Travel brings up a lot of mystifying emotions. How could I feel genuinely connected to the people of Armenia, even without any prior knowledge of their historic plight? Or with the man I spent an evening with deep in eastern Turkey, proprietor of a secretive a bar in a city of strict Islam? Sadness for the Roma people throughout the Balkans, who after centuries have not yet found a home where people treat them as equals? Why do I feel such intense pride for Yotsko, my new Macedonian friend I met in Plovdiv, Bulgaria? Such staunch camaraderie with the Armenian border guards who, on my birthday, decided to not only waive all border fees, but then pay for hotels, meals, and everything else for the next few days. In Mostar, I caught feelings for the war-injured junkie who showed me through a bullet-hole-ridden decaying and abandoned bank tower used as a sniper den during the Bosnian War. I felt completely a part of the Istanbul family who showed such concern at my cold, supplying me with medication, chocolate, and sincere concern every minute I was there. This is all within just the last few weeks. I haven’t mentioned the Georgians that are already my friends within the first 24 hours of being here in Tbilisi. Or, even how I got to Tbilisi.
You may remember my good friend Larissa, the Blonde Gypsy, from such adventures as “just jump in General Tito’s bath and hold the shower head like you’re making an important phone call“. Together, we are incorrigible. When I heard that Larissa would be back in Europe, I prepared for another joust of incorrigible-ness. We were reunited in our favourite section of Europe – the Balkans – this time in Bosnia. The reunion was celebrated over a fine bottle of organic Rakija, with appropriate meze. By the next morning, we had decided to drive my 350 Euro, twenty year old, Renault hatchback – from Sarajevo, Bosnia to Tbilisi, Georgia. Four thousand kilometers. From Europe, to Asia. The long way. We would head off the next day, by “around 11 or 12, I guess”.
It didn’t seem the slightest bit ridiculous.
Nancy, the plucky Renault Clio, has indeed been driven for another four thousand clicks. Phillipa held shotgun and Larissa was in my rear vision mirror, keeping the back seat simultaneously warm and cool, all the way from Mostar, to Kutaisi, Georgia – the prologue and epilogue towns of the main event. We tripped through Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia. At one point, according to our GPS, we accidentally skirted across to a remote part of Azerbaijan. Sorry, my bad.
Remote highways. Narrow and bumpy back roads kilometers above the earth. Giant metropolis’s, dusty unknown towns. Lush forests and barren other-worldly landscapes. Rain, sunshine, heat, snow and cold. It’s been a month of incredible diversity of cultures, people, food, and experiences. I couldn’t count the number of kind gestures, meals, phone numbers, and simple hand shakes I’ve been offered. From people of varying ethnicity’s, religions, and cultures. It was a wild ride. We arrived safe and unscathed in the Caucasus – a part of the world I can’t believe I’m in, and plan on spending enough time here to do it justice.
After around 11,000km’s on the road, it’s time to slow it down, and get to know a place.
The words and photos here on this page may be few, but the experiences on this road trip were many.
It was either this brief article, or a novel.
PPS, I will be writing a few destination specific articles on some of the more incredible sites and experiences from the last month. I would love it if you would choose to have the next article sent to your email. My email followers are my favourite followers. You get larger photos, and you will have a direct line to me. You will never get spam, and I will never share your email address with anyone.