My Sojourn in Armenia

TravellingDreams

My Sojourn in Armenia

I was stuck in between two choices- Armenia and Georgia. With some fancy browsing,researching and genuine opinions from my super enthusiastic fourth graders I was at last able to tick the box.Being in the teaching profession allows me the luxury of frequent travels in a year not only during the long summer and winter breaks but also national and public holidays.This was during the 5 day session break this year in March.Unexpectedly Armenia served as a healing balm as I sat at the Dubai Airport receiving the news of my University application being turned down for a research program in the US. Though I had tears of dejection on one hand I looked forward to this Caucasian land tucked between Europe and Asia.FB_IMG_1541765357226

The moment I arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia I felt my heart was light again.I was greeted at the airport…

View original post 849 more words

Georgia- A revival of time!

Each time I travel to a foreign shore I feel I have evolved a little more. I couldn’t resist penning down my much-awaited travel to Georgia as soon as I boarded the flight back to Dubai. I spent four days in Tbilisi, the capital city of this mesmerizing Caucasian country. Sharing its borders with Armenia and Turkey on the south, Russia on the north and Azerbaijan on the southeast, Georgia is a land that took me back in time.

Having arrived in the morning I had an entire day to uncover the place. I scouted around Freedom Square, the city center and the surrounding old town areas with much curiosity. Soon, I found myself getting happily lost in the medieval charm of the cobblestone alleys, narrow backstreets, wine houses, local art, museums, lush green parks with old and contemporary statues and sculptures.

Liberty Square 
Stroll through the Old Town Tbilisi
Ananuri Castle

These were a reflection of Tbilisi’s stunning beauty and architecture and it got the best of me when I discovered the Tbilisi Gate Gallery on Nikoloz Baratashvili Street. I ended up spending few hours here sipping wine, chatting with the friendly Georgian artists and watching them play the game of colours on their canvases and some timeless classics by Eric Clapton to Sinatra to Nat King Cole setting the mood in the background.

Gate Gallery
Art Gallery
Art Gallery

This unique discovery on the first morning of my trip filled me with a sense of belonging as painting and music have been my old companions. I kept visiting this snug cafe all four days of my stay in Tbilisi and I even ended up recommending to few other like-minded travelers whom I met on my journey. Tbilisi abounds in such warm cozy cafes and pubs.

The second day was a day long trip to Kazbegi, Gerghati, Ananuri and Gudauri where I experienced the first day of snowfall in Georgia on December 1 this year and witnessed some ancient churches, castles, fortresses and monasteries dating from 13th century. The skiing season  in Georgia starts from December 10 and is a must for skiing enthusiasts.

Gudauri 

The remaining two days of my stay, I visited Kakheti which happens to be the most fertile region in Georgia producing the very best wines and availed the Hop On and Hop Off buses around the old town Tbilisi and took the cable car to Narikala Fortress and the statute of Mother of Georgia perched on the hill.

Mother of Georgia
Bridge of Peace drenched in rain

A trip to Georgia would be incomplete without tasting the delicious Kinkhali and Khachapuri and ofcorse the popular Georgian wines. There are many myths surrounding wine. One such local belief is that wine saved Georgia as the Georgian kings made some important political decisions over wine which stood in favour of the people and its nation!

By the Kura River

Georgia should be in anybody’s wishlist who is looking for a mix of art, music, culture, history and some great sports and amusements within an affordable budget. With currency exchange offices  and banks scattered all over the city one has no reasons to worry! The most commonly accepted currencies in Georgia are US dollars, euros and rubles. However, having some local money in GEL or lari is always an advantage. For UK, US nationals and UAE resident permit holders there’s no need for a visa to enter Georgia. For visa related queries for Indians and other country nationals please visit the link below.

http://www.vfsglobal.com/georgia/india/visa-fees-at-glance.html

Georgia has given me memories of a lifetime and I wouldn’t mind getting my passport stamped the second time for a visit to this fascinating country!

Umananda- The smallest river island in the world.

20180818_135653

And here begins the voyage ……..

Located right in the heart of Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s major rivers, Umananda is a blissful sailaway from the hustle bustle of the city. It is a tranquil natural wonder of Guwahati, the former capital of the Indian state of Assam.I was one of its proud visitors this year. The relaxing boat ride on the Brahmaputra, the embrace of the  gentle, uncomplaining winds and the serenade of the boatman were some joys that I often crave for in the modern man- made islands of Dubai, my current base. Hence, I chose to respond to these longings this summer.

20180818_135540

20180818_135452

20180818_135845

20180818_134929.jpg

There are many legends associated with this river island and it is considered a holy place with the Shiva temple perched on top. Umananda derives its name from Uma, another name for the Hindu goddess Parvati, the wife of  Lord Shiva and Ananda which means happiness. Folkore has it that Shiva spent some beautiful moments with his wife here.It is also believed that the British colonists called it the Peacock Island because of its structure. Umananda abounds in lush greenery and if anyone is looking out for wildlife then the endangered Langurs will surely be a sight to watch!

20180818_1402021-e1543154475217.jpg
Flight of steps leading to the Shiva Temple at Umananda

langur

20180721_131656.jpg

20180721_133504.jpg

This small island resting in the middle of the massive Brahmaputra is yet another offbeat travel destination in my home country. Away from the maddening crowd Umananda is surely the place for anyone in search of solace.

The Living Root Bridge of Mawlynnong

20180818_142302

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced –— John Keats—

Cherrapunji located in the North Eastern state of India, Meghalaya is often credited to be the wettest place on earth. It is perhaps the only place in India which experiences only one season, the monsoon. Its dense tropical forests, foaming rivers, waterfalls, splendid hills and valleys and the living rootbridges are a treat to the eyes and soul.

20180818_142718

20180818_143029

This year I was fortunate to have trodden this rootbridge in Cherrapunji. It is located in Mawlynnong which is  claimed to be the cleanest village in Asia. Made from the roots of ancient rubber trees by the Khasi tribe this manmade natural wonder will only arouse one’s curiosity and admiration. Meghalaya is home to twelve such living rootbridges which offer a sturdy alternative to wooden bridges which decay over time and heavy rains. Some of them happen to be more than a century old. The tangled roots forming huge suspensions over raging rivers simply transported me to a world between fantasy and realism!

20181113_211229

A Travel Story from Nepal- The Land of the Himalayas….

A Travel Story from Nepal- The Land of the Himalayas….Screenshot_20181110-011553_Gallery

It was June 2016. I set my mind on Nepal and headed off during the summer break. Besides the many adventures and experiences during my journey the one incident that is etched in my memory is the one that I am going to share here. I was waiting for my jeep in a shanty shop a little away from the town area. The vehicle would take me from Kathmandu to Baglung District. The waiting experience was nothing less than a epiphany which inspired me to sketch it in the form of a poem. I called it The Voiceless Encounter.

He stood by emitting a raging silence

Gaping hungrily at what sat

On the other side of him.

I sat abashed and awkward

Fixing a button here and there,

Pulling the sleeves forcibly down,

And trying to conceal the exposed inches of my skin

With a womanly tact.

 

Anger was the common impulse

That grabbed me at once.

His bloodshot eyes brooding

Firm and fixed,

His quivering salivating mouth,

The deep indented scar on the corner of his lip,

And the incessant heaving breath

Were only a mute breakout of

Some long repressed, morbid emotions.

 

With a sudden horn blowing,

Arrived the jeep.

Which would transport me to the journey’s end.

He, immediately pounded alike a

Beast on my luggage

Securing one on the head,

Second against the back,

Third slinging from the shoulder

Sans delay, sans fatigue, sans apathy.

 

The luggage was set,

The jeep ready,

The journey yet to begin.

I sat by the window; He stood by the post.

Thumping his barefeet,

Rubbing his head,

Sniffing his nose,

And wiping those tears,

That oozed out inconsolably.

 

There seemed a rupture in the membrane

Of his being.

It was as mute as him

Wordless and voiceless,

What came out in spoken form

Was the beastly , laborious toil

De sunrise to sundown.

 

He seemed more than content

With that puny bowl of ice-cream

I offered in exchange of the plodding.

Ravenously he fed upon it

Wiping those tears in delight.

I sat abashed and awkward

No longer fixing buttons and sleeves,

But addressing my guilt.

My Sojourn in Armenia

My Sojourn in Armenia

I was stuck in between two choices- Armenia and Georgia. With some fancy browsing,researching and genuine opinions from my super enthusiastic fourth graders I was at last able to tick the box.Being in the teaching profession allows me the luxury of frequent travels in a year not only during the long summer and winter breaks but also national and public holidays.This was during the 5 day session break this year in March.Unexpectedly Armenia served as a healing balm as I sat at the Dubai Airport receiving the news of my University application being turned down for a research program in the US. Though I had tears of dejection on one hand I looked forward to this Caucasian land tucked between Europe and Asia.FB_IMG_1541765357226

The moment I arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia I felt my heart was light again.I was greeted at the airport by my hotel driver who drove me through the utterly serene landscapes dotted by tulips, maples,oaks and pines and many ancient buildings which rendered it an old, medieval charm.Upon reaching the Best Western Congress Hotel located in the heart of Yerevan I felt quite at home by the warmth and hospitality offered by the staff. This humble,friendly nature was a common attribute of the Armenians. Though I spent only three days in Yerevan I was able to discern the country’s fascinating culture and resilient spirit to a great measure if not entirely.

FB_IMG_1541740734194
A local florist

Sevanavank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery on the shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik province of Armenia.

My first excursion out in the city left me quite perturbed as I had eagerly entered a nearby restaurant to satisfy my appetite after a long travel but ended up walking out as I faced some serious language barriers and had limited Armenian drams the local currency. However, this should not be a cause of concern for travellers because English is spoken by most city dwellers if not fluently, at least for trade and if one knows Russian matters become easier.

In my case I happened to enter a restaurant where unfortunately there was no English speaking staff on duty then and I missed exchanging some extra currency at the Airport. Nevertheless I soon discovered a local currency exchange in the old town area and mastered few local greetings and gestures to bridge further communication gaps. Barev which means hello, lav meaning good and the French Merci for thank you was a great way to start and often made me feel more confident and well accepted.

My affair with the city started with the endless strolls through the Republic Square Park and the adjacent leafy road exhibiting colourful canvases and landscape paintings of all sorts. This was a place where people young and old gathered for walks,fun,frolic, coffee,intimate conversations or simply   played the accordian and filled the air with music, art and romance. The dancing fountain in the centre of the boulevard added that special flavour to the already existing city charm.

DSCN0181
Republic Square

The nearby Vernissage Market thronged by stylishly dressed locals and travellers was another must visit for all with its plethora of traditional knick knacks,handcrafted artifacts, traditional Armenian folk music CDs and budget friendly souvenirs for all age groups.I frequented this open air flea market all three days and only got better with my bargaining skills with the local vendors.

DSCN0240

The evenings were often followed by tasting some authentic Armenian cuisine like the Kashlama, Khoravat and  Lavash, a traditional flat bread that came complementary with most dishes.Homemade jams, fresh fruits straight from the trees and handcrafted wines were a common spread on the tables of the locals. The rich taste and flavour of Armenian cuisine gave me a glimpse of the rich culture of the land.

DSCN0289
Paintings by the Vernissage Market in Yerevan

 

DSCN0008
Republic Square Park

FB_IMG_1541740573505The surrounding areas with monumental historical buildings and museums with their notable medieval architecture were a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage and Soviet modernism. The History Museum, National Art Gallery,the building of Ministry of Foreign affairs, the Government building, the building of post office and the Opera House were major landmarks around the city which kept me busy throughout.

The Great Cascade was another spectacular sight with a flight of huge staircases connecting the downtown areas on the surrounding hills.Climbing all those stairs to reach the top of the cascade gave me a sense of accomplishment and a splendid view of the city of Yerevan, the gorgeous Mount Ararat in the distance and the victorious statue of Mother of Armenia.

DSCN0105
The Great Cascade on Tamanyan Street, Yerevan

 

FB_IMG_1541765411705
Statue of Alexander Tamanyan, the architect who designed the Great Cascade

FB_IMG_1541765450413
Modern Sculpture Park in front of the Cascade

A one way trip to Garni,Geghard Monastery,Tsaghkadzor,Sevanavank Monastery overviewing Lake Sevan-the Pearl of Armenia was the best way to fuse with the lush green nature and turquoise waters of the Armenian highland and delve deep into its ancient kingdom.

My journey wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex.In fact one cannot feel the invincible spirit of the country without visiting this place which is dedicated to the memory of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the 1915 holocaust. The Eternal Flame and the surrounding burial grounds are symbols of remembrance of the martyrs.The museum inside depicts through several historical records, information and photographs the many invasions the nation has suffered and survived time and again.

FB_IMG_1541740784191
The Eternal Flame,Genocide Memorial Complex

FB_IMG_1541768134212
Genocide Memorial Complex

Deeply stirred by the country’s eventful historical past and mesmerized by its strikingly rich cultural heritage, I was absolutely convinced of having chosen Yerevan as my travel destination.The cozy cafe culture, long winding back alleys, quirky murals,architecture,breathtaking landscapes and the soulful music of the duduk have all found a place in my heart which I wish to revisit soon. Armenia can be an unmistakable choice for those looking out for an offbeat budget travel unspoilt by mass tourism!