flew around without control over their wings. An old couple gave me a ride to to the next town, Heyval. I hoped to be able to buy post cards there, but it turned out the nearest post office was in Stepanakert. So I went back, because it was an important matter for me (though none of them has arrived as of March 2k16). I got a ride with 4 guys of whom one had a machine pistol lying around which was quite bizarre.
In Stepanakert I camped next to a cemetery nearby the WWII monument and the post office was closed due to a national holiday, but open previous day.
In the evening one guy came by who was talking a lot and kind of offered me to stay in his house, but he was strange, so I denied. Later two police men showed up but didn’t care that I would sleep there.
Day 3, July 10th, Fri, Tsav-Stepanakert (Karabakh, Nagorno-Karabakh)
Before I continued, I went swimming and then I had to wait again until a car was going to Kapan. The car the Miro organized for me turned out to be a taxi. But since I played silly and pretended not to understand Russian and the driver couldn’t say the number in English, plus Miro said, it would be free, I was just dropped of in the centre of Kapan.
From there to Goris I was taken in a new Mercedes and was told by the driver, that officers employed by the government can only have a kind of ok life with taking bribes.
In Goris I had to wait quite a time again and somehow the feeling, that some people wouldn’t understand my “Stepanakert” sign by 100%, although it was completely correct. Anyway with three further rides I arrived in Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh. The problem of travelling to Karabakh is when letting them stick the visa in your passport you are denied entry to Azerbaijan – lifelong. Even writing such a post may provoke ending up on their blacklist. It was the first of two of these notorious breakaway Caucasus Republic that I would visit. After the fall of Soviet Union, Karabakh (having had autonomy inside Azerbaijan SSR) with its Armenian majority declared its independence in September 1991. Of course Azerbaijan didn’t recognize it and since May 1994 war broke out. Since that date a more or less stable ceasefire.
Crossing the border is no problem: You give your passport to the registration and get a sheet of paper with the address of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where one had to buy the visa the next of following day (3000 Dram, ~6 EUR).
In Stepanakert I met with U., took my stuff to a hotel and strolled with U., her sister and cousin a bit through the centre. It was very busy, it seemed the whole city was there. People were gathering on all the squares around the Presidential Palace – a nice atmosphere.
Day 4, July 11th, Sat, Shushi (Susa)
The next day U. and her sister went with me to Shushi, that is famous for its many beautiful churches. Then we walked to a nice mountains meadow for a picnic.
Back in Stepanakert I walked a bit through the town, bought my visa. In the evening I was not feeling so good and tried all night getting into a better shape.