Armenia: or there and back again! In this chapter, we will reveal the unexpected costs linked to the Georgia Armenia border crossing and leaving the country and tell you how we found ourselves in Western Georgia on that day instead of strolling through Armenian Highlands.
After a couple hours of sleep, we took the road to Armenia, the Georgia Armenia border crossing is located close to Georgia’s capital. The border control itself didn’t take long, the tricky thing was that we were directed to some mysterious counter at the end of it. The surprise was that we had to pay almost 50 Euros to get into Armenia: 35 Euro taxes and 15 Euro insurance. That would have authorized us to travel 15 days in Armenia. Balti pointed out, that he had read something like this in a blog, however, the tax amount mentioned there was not that high – apparently, the guy paid around 30 Euros for both a car and a trailer. The other thing that was mentioned in the blog is that you also have to pay to leave the country – and it takes you by surprise when you try to leave. Sometimes it is useful to read travel blogs!
As we wanted to spend a day and a half in Armenia, not really moving far from the border (in two days our Georgian friends would be in town and we wanted to see them + we were behind our time plan), all these taxes seemed a bit too much. We were also not really sure we wanted to go to Armenia in the first place: Ever since Turkey, I had a feeling of spending more time going somewhere than staying at one place. Going to Armenia would mean we would see both Armenia and Georgia just from our Gnu’s window. So, we interpreted the tax collectors as deux ex machina who sent us straight to Svanetia, Georgia’s most beautiful region.
After some 4 or 5 hours of driving in the opposite direction, we passed Tbilisi again and came to Kutaisi – a big nice town in the west of Georgia. Strolling through its streets may not be the highlight of Georgia, but it is certainly pleasant and the town is a good stop on the long way. We didn’t go much further that day – having left Kutaisi we found a wonderful bathing place in a village behind the town. It was just the locals who were hanging out there, we probably stood out because we were speaking German. An elderly guy made acquaintance with us and told us the story of his life – his army service, immigrating to Moscow, working as a chef, two marriages, coming back, saying over and over that we as tourists are always welcome in Georgia. Even the Russians are welcome, he said – if one can’t resist them, one has to like them.
Having picked the meadow by the stream to be our campsite for the night, we went out to eat. When we came back a couple of hours later, to our surprise the meadow by the stream was already occupied. To be precise there was a party going on – a couple of cars, Russian songs being played on a cars sound system, the car’s lights illuminated the improvised dance floor between them and 4 or 5 people and a little girl were dancing. We called them the dancing Russians for the sake of the music. Balti suggested we should just stay and wait for the party to be over. The kid had to go to bed and the dancing Russians have to go to work tomorrow and the party is hence likely to be over soon. I was rather suspicious of Balti’s logic and unfortunately, I happened to be right. My Georgian friend I later met informed me that with an unemployment rate of 20% in Georgia Balti’s second thought should have not even been taken into consideration. We checked the small roads close to the stream but it looked like it was only the bathing place that was uninhabited. Doomed, we came back to the dancing Russians and ached in sleepless cacophony for a couple of hours. I fell asleep to the song about Taganka Prison in Moscow that should always stay in its inmates’ memories.