Couchsurfing and couchsurfers shaped my time in Armenia, and I couchsurfed the nicest place I’ve couchsurfed yet – a penthouse apartment with a 13th floor view of Yerevan and all the way out to Mount Ararat, all to myself. My couchsurf host picked me up at the airport and took me to his apartment, gave me the keys and some fruits, and then left to stay with his parents.
Through him I met other Armenian local hosts, and I convinced one to accompany me to the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and watch Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Another was showing around a Russian couple who later hitchhiked with me to Georgia and around Tbilisi. We all met for a couchsurf bbq on the balcony of my apartment, and ate kilos of chicken and bread, in true Armenian style.
I hitchhiked one taxi on my way from Khor Virap monastery, which I never considered trying before, but he took me to the nearest bus stop, without charging me, and then waited 45 minutes with me in the sun til the bus arrived. On another day I took local buses to nearby Garni pagan temple and Gerhard stone church, and I met a different Russian couple who told me to follow them to Etchmiadzin. They spoke Russian and could find the right buses and change or get off at the right places, so I followed them to the headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church and managed to get back without them.
I also couchsurfed in the little Switzerland of Armenia, a small city called Dilijan, with a Russian host. Its amazing how useful and necessary Russian language is here, and useless English is, so its been a tactic of mine to make friends with Russians on the road. I also made some friends through tango dancing, after attending a milonga in Yerevan. The DJ there, who knows a friend of a friend, offered to take me and the Russian couchsurfers on a roadtrip to see some beautiful places in the Armenian countryside. We made a couple of hikes, one to a beautiful river/waterfall canyon whose name I can’t remember, and then Gosh Lake, where I lost the other three for 3 hours in a failed mission to go apple picking.
We visited Sevan Lake and ate delicious fresh fish, and visited a lot of stone churches and old monasteries. I thought I saw a lot of hitchhikers on the road, but they signaled to cars by holding both their arms up and spread to the side. I later learned those are fishermen trying to sell a catch, and the space between their hands signifies the size of the fish.
Hitchhiking from Dilijan to Georgia was a breeze, especially with the help of my Russian translators, but our first driver spoke terrible Russian and no English, and somehow we ended up an hour out of the way trying to visit yet another stone church in the middle of a forest. Things got weird when he tried to buy a 6 pack of beer at noon to take with to the church, so we decided to try our luck with another car. After 5 cars and never waiting for more than 3 minutes, we made it to Tbilisi, where I’ve decided to take a break from couchsurfing and hitchhiking.