“I also like traveling around Armenia. Not like you, of course. Before I got married with my wife, we used to take the car and drive to some beautiful places around the country. But I tell you, if your car betrays you on the road at least once, I don’t care if just a flat tire, or something serious, man you have to get rid of it and get a new one,” says our driver. He’s a young man, about 30 years old, who grew up in Russia, but then moved to Armenia. We talk a lot: about cars, about life in Armenia and Russia, about traveling, and even about prostitutes who earn their living along the roads. All the way from the outskirts of Yerevan and till the Gavar turn where he drops us off we listen to The Beatles music.
Snow. The Gegharkunik province welcomes us with snow. And cold. We walk along the road for some time, talking to each other. An old man pulls his car over next to us. “Are you going towards Dilijan?” I ask. He nods and invites us in. He isn’t really talkative. We exchange few words. And he doesn’t seem to be happy with us having to hitchhike to Vanadzor, and then to Dsegh, when I tell him where are we heading to after Dilijan. Just before he drops us off at the Dilijan bus station, I notice a rather big spider in the corner of the windscreen. “I think he’s of a strict type of the grandpas,” says Nane, when we are on our way to the “Mimino” cafe to have our dinner. Their delicious mushroom soup was one of the main reasons we decided to travel via Dilijan. “Have you seen the spider?” I ask Nane.
We finish the soup and walk to the M-4 road. Although the mountains around Dilijan are snowy, it feels much warmer here. We get stuck for about half an hour until finally a man from the city of Gyumri picks us up and drives us all the way to Vanadzor. From here, another ride on a truck till the turn to Dsegh. The village is about 8 kilometers off the main road. We take a short rest at the bus stop, drink tea and eat chocolate candies and chat with a joyful dog that comes to us hoping to get some food to eat. But we have nothing with us. Then we walk along the road for some time. Few cars pass by, but nobody stops. And when we see an old Soviet bus with the name of the village on the windscreen, we wave to the driver. The passengers in the bus stare at us as if we are aliens from a galaxy far away. We greet them in Armenian, and their surprised looks make us smile.
As we arrive in Dsegh, we visit the house-museum of Hovhannes Tumanyan, a prominent Armenian writer and public activist, national poet of Armenia. The house where the poet was born was turned into a museum in 1939. One of its workers, a mid-aged woman takes us on a quick tour around the museum. We rush through the rooms, the lady quickly describes the exhibits. “And there, under that monument in the yard, Tumanian’s heart is buried,” she says as we leave the museum. In 1923, when Tumanian died in Moscow, his son asked the doctors of the morgue to give him the heart. Poet’s body was buried in the Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi, Georgia, while the heart was first kept at Tumanian’s home by his relatives, and then in the museum of Yerevan Medical Institute (nowadays, Yerevan State Medical University). In 1994, the poet’s heart was finally buried in his birthplace.
Sunset. We see the star slowly going down behind the roofs of the houses as the last rays make their way through the tree branches. We wander around the village, enjoying the evening, and also looking for a place to sleep. There are several guest houses and b&bs in Dsegh, but we choose the “Patvakan B&B”. Our hosts, an elderly couple, give us a hearty welcome. November’s a low season here, and they are happy to have guests. We turn on a heater in the room offered to us, and then move to the kitchen to have supper together with Mr. Hrant and his wife Rima. The old man does most of the talking. He jokes, shouts, laughs exposing the few of the remaining teeth, curses the politicians and his own fate, shares stories of his youth, and repeats the same phrase every once in a while: “How strange. I never talk to our guests. But there’s something I like in you. Strange. Strange.” We spend some fun time with them and then retire to our beds. There’s a long day ahead tomorrow.
(to be continued)