14 September 2007

AlSo: Ani and Armenia

7-10am breakfast at the hotel! Had breakfast at 7amish Shazam! Met Jared, who whisked us into his car which was already populated by a Slovenian couple. On the way to Ani, Jared told us about Americans being a front for British in Iraq to some extent and of the relations between Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The main point I felt from the snippets of conversation I could get was that citizens are pawns of animosity and greed propogated by governments. To prove his point, he got out and warmly greeted two fellows at the gates of Ani, both of whom are Armenian.
Ani is absolutely fascinating and within a stone’s throw of the Armenian border. Modern guard towers in the distance served as backdrops to the ancient and crumbling protective walls around the ancient city. One of the churches had a number of beautiful paintings that have since been marred by petty vandalism by others before us. Bastards. What egotistical bastards. Corey, of course, had to scramble around places most people wouldn’t have thought of going, including, ahem, through a gate. That’s all I’m saying. Got back to the lion gate after 2 ½ hours of exploring, including up to a castle that we only later learned was forbidden, and into Jared’s car with the gas meter reading “E” 45 lonely kilometers from Kars. Sometimes being adept at praying would help. On the way home, Jared told us about the obligatory 15 month army stint for all men and possible career thereafter, the army’s relative trustworthiness compared to the police, how he wishes that women would be allowed into the army so that the job wasn’t so boring, and his hopes for his son to grow up to be an engineer or a pharmacist. Back in Kars, we went to Kars Castle which we had read we shouldn’t miss but which was actually a little disappointing. Maybe it was something about not being crumbling or more than 1000 years old. We high-tailed it to the bus to Erzurum for yet another transportational adventure. The driver was crazy! He and some others got stopped randomly by traffic police along the highway where it seemed we might be forced to wile away the remainder of our lives until a few rather quick movements which looked very much like a bribe from where we were standing took place, allowing us on our merry way. A few of the towns en route had ski shops, and one also included a guy HOLDING a pair of skis which certainly got Corey’s excitement rating up. By the time we got withint Erzurum’s city limits, iut was nearing dusk and therefore the break of fasting. If the driver had been a little nutty before, he went positively berserk now. As Corey so elegantly puts it, when we got into the otogar,the driver just sort of stopped driving. He blasted into the parking space at top speed, seeming to gun it for 2 peds who scrambled to get out of the way. Justin got tickets for Ankara the next evening and we hoofed it to town. We found Dede Hotel. The proprietor, Adem Dede, is a crack-up! We had a dinner of the best lentil soup to date and were told that our hopes for pide would not find realization during Ramadan. Justin and I had the BEST pistachio and chocolate ice cream EVER. Seriously. Ice cream will never be that good again. Boy, Erzurum is serious about its pastries and sweets; there is at least one sweet shop on every block downtown. Justin and Corey were hankering for beer, but such was not to be seen in Erzurum. Our hour-long treasure hunt for beer yielded nothing but sightings of a few liquor stores shut tight for the duration of Ramadan. We found a cay place instead next to the central mosque and enjoyed it and the live music that accompanied it. So it wasn’t a bar, but we shut the place down anyway. That’s how we roll.

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