Well… you can definitely say we’ve gone “off the beaten track” this time! Young Pioneers Tour planned this trip through Eurasia, touring countries that have almost no infrastructure for tourists. To be honest, my pronunciation of these places is as unrecognizable as they are. Though they are extremely difficult destinations to get to, my trusty travel guides at YPT made it happen!
One of the safest, cleanest and most modern undiscovered places I had been was at our first stop in Yerevan. This is the capital of Armenia. While we were here exploring the landscape, we spent three days touring art museums and cathedrals. The history of Armenia really caught my attention. This clean and seemingly typical city was actually known for the devastating Armenian Holocaust that took place under the Ottoman Government in 1915.
While I was there, I visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial that stands in tribute to the lives lost during the Armenian Holocaust. The memorial was built in the 1960’s after the 50th anniversary of the genocide. There stands a tall needle-like monument, a circle with what they call the “eternal flame” positioned inside and a wall carved with the names of towns and villages who were massacre victims during that time.
The calmness of the city was more like a lingering sadness after understanding the events that took place and the lives that had been lost before Yerevan became the city it is today.
We then traveled to Ossetia, which was incredibly rural and a completely different experience than the city of Yerevan. Being away from the city and out in the fields definitely felt like a more mellow way of living. Aside from the cows, there wasn’t much to see beyond the fields in Ossetia. The country seemed to be peaceful. However, this was a recent peace, as this land was recently fought over in Russo-Georgian War.
Monuments and memorials showcased the weapons that we were used. I was able to get some photos with the massive tanks and weaponry there. It wasn’t like any other farm country I’d seen before.
Beyond Ossetia, the tour took us to the country of Georgia, where we explored it’s capital, Tbilisi. The old cobblestone city was actually contemporary and had more tourism than I expected. It was diverse in it’s art and the different styles of artistry were really noticeable in the architecture. While the history lies within it’s centuries old cathedrals and forts, the incredible infrastructure of Tbilisi like the metro system and peace bridge, made it surprisingly modern. Right off the banks of the Kura River, we learned that this was the center of transit for various energy sources and trade projects. Because of it’s location and connection to trade, people that lived in Tbilisi were from all over. More than a million and a half people are living in Tbilisi. What a cool place to live in! It was definitely my favorite so far.
The next leg of our journey took us northwest to Abkhazia. It took us about 5 hours just to enter the country from Georgia. It seemed damn near impossible to get in! The passport inspection was so strict in Abkhazia. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get around there like I did in Mexico and Columbia on some fake ID’s and Passports as a fugitive. Every passport was carefully analyzed in detail. I was surprised with the process there, but I honestly owe the opportunity of even entering the country to the staff at Young Pioneer Tours. They were the ones who set up the entire experience.
After finally getting in to Abkhazia, it felt like this place had probably seen better days. It was bombed out from the battles during the war. It seemed maybe 50 years ago it was more exciting but because things were still being rebuilt, it was completely run down.
Sadly, this is the type of devastation that comes with war. Entire countries are changed. No one who left a few decades ago could possibly recognize Abkhazia for what it is today.
That about wraps up Part One of my experience during my travels through these unrecognized countries. I’ve brought my copy of Gringo as a reminder of how far I’ve come. There’s a lot more to see and plenty to share. Continue to follow me as I travel in the wind.