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  • Writer's pictureMateusz Górecki

Armenian hell

10:15 p.m. After a few hours of flying, you disembark on Georgian soil. It is December 22. You can still turn back. Go to the city. Buy a bottle of wine. Sleep in comfort, or... move on for your dreams. The non-functioning lamps on the road, making the entire, nearby area bathed in a dark blue gloom, force you to make your first expense.10 lari shelled out of your traveling resources.

A mashrutka, later, a couchette, on a coal-powered train, 6 hours and you are already transferred to the somewhat gloomy city where, years ago, Comrade Stalin- Gori was born, always alive. In the apartment with breakfast, Kasia, a daily employee of the Embassy in Tbilisi, is already waiting for you. Tired after a sleepless night, you fall on the bed and fall asleep. You know you need to gain strength, because tomorrow you start the "real battle of the route." You devote the next few hours to the Stalin Museum, the nearby Zoo, testing Georgian cuisine with chinkali at the forefront and immersing yourself in the charms of homemade wine.

On the dial of your watch the hands show 6:27 a.m. Slipping on the icy, potholed sidewalks you come to a crowded train station. You throw 50 tetri (1 zloty) on the ticket counter and board the slowly moving train - direction Tbilisi. You get a lovely seat next to a gentleman holding a cage with two roosters, a babushka smuggling pipes without an excise tax and two soldiers, carrying something like huge bags of groats. A seat meant for one person is occupied by three, after all, collectivism and social, post-Soviet solidarity must be respected.

Everything, so far, has been just a prelude to the real journey. After your last alloyed trip to Croatia, you stated that never again would you stand by the side of the road with your thumb outstretched, with the rest of you having said it a thousand times, after Morocco, Australia, the Balkans. Hitchhiking, however, is a toxic relationship. On the one hand, you hate it, as you stand for another hour in the dust/mud/rain/irritating sun/spooky cold-cross out the right ones. On the other hand, you love the energy you get from meeting all these amazing people, stealing their life stories and emotions.

Saving your strength. You board a disheveled mashrutka to get out to the suburbs of the capital. You reach the village of Marneuli. Here you have to visit two places. The first is a nearby liquor store, where you obtain an unusual item called a marker. The second place is the local... dumpster, where you dig out a rectangular piece of cardboard. These two items are brilliant parts of the trip. Why? Because they are the means by which you can get anywhere you dream of going. One sign, an outstretched hand and you go, you conquer, you discover !

It's easier than you think, 2 hours, four cars, and another, this time an Armenian stamp in your passport. A couple of transfers, without much trouble you reach Vanadzor, from where you catch a hitch going straight to Yerevan. As it turns out later you are on the best way to hell, but it has long ...frozen.

You look with increasing anxiety out the car window. The snow that was supposed to lie only in the high mountains is not going to let go, along with the next kilometers. You have in your mind the fierce sun warming you in Georgia.

You see the "Yerewan" sign, a few minutes later you arrive at the train station. You look in disbelief at the dash, the thermometer you found, which stopped at the magic point of -25, evening is approaching, for good measure the couchsurfer you had arranged to spend the night with gives no sign of life... The real journey has begun!

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