Picking the Pictures
Yerevan through my eyes #48
Time to get familiar with the city I live in! Each week from now on I will be sharing with you one picture of Yerevan.Taken at Tumanyan Street.
Picking the Pictures
It's been two years...
...since I clicked "publish" for the first time. The Picktures is two years old today.Here is a little coctail of my favorite pictures and magic moments from the past year. Take a look to celebrate my blogiversary with me!So, a little coctail and a big thank you to all my readers for being with me on this two year journey.Here is to many more years of blogging!
Picking the Pictures
A girl in love with a city
I’m in love with many cities, including the ones I haven’t visited yet. I fall for cities more often than I do for guys. My maps, especially my map of Europe, are full of soft spots. That said, I’m never in doubt when asked what is my favorite city in the world. I might not be monogamous here in travel but I’m loyal. It’s always Prague.I visited Prague for the first time when I was twelve or so. It was cold and pretty. Charles Bridge was crowded and the castle was huge and the city was full of monuments of men whose names didn’t mean anything to me. I had no idea how much this would change in several years.Several years later, I was nineteen and, as the nineteen year olds in Poland do, I was supposed to enter university and study something. I had a very vague concept of this something. Well, humanities. Well, I liked languages and books. I was into contemporary poetry. I liked galleries. I liked the world and I was sure the world liked me back but anyway, this choice was making me nervous.All the things I wanted, stood for and fancied seemed incredibly unproductive. They don’t lead to steady paychecks, they said. You won’t feed yourself with books, they said. They annoyed me so I ignored them. I chose books. I chose to study Slavic Studies with Czech as a major.It was Prague calling. And Hrabal’s books that wanted me to stop reading them in Polish translation.I spent five years studying Czech language and literature in Warsaw, Brno and well, Prague.I never got bored. I never got enough.While in Warsaw, I took night buses and trains to Prague so many times I stopped counting. I stopped counting because somehow I’m always there. Charles Bridge is still crowded but I don’t care much because I won’t go there anyway. The castle is still huge, I think, but I haven’t visited it for years. As for the monuments, I can recite the bios of the man they were built for. In at least three languages. Anytime. I have my bookstores, my cafes, my sweet shops, my pubs, my parks. I also have my trams and my metro stops. I have my drinks and my foods. My newspaper I always buy when I get off whatever transport that brings me to the city. Or the city to me, depending on how you look at it. When I moved to Armenia I couldn’t visit Prague that frequently. I didn’t manage to drop by when I went home for Christmas. Not enough time. Or perhaps a bad choice. I missed this place as you miss a living person. A friend. A lover. A relative. All of them. I was restless.I went to Prague ten days ago. I spent three days wandering the streets, doing nothing and looking around. I went to the theatre. I spend money in my favorite bookstore. I went to my favorite sweet shop. I caught up with friends. I didn’t take a single picture. The camera was in my bag all this time but somehow I was too focused on little things. I wanted all of this to feel like routine. This was the taste of returning. Of making sure that the city I love, still loves me back.There was only this one afternoon when I took the camera out of my purse. We were on Petřín with one of my closest friends I have in this world. We went through this whole Czech affair together. I’m pretty sure that if anyone knows how I feel about Prague, she is this person. This time, we played tourists and took a cable car to the top to look at the skyline and gossip. To talk about how everything in our lives has changed and how nothing has changed.To look at the skyline that will never cease to amaze me.I will visit Prague many times in the future.Everything will change and nothing will change.This is what this love is about.
Picking the Pictures
Mom & Daughter Trip to Georgian Mountains
If you follow this blog, you probably know that I currently live in Yerevan and I'm loving it. I tend to talk about how fantastic Armenia is for most of the time but, of course, living here has dark sides too. One of them is how expensive traveling gets, when you live in a landlocked country with two closed borders and an unsolved territorial conflict. This means that you can't see your loved ones as often as you wish you could. Yes, what I'm trying to say is that I miss my mom. We found a solution though.We take trips together. We meet, go to places where at least one of us has never been before, and we explore. We saw Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Istanbul together. This June, two weeks ago, we embarked on a trip to Georgia. I mean the country, not the state. We decided to stay in the capital, Tbilisi, and take day trips to discover as much of this stunning country as possible in seven days. To get to see its monasteries, vineyards and mountains.My mom and I are travelers at heart. We both did quite a lot of solo travel. Definitely enough to know, how to get by on our own. We mostly do budget travel. But as we are not getting much time together lately, we give ourselves a right to a bit of luxury from time to time. Especially when we get together in some corner of the world after weeks of counting down the days and missing each other badly. Sometimes money is just mean to be splurged on something luxurious, adventurous, something both of us would remember and enjoy. My mom and I love mountains. High peaks, vastness of space, all that jazz. So, I decided to book us a private tour to Kazbegi. As someone who usually travels on budget, I don't know much about booking private tours. OK, I know literally nothing about booking private tours. Also, I'm allergic to tour guides. Usually their talking makes me dizzy and grumpy. I did some research on what the travel industry of the Republic of Georgia offers you. It was overwhelming. The public transportation in Georgia is really underdeveloped, I mean if you don't like overcrowded mini buses and Soviet taxis there is not much to choose from. At the same time, tourism is rapidly growing. This means that everyone who has money opens a travel agency. Sounds like decision making problems to me. But, fortunately, this is a story with a happy end. I finally found a website of a company that caught my eye. It was called Explore Outdoor and looked fine enough to take my mom up to the mountains. Explore Outdoor was founded by Latvian volunteers taking part in an environmental EVS project. It is an a dynamic enterprise based in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. It aims at providing a complex offer of tourist tours as well as team-building and communication trainings, sport games, quests and competitions for corporate clients. Explore Outdoor actively promotes tourism in Georgia. They can take you from your doorstep in Tbilisi out to the country for hiking mountain trekking, climbing, diving, biking tours, helicopter tours and extreme sports, such as rafting, paragliding, mountaineering. Cultural and historically based tours are also available. The company can also organize a team building activities and trainings for you and you can be sure they are gonna be full of games and events that will raise the team spirit and trust in the group. Let them show you what Georgia has in store for you. Here is the tour offer. I liked it. So, I booked it. The car picked us up in the morning. We were traveling with three other people from England, Lithuania and Latvia. Our guide, Monta, Latvian native deeply in love with the Caucasus, took great care of us. She was incredibly friendly, knowledgeable about the region, passionate about her job. I chose Djvari/Mtskheta/Kazbegi tour as it allowed us to get as much of the day as possible.The first stop was Djvari monastery, a Georgian Orthodox church from VI century. The name literally means Monastery of the Cross. I love Djvari for its location. It is situated on a top of the rocky hill and it overlooks at the confluence of Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. Isn't it the prettiest? It was my third visit to Djvari. And yes, it still impresses me.Then we stopped at Ananuri. I was excited because I've never even heard of this place. It's a castle complex on the Aragvi river. It used to be a home to the dukes of Aragvi, a dynasty that rule the region back in XIII century. The entire complex of fortifications with two churches inside is preserved till today. A very picturesque place, definitely worth stopping by.On the way back we had a quick stroll in Mtskheta, old Georgian capital. Mtskheta is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and an UNESCO Heritage Site. It's located just twenty kilometers north from Tbilisi. If you are in Georgian capital this is a must see. It's also considered to be one of the easiest day trips from Tbilisi. There are numerous mini buses going there from Didube station. The most important point was Kazbegi. This Georgian town, currently known as Stephantsminda, is located at the foot of breathtaking Mount Kazbek, one of the highest peaks in Georgia and the entire Caucasus. Stepantsminda is located at an altitude of 1744 meters. The old name of the city doesn't come from the mountain though. It was named after Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi, a native of this town. Not only the bookworms go there though. Stepantsminda and the village of Gergeti located nearby are famous for the views. All the visitors hike or drive up to Gergeti to the Holy Trinity Church, located at the altitude of 2170 meters. Where I come from, this is consider to be very high. This jewel of Georgian sacred architecture comes from XIV century and is the only cross-domed church in the region. Near the temple there is a well-preserved medieval bell tower. Saint Nino’s church was sheltered within the walls of this church when Persians invaded Tbilisi. They say there are fantastic views of the Caucasus from there. They say. We had a bad luck. When we got to Gergeti literally everything was entirely covered in the clouds. It happens in the mountains but still I feel pretty upset when I look at the pictures of what I could have seen. Well, well, well, this means we are coming back. And I would be happy to do it again with Explore Outdoor. Explore Outdoor offered us a discount on the tour. As always, all opinions are my own.