21 September 2013

When Suddenly You Don't Know how to Read

I am writing this article in Georgia; I am in Kazbegi, near the Russian border, and I have 7 more days to go before I fly back to Berlin. This 16-day vacation has been the best, and most challenging, trip so far. I just booked a round-trip ticket to Yerevan and arrived here with no concrete plans whatsoever. Anyway, I am not done yet with this trip, so I won't talk about my itinerary yet, but there is one thing I want to write about today, and that is about the fact that I cannot read anything in these two countries, Armenia and Georgia. And that is tough.

See, both Armenia and Georgia use alphabets that are hard to read. Armenia uses the Armenian alphabet, while Georgia uses the Georgian alphabet. They were both devised by a saint back in the 400s AD. So as a foreigner in the region, everything is hard because all the letters look like they are all similar.

See, for me, not speaking the language is actually not a big deal. When I was in South America, I wasn't fluent in Spanish; I can only fake it. When I was in Bulgaria, I didn't know how to speak Bulgarian, but at least I can read Cyrillic. For me, reading is more important than speaking, as even though I may not be able to carry on a conversation with a local, if I can read, at least I can know whether the bus is indeed going toward the direction I want just by reading the signs.

But that is impossible here in Georgia and Armenia. So since I cannot read the signs, I have to rely on my other senses. It almost feels like I am blind. Just imagine wanting to find the van going to Tbilisi and not seeing it, even though it might be parked right in front of you, just because you cannot recognize the sign propped up at the windshield. Also, when you're on the road, you see road signs, but cannot check with your map to determine whether you're riding on the correct destination because you cannot even recognize what is the name of the upcoming town.

So yeah, this trip is a difficult one. It raises the bar up higher, definitely. I thought that Guatemala was such a challenging trip, but this one is on a whole new level. That being said, I am enjoying it. The Caucasus has so many things to offer that it definitely puts me in my element. I think I've lost count how many mountains I have trekked. But I'll talk about that later. And yes, there are spectacular photos to come with it.


  1. I hear you and I know how it feels! Happened to me in Greece (didn't care much, I was a teen...) and more recently in Thailand. In China, even if there are some ideograms I don't know, I get the meaning... but in Thailand I was hopeless and lost! Feels weird, eh!

    1. Zhu,

      Ah, I could imagine Thailand would be the same. Though I find it surprising that somehow, that doesn't prevent Thailand from being a very popular destination.