Misgivings: from Tbilisi to Yerevan by minibus

I checked the weather maps, trip advisor, and other Internet resources for info on our trip from Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia to Yerevan, Armenia.  The weather should be warmer, drier, and a minibus called marshrutka would get us there quicker.

It was drizzling when the taxi dropped us at the Ortachala bus station. After waiting over an hour for enough riders, the driver headed out with fourteen passengers, a box of cucumbers, a box of tomatoes, two cartons of milk chocolate, suitcases, bags, and plastic sacks.

EPEBAN - Yerevan in Russian (the common language between Georgia and Armenia)
EPEBAN – Yerevan in Russian (the common language between Georgia and Armenia)
12 Women, 2 Guys, 6 hours
12 Women, 2 Guys, 6 hours

My wife sat beside me and the other guy, a Greek, from Alexandroupolis. We know that city as it was where we boarded another bus in the rain to travel to Istanbul (see Appointment In Istanbul).

Passport control was pretty simple and after a toilet / cigarette break we were on our way again.  The road was a two way highway that was the bumpiest so far. Very hard to take photos from the back of the van. We had a lunch stop about the halfway point of the trip, some thirty kilometers inside Armenia.  The mountain air was brisk but revealed snow topped mountains behind majestic cliffs.

Rustic beauty after crossing into Armenia
Rustic beauty after crossing into Armenia

Another hour down the road and everything changes to snow, snow, and deeper snow. I read about a storm that hit Eastern Turkey some days before. It must have continued on over Mount Ararat and into Armenia. Looking at the snow piled at the side of the roads, it must have been really treacherous those days.

We continued on through the snowy surroundings.  I was wondering what we would find in Yerevan.  Would it be caked and icy like we found in Erzurum? From my google map I could see we were getting pretty close to our destination and it was still snow everywhere, even some drifting.

Deep snow at the side of the road.
Deep snow at the side of the road.

As we came over one hill, there appeared halfway down the valley a snow line. Just as if it were drawn with a felt tip pen. On one side was white snow, on the other brown prairie. After dropping some of the passengers along the way, we ended our trip at the Kilikia Bus Terminal. We negotiated with a taxi driver to stop at a money exchange and then into the city to Sakharov square.

A friendly welcome as we waited for our host.
A friendly welcome as we waited for our host.

While waiting there, a cat came along and climbed the tree next to us.

Advertisement

Appointment in Istanbul

After leaving Daughter at Franklin U in Lugano, Switzerland in August, we have journeyed down the Balkans.  It was fulfilling on many levels as we discovered new freedoms, new cultures, new friends bordered by our daily life.  On Saturday, December 13, Wife and I rendezvoused with Daughter at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.  I am still so awed by all that came together.  I count at least eight journeys by train, twelve by bus, and two planes taken by Daughter.  Here we are eating a typical Turkish/Kurdish breakfast in the New Year.

Turkish/Kurdish breakfast
Turkish/Kurdish breakfast

The last leg of from Greece to Turkey was perhaps the most arduous.  We spent a few days in Alexandroupolis, Greece rather than ride the bus all the way from Thessaloniki.  Saturday, December 6, almost all shops in Alex_city were closed.  I checked internet calendars and found no holidays.  It dawned on us finally that it was St Nikolas Day. In years past we have stuffed little presents in each others shoes the night before.

Alexandroupolis was a typical fishing community with Saint Nikolas as their patron saint.  The Orthodox St. Nikolas Cathedral organized a procession through the city to the port to bless the fisherman and their boats.

St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis
St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis

The next day we were waiting at the port for the bus to Istanbul.  With the clouds building, we hoped the bus (originating in Athens) would arrive on time.  Unfortunately, the bus arrived 40 minutes late while the downpour arrived 20 minutes late.  There was no way to keep dry.  We clamored aboard.  The border crossing took nearly two hours, at least an hour standing around waiting in the wind and flurries.

International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.

This was our first overland travel at night so we saw very little of the Turkish countryside. Although we understood there were connections from the main bus depot, it was not clear how this was going to work out. Our spirits picked up as the bus conductor served snacks and hot drinks. On arriving in the main Otogar (from the French Auto Gare for bus station), we were directed to a shuttlebus for Taksim. Amazingly, after wandering all over the place, we stopped within what turned out to be a ten minute walk to our hotel. The staff settled us in and we had ourselves a nice hot tea.


Over the days, we have settled into our neighborhood. Although it is a rainy, cold season, we take advantage of the alternate days when the weather is clear to explore neighborhoods and architecture.

Our little street connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Our little street at the top connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Looking across the Golden Horn
Looking across the Golden Horn
SultanAhmet
The incredible domes of Sultan Ahmet
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.