Most Inspirational Moment
At my request our guide kindly added a brief visit to an artists home and gallery in the village of Garni. We had a tour of the gallery, met the artists, discussed their work and methods and had a quick tour of their old family home. One of the artists was a tapestry weaver, her work was amazing in design and colour and now back home, has inspired me to dig out my weaving loom. It was very interesting side excursion and made a nice change from churches and monasteries. Maybe something that could be added to future tours.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Both our leaders were exceptional, Sahakanush (Armenia) and Nino (Georgia). Quite different in their approaches but both very knowledgeable and were happy to inform us of all parts of their cultures, giving us an insight into their respective countries and talking on topics such as history, education, economics, and all sorts of social aspects and taboos. Sahakanush even introduced us to different types of Armenian music with CD's for the long bus journeys. Both had lovely terms of address, Sahakanush ‘my dears’ and Nino ‘ladies & gentlemen’, they were always polite, friendly and helpful.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Be prepared for long bus journeys, maps, books and music helped while away the time; churches and monasteries do tend to blur into one after a while. Maybe there are a few too many! Long, full-on days mean little downtime at the end of the day. Take advantage of the included lunches, several hotels outside of the cities had no nearby facilities eg; cafes, bars, restaurants. By having a large lunch, we found that a hotel soup would suffice in the evening. Be warned that Armenia doesn’t have a no-smoking policy, and as well as bars, restaurants, smoking is also allowed in some hotel bedrooms. In Georgia there is ban due to be imposed in a couple of years, but many businesses already adhere to their own no-smoking policies and don’t allow it inside. Hotel Diana in Goris had a lovely café at the back of it’s carpark, amazing kebobs, borsch & pilaf. Dilijan - Tea with the ‘Molokan Family’ was a lovely experience, but the arts and crafts of Dilijan (apart from 1 woodcarver) seemed nothing more than tourist ‘tat’. In Yerevan take a walk around the Kond area of the city, lovely (pre-soviet) tumbledown houses and winding streets. Visit the cascade at dusk as it all lights up, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes here and a real bustling atmosphere as the whole city seems to come out for an evening promenade. Tbilisi is a lovely city, we didn’t go on the museum tour, preferring to explore more of the city, be sure to visit the Flea market, the Dezerter market and the Kaleidoscope House and if you feel brave take a bath in one of the many bath houses. Enjoy the wine tasting excursion and family hospitality. Beware of tiled floors in the showers, some are very slippery when wet.
Having a large coach (16 people to 50+ seats) enabled us to spread out and move around and change seats as required, which made the long journeys more comfortable. Surprisingly, all our hotels & guesthouses were of a very good standard, some quite luxurious and others more basic but clean and functional. The bad weather made the cable car trip very disappointing as you couldn’t really see much, however this wet misty cloud added great atmosphere to the view and exploration of the Tatev Monastery. We would have liked more time in Kutaisi, half an hour to explore the city centre was not enough and disappointedly we drove from there to a motorway service station where we stopped for an hour for lunch!