03 October 2013

Cavorting in the Caucasus: Armenian Hospitality

They say that Armenian hospitality is legendary. Well, I have to say, that it is true. I encountered so many people, both travelers and locals alike, and I am very much impressed by how open and hospitable people are in the Caucasus. For me, this whole experience started when I was still not in Armenia. In fact, I witnessed Armenian hospitality when I was still in Austria, when I was waiting for my flight to Yerevan in Vienna Airport.

I was waiting at my Gate. My flight was departing late at night, at 22:20, arriving in Yerevan at 3:35 the day after. Everyone was pretty much tired and wanted to enter the plane as soon as they can so that they can catch a little sleep. I was also getting impatient, but I was just quiet and reading my book. I had my passport out with me; I was clutching it with my hand.

There was a lady right next to me, with a little toddler. She was on the phone, and she was speaking English, and based on what I overheard, she was talking to a representative of Amazon.com, as she was trying to return an item. After the phone call finished, she was talking to her child, and then allowed her child to play with the tablet she was carrying. When the tablet emitted some noise due to the program the child was using, I turned me head due to the simple fact that it grabbed my attention, and she immediately asked me if I was bothered by the sound.

I said no.

That pretty much started a conversation between us. She saw my passport, and asked why out of all places a Filipino would want to visit Armenia. I told her my background, how I love traveling, how I am based in Berlin now, which means that Armenia is closer than if I were to be coming from the Philippines, and that I wanted to visit 100 countries before I die. Armenia would be my 32nd. We kept on chatting; she got to know that I was traveling alone.

And then it happened. She told me that her friends would be picking her up from the airport, as well as her child. She said that she would send a text message to her friends to see if they have an extra spot in the car so that they can take me to my hostel. And sure enough, a positive response came. I figured, since I wasn't in a hurry anyway, since my flight arrives 3:35 and I don't have to be anywhere anyway, since the hostel won't allow me to check in until 14:00 anyway, I figured it wouldn't hurt.

We exchanged numbers, and basically helped each other during the flight. She had plenty of luggage, so I helped her carry some. After all, I only had a small backpack with me, as my large backpack was already checked in.

When we arrived in Yerevan, I waited for her to pick up all of her luggage. I met her nephew, who met us at the airport, and spoke only Armenian and Russian, two languages I have no knowledge about. Later on, her friend showed up, she spoke English, and I rode into her car, while the lady (her name was Lianna, and she lives in Washington DC) and her daughter rode with her nephew. They had so much luggage hence two cars were needed to transport them all. I later learned that Armenians travel like the Filipinos. They just have a lot of luggage around, because when one family member returns, there should be something for everyone in the extended family.

Anyway, I helped Lianna and her kid with their luggage. We drove from the airport to the city center; the airport was about 20 minutes away. I got to see what a former Soviet apartment looked like. From the outside, they don't look pretty, but the inside is great! I carried some of their suitcases five flights of stairs to the top floor. Later on, they then took me to my hostel, so I was able to save taxi money. Her nephew took me to my hostel, and even though we couldn't communicate with each other, it was overall a pleasant experience. Lots of gestures and facial expressions were used in my trip.

That's something I miss already. The Caucasus has been my best, and most challenging trip, so far. There were things I didn't like (like the amount of smoking the people there do), but their level of hospitality puts Filipino hospitality to shame.

2 comments:

  1. That's really great to know for travelers! Helpful and friendly locals make any trip far more pleasant. You feel like you are getting a good glimpse into their lives too, if they are willing to open a bit.

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    Replies
    1. Zhu,

      Yes, I totally agree. This was a trip that was largely made pleasant due to the numerous instances of locals willing to help, even though I didn't speak a word of Armenian nor Georgian.

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