Armenia’s Silk Road: From Dilijan to Vodka Party at Sevan Lake

Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
Part Seven

Prologue: How it all started
Part One // Part Two // Part Three // Part Four // Part Five // Part Six

Sasha appears in the kitchen exactly at 8 o’clock in the morning. He puts the teapot on fire. “We will have breakfast together, then you are free to go wherever you wish,” he says and walks out. Emée comes down to the kitchen not long after. She says she was cold during the night. The breakfast is rich – soup, honey, jams, cheese, bread. Before we leave, Tania gives us a big piece of cheese for the road. We thank them warmly. The morning of the fourth day of our hitchhiking trip along the Silk Road of Armenia is rather cold. The snow on the nearby mountains shines in the sun. We walk our way out of the Russian village in silence. Few villagers take their cows to the fields.
Snow on the mountains around the village of Fioletovo

Although there aren’t many cars on the road, the first ride we get takes us all the way to the city of Dilijan. The driver, a young guy from Vanadzor, drops us off in the center. There are few places we want to visit around Dilijan – the Haghartsin monastery, the 12-13th-century Goshavank monastery. But before we decide to charge our phones and cameras in a little cafe by the bus station. Here we also get hot tea and gata, Armenian pastry, similar to a coffee cake, as Wikipedia says, though I doubt that. We then visit a local bed-and-breakfast called “Nina B&B” to pass a hello from my friend Max, who stayed at Nina’s place during his trip to Dilijan. We also visit a local museum, where a cute young lady tells us that, indeed, trading routes passed through Dilijan in 14-16th centuries, but few traces survived.
A street in the city of Dilijan, Armenia
It takes us two easy rides to get to Haghartsin monastery. Built between 10th and 14th centuries, the monastery underwent a major renovation recently. Locals say, during his visit to the area Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah (UAE) was so much impressed with the monastery that he donated 5 million US dollars for the renovation. While I’m impressed by the Sheikh’s generous act, the results of the renovation leave me speechless, and spending less that 15-20 minutes we leave.
Haghartsin Monastery, Armenia
“Here, take these walnuts. They bring luck. They’re from that 800-years-old tree outside,” an old woman named Zarik gives us a nut each and takes us on a tour around the little museum behind the Goshavank monastery, once a major religious, cultural and educational center. The monastery was founded in 1188 by famous Armenian scholar, writer and public figure Mkhitar Gosh. An older monastery known as Getik stood here before, but it was destroyed by an earthquake. Zarik briefly introduces the area’s history to us, then presents us with another nut. “Keep one at home, and the other one in your pocket,” she says. We explore the Goshavank monastery and its surroundings, enjoying a peaceful afternoon. Usually, Goshavank is full of tourists. But not today.
Goshavank Monastery, Armenia
Back in Dilijan we pick up our backpacks from “Nina B&B” and hit the road again. The initial idea was to be hosted by Nina at her place and continue our way in the morning. Nina, a mid-aged woman who owns the place, suggests us to spend the night here, but we are too shy to ask if we will have to pay for the stay or not, and since none of us has much money, we thank her and walk our way to the road. We decide to sleep in the tent somewhere by the Lake Sevan. This proves to be the best idea in last few days!
On the road from Goshavank Monastery to Dilijan
Thumbs up, the first car stops. Our driver turns out to be the tour manager of one of the most popular Armenian rock bands – The Bambir. We talk about the band’s tour in Ireland, listen to their new recordings, share stories. Tigran offers us a ride to Yerevan, we reject since it’s out of our route, but instead suggest him to spend the night with us by the lake. He rejects, having to work the next morning. We exchange contacts and agree to meet each other in Yerevan after me and Emée finish our trip. Tigran drops us off by the lake, and before leaving, he gives us a bottle of homemade pear vodka. “A woman I gave a ride earlier this day gave me two bottles of this vodka. Take it, it’ll warm you,” he says.
Lake Sevan
We wander around the Sevan peninsula in search of a place to pitch our tent. I suggest us to check out the nearby public beach. A woman, who together with her husband guards the area, suggests us to camp on a terrace of a summer holiday house, now closed. This sounds pretty cool, and we walk off to find the house, following the woman’s instructions. The air is cold. We quickly arrange our “sleeping quarters”, then take out all the food we have in our backpacks…and open the bottle of vodka.
Cheese, bread, cucumbers and vodka
Then we drink. And say toasts. Many of them, in fact. Toasts are an important part of drinking culture here. And so we drink… to our health for this is important, given that we are about to sleep in a tent at -10°C. Aghrrr, terrible taste. To Tigran for without his gift the night by the lake would be boring as days in paradise. We drink to my friend Dima, an experienced traveler, who went missing in the mountains of Chile. There’s no news about him up to now. We drink to our parents, who patiently wait for us to come back from our journeys and support us despite everything.
Two hitchhikers camping by Lake Sevan, Armenia
And of course, we drink to the Road. For the Road is Life. And as you can guess, soon enough we are absolutely drunk. And although it is quite cold, and this homemade vodka is the worst vodka I have ever tried in my whole life (you may consider this an official statement), we both are happy. And only the local dogs are disturbed by our happiness for no matter how hard they try, they just can’t understand why are these two strangers laughing out loud into the night.
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8 thoughts on “Armenia’s Silk Road: From Dilijan to Vodka Party at Sevan Lake

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  5. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: Epilogue | On The Road

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  7. Sheikh Al-Qasimi is known as a lover of arts and history. He is still the reigning ruler of Sharjah and has really adorned the city with art, museums and libraries.

    The view in your photographs is very beautiful!

    • Thank you 🙂

      Ahh, nice! Well, but if you meet him somewhere tell him to pay more attention to the objects he is willing to renovate, because the result was a mere disaster 🙂

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