Winter and other musings
Views of Tbilisi outskirts
Well, we've officially been in Georgia for around 6 months now and I can say that I truly do love this place. The people, the food, the culture, and the history still astound me every time we go out. With every location though, there are of course downsides and this place has its issues for sure. We heard an anecdote from another traveler when we first arrived that Georgians can really be stubborn about certain things (just like any other person) but specifically in this case about real estate. The anecdote was along the lines of "it doesn't matter what a place is worth, the price is set by what a person has been told they should expect to get". Over and over, you will see places for rent that are just beyond ridiculous for pricing in a country where you have to deal with power outages and water outages almost weekly in parts of the city; where the average monthly wage for a Georgian is around 1250gel or 475usd. Whats that? You want a 2 bedroom place? In a desirable location? That will be $2000usd please! If you're lucky it may even have a stove! Obviously, this has been caused by the recent and massive influx of Russians due to the war so of course there should be price increases but this is beyond any normal demand. If people are getting these ridiculous prices, then I guess great for them, but over and over you can see places advertised for months on end with no change to pricing. This is where the anecdote comes in, you see, they've been told to expect $2000usd because someones uncles, mothers, second cousin got that 2 weeks ago so you should too. And so, it sits.....frustrating beyond belief as it's definitely pushing people out of the country at least in the short term as they can no longer afford the prices.
Our now weekly khinkali meal with a side of nigvziani badrijani (stuffed eggplant)
The other major downside is that winter is a lot more 'wintery' then we expected. It's not even bad honestly, it is above 0 every single day and the sun shines quite a bit but fall and spring are windy beyond comprehension which causes +3 to definitely feel like -10...and when you're walking everywhere it's just a rough reminder of Canadian winters and what we were trying to escape.
A beautiful street in the Marjanishvili district of Tbilisi
I don't mean to come off as unappreciative of our current home though, as we've absolutely loved our time here. The history is evident everywhere and the people are very friendly; getting around with just english can be a bit of a trial in certain areas but for the most part you'll be able to get by with a smile and a gamarjoba (hello) and madloba (thank you). With our time coming to an end in Georgia as well, it makes us realize that we have not done near as much as we had hoped while we were here. There are so many sites that we're leaving undiscovered but that just means a return trip is probably in the cards.
Our first views of Armenia
Armenia is one of those countries that you hear about on the news and then forget about it. You don't actually think that you'll ever get a chance to visit it but you think maybe one day... It is one of those countries that is hard to get to and way too far away so it was always a relegated option in our travel plans. It wasn't until I started to look into Georgia that a few photographers from Armenia started to pop up in my views and really brought Armenia to the forefront of my mind. What I saw was amazing and I decided we had to see it.
Living in Georgia, expats go to Armenia for day trips...usually to reset their 365 day visa clock in Georgia. You pay 50 dollars to get a taxi to take you to the border, walk across into Armenia and then back into Georgia and you get to stay another year in Georgia; it takes an afternoon. We had no such plans to turn around that quickly as we had a lot to see in our 5 day itinerary in Armenia.
Behind Haghpat Monastery looking at the main building
With our ride all figured out, we started the trek to Armenia and had plans to stop at every monastery and historical site along the way (THIS IS A LOT) and quickly realized that unless we planned to do a 275km trip in 2 days we would not be able to see all the sites, so we decided on Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries. These are 2 of the most important monasteries in Armenia and just happen to be directly on the road to Yerevan from Tbilisi.
Raeleen at the entrance in front of Haghpat
We definitely got lost in the town leading to Haghpat and ended up parking on a road and walked the rest of the way to the monastery. It was only a short 10 minute walk but it meant we got to see a little of the surrounding town; definitely a lot more rural feeling than any small Canadian town. As we had arrived in the middle of January, the locations are almost completely devoid of other tourists and you get a bit more of a realistic feeling of life around a popular tourist site. The mountains that seem to cover the entire country of Armenia are so beautiful and rugged as well.