Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
Prologue: How it all started
It was the lovely summer of 2012. After spending some days at the Peace in the Middle East Rainbow Gathering in Tbeti, Georgia, I was hitchhiking back home to Armenia, when in the village of Ptghavan right after the Armenian-Georgian border I noticed a big board on the roadside that greeted everyone with a “Welcome to Armenia’s Silk Road” sign in Armenian and English languages.
The map pictured on the board contained a detailed route with names of all the villages and towns, cities and historical places of Armenia the Silk Road ran through. Whether this route was part of the historical Silk Road that ancient traders used for transferring silk and other valuable goods from the East to the West and back, or not, I was yet to explore as I wasn’t familiar with it. But the very exact moment I saw the board, an idea came to my mind – to hitchhike Armenia’s Silk Road and to write few reports for a local magazine, comparing the life of Armenians along the Silk Road now and then. Later in August the project was approved by the chief editor of the magazine. It took me more than 2 months to finally get my lazy ass off the couch and walk to the Road. But it was not only because of my laziness. I had to find more information about that Silk Road. And I was looking for a travel partner since I didn’t want to leave for the trip alone.
The term “Silk Road” was invented by a German geologist, geographer and traveler Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen (1833-1905) only in 1877. Contrary to common belief, the Silk Road is not a literal road, but various trading routes that linked the East to the West. The historical Silk Road started from one of the China’s oldest cities, Xi’an, and ran up to the Mediterranean Sea, dividing into branches in different cities.
Several archaeological finds indicate that trading routes passed via the Armenian Highland in ancient times. Caravans of traders who carried goods from Asia to the Middle East, were entering Armenia and moving westbound to Asia Minor, the Balkans, and northbound to the mountain ranges of Caucasus and further. Apart from exporting local Armenian products, goods from others countries were also imported to the country. One of the most famous Chinese silk fairs in the regions was held in the capital of early medieval Armenia, Dvin.
More I was going deep into history, more I was growing confused. While reading various sources in search of detailed information on the Silk Road depicted on the roadside board, I was looking through caravan route maps, but couldn’t find anything similar to the route on the map in Ptghavan. Nor I found any information in books suggested to me by an archaeologist friend of mine, Inessa Hovsepyan. I also tried to contact the organization that was in charge of the “Armenia’s Silk Road” project, and after failing on this, too, I gave up. Thus, the initial idea of comparison of two Armenias transformed into a series of reports about the current life of Armenians along the Armenia’s Silk Road. Now there was only one problem left to solve as I was getting ready for the trip – the travel partner.
Emée – The Travel Partner
(her travel blog: http://ohmyroad.eu)
If something is meant to happen, there’s no way you can escape it, I believe. This was the case with my travel partner for the Silk Road trip. As you may already know, my Dear Reader, I travel/hitchhike alone. Strangely, I had a feeling that this trip needed to be done together with someone. Days and nights long I’ve been looking for someone who’d like to join me, but all of my friends were either busy working, or couldn’t leave for an uncertain period of time. Then I met Emée.
It was Sunday, 10th of November. I went to Yerevan to join a guitar music event, organized by a friend of my, Tigran, a searcher himself. The Hemingway Pub wasn’t crowded yet when I arrived. Tigran sat there on a pillow and practiced a musical composition. Sitting next to him was Emée – a girl with blond curly hair who played her trumpet, following Tigran. He introduced us to each other.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“France,” she said. Her English didn’t sound French. Several months ago Emée left Austria, traveled all the way down to Armenia and was now on her way to Iran and further to the East.
Later that evening, shortly before the guitar event began, she approached me, asking if I could host her at my place, since she was staying in Yerevan with the same Couchsurfing host for about a week now.
“Oh, sorry I can’t. I will be away from home for the next two weeks hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road,” I answered. By that time I had accepted the fact that I’ll have to hitchhike alone.
“Can I come with you on your trip then?” she asked suddenly. I agreed. And that was it. I mean, what did we know about each other? I had no idea who she was, and she, as she said later, knew of me only the following: a hippie, a musician, who lives in a small town about 25 km away from the capital. But we didn’t really care. For if something’s meant to happen, it will happen.
Now having everything prepared for the trip, on a gloomy November day, we put our backpacks on and walked to the highway that would take to the North of Armenia to start the hitchhiking trip along the country’s Silk Road.
(to be continued)