Sunday, May 12, 2013

Caucasus Trip Summary

Well my trip to the Caucasus is over and I'm back home in Brno.  It was quite the adventure and well worth all of the effort.  I visited three new countries and found interesting things in each.

In Georgia, I found the police stations to be quite interesting.  At first glance, they look like car dealerships or something.  A decade ago, Georgia was one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  The government fired around 16,000 police officers and went about putting in reforms.  Now being a police officer is a respected position and all of the police stations have glass exteriors to symbolize the new transparency. 

Filing the tank in Georgia
Every time I got in to a taxi in Yerevan or Tbilisi, I always noticed that the taxis' fuel gauges were running on empty.  Come to find out that 75% of the cars in Armenia actually run on natural gas.  It's a lot cheaper than gasoline. 
Armenian school bus

Of course it makes it harder to put your suitcase in the trunk with a big cylinder in the trunk.  In Armenia I saw school buses with the gas tanks on the roof.   Seems dangerous to me.

After two weeks, my Russian started getting somewhat better but at times I kept mixing Czech and Russian.  I got in a taxi in Yerevan and the driver said (in Russian) that "Oh!  You're Czechoslovak."  He didn't believe me that I was actually American.  He told me that when he was in the Soviet Army he was stationed at the military barracks in Brno and how he so loved Brno, Bratislava and the Tatras.  I then told him that I do live in Brno and he became excited.  "See, you're Czechoslovak".  I seem to meet all sorts of interesting people when I travel.    

I really enjoyed Armenia.  And not only because it was so much cheaper than the other two but because the people were lovely and there was so much to see.  My grandmother would have gotten the biggest kick out of me seeing a piece of Noah's Ark.

My run around with getting an Azeri visa reminded me that it's best to be patient and very flexible when you travel.  It's also good practice for when I eventually need visas for Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

In Baku
Azerbaijan was very interesting.  The people were great and Baku is shaping up to be an amazing city.  I really liked the mix of old and modern.  Plus you have to love mud volcanoes, petroglyphs, and a burning hill.  However, the uneasy feeling of always being on guard did make it a little harder to enjoy.

Naked in the tub
Overall it was a fabulous trip.  And thanks to two Czech public holidays it only cost me eight days of vacation.  I know that some of my friends will have a go at me for my hot tub story.  So here's the photo for proof. 

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