Armenia or Azerbaijan?

What do we have to expect in Armenia?

Frankly, it was more or less just a transit country for us to get to the Iran. But soon we figured out we could easily stay in Armenia for three weeks. Not because the driving in this mountain country is so much fun (mountains = curves = fun) also because people are incredibly friendly and there are so many places to visit. We know that since we met Wolfgang at Dreamriders garage who is in Armenia for 2 weeks and recommended tons of places to visit and a place to stay close to Yerewan. A camp spot in Goght, founded by a wonderful Dutch couple 4 years ago. As we were eager to visit most of the recommended spots we only stayed one night and headed to lake Sevan. Some churches from 1st to 4th century on the way made us stop a couple of times before we finally stopped at a beautiful spot at the lake.

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Actually we just wanted to snack our watermelon, but the sun, the lake, the 170 km we covered that day made us set up our tent to stay overnight. 10 degrees that night surprised us a bit, but we were ready for the border crossing. Already Iran? No, we approached the border of the Republic of Bergkarabach or Artsakh, which claims to be independent. Mostly Armenians live here and the region is functioning as a part of Armenia. Azerbaijan still does not accept the fact and the conflict is still ongoing. The regions close to the border show the leftovers of the military actions of the younger past. Aware of the history, we enjoyed the beautiful roads uphill, downhill, alongside a riverbank and the first gravel road since we geared our bikes with our off-road tires. Good choice. We walked into the Art Cafe in Stepanakert, the capital of Bergkarabach, to grab some food and luckily they also offered rooms for a fair rate. Great Armenian food and some preparations for the the next border crossing into Iran kept us busy that evening. The uncertainty, if we can enter the Iran was caused by a released message from ADAC earlier last week, that motorbikes of American brand and over 250cc are not allowed to be brought into the country anymore. Let’s give it a shot! The 260km down to the Iranian border took us longer than we expected but rewarded us with the most beautiful ride of the trip so far. Maybe you get a picture of it.

The last Dram (currency Armenia) were spend for gas and Kinder Bueno (haven’t had that since we started in May). We gave the wine we got from Koba in Georgia to the guys at the gas station (Sorry for that Koba) and put the book „Couchsurfing in Iran“ in the trash bin (sorry Stephan Orth, the book is really helpful) as it could cause trouble when entering Iran and then we were ready to go. Checking out from Armenia wasn’t a big deal, but entering Iran an adventure.

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Hello from Iran! 🇮🇷

We have been driving around in Iran for almost 2000km and every day has been fantastic. The Iranians are welcoming us with open arms, chai and big smiles wherever we are!

We are having a great time chatting with the people, driving around the many mountains, enjoying tasty meals, tea, fresh juices, the daily watermelon, going for a dip in one of the many lakes, visiting historical sites, chilling at river sides, discovering stunning camp spots, getting dirty driving off-road, getting lost driving off-road, keeping up with the incredible heat in the desert and just enjoying our trip in this beautiful country!

Besides the hundreds of selfies and pictures taken off and with us, also we have taken many pictures and documented our trip however we can’t upload these as the photo and data upload for some reason is blocked. We are still writing the blog and once we are in a place the upload will be possible again, will be back on here in usual manner!

Click here to see where we are and follow our route!

Until then a big „salam“ from Shiras, in the South of Iran where we are at the moment.

Madloba Georgia

Having serviced the bikes we were ready to keep going further Southeast. However before we decided to stay a few more days in Georgia, enjoying stunning mountain roads, beautiful sights and the incredible hospitality from the people living here.

Leaving Rustavi we drove about 250km through the mountains up to 2500m above sea level to visit Vardsia a UNESCO world heritage site. The monastery was built into a mountain in the 13th century included a fresh water spring, a church and offered incredible views and interesting history.

On the way we were quite amazed by the beauty of the mountain range and enjoyed driving the perfect curvy roads up and down.

We had a quick lunch break at the lake Paravani and a bit of off-road driving around it.

About 20km before Vardsia it started raining quite heavily so we looked for a place to get shelter and stay for the night. Luckily we saw a sign guesthouse Mtkavi. We followed the signs riding through a muddy road up a hill and were lucky enough Koban a very friendly and funny guy had a room for us to stay. Even more we got a fantastic dinner all made from „the house“ and all organic. Even the wine was homemade and Natalie just didn’t stop serve more dishes accompanied by wine and fresh water from the spring to drink.

What a feast, we rolled into the bed after and had a very tight sleep in the quietness of the valley.

After visiting the monastery we were heading for Armenia. Going to spend our last Laris at a gas station a Mercedes car showed up next to us and we were invited to have a coffee. Surprisingly the driver spoke German. Merujan, a super friendly Handwerksmeister who lives with his parents in Schwerin and is visiting his family in Georgia invited us to follow him to his grandmothers house. Gladly we did and met his parents, grandmother and friends.

We’re so grateful for the hospitality and the wonderful time in Ninozminda we had. We learnt a lot about Armenian traditions and history, enjoyed incredible tasty food once again, nice Cognac too and were even offered to stay for the night. Thank you so much – hope to see you guys in Hamburg!

The next day we drove to direction Armenia and got check how our bikes and new tyres are working on muddy and difficult road conditions up to the Armenian border. The check out leaving Georgia went smooth, however we faced a 2 hours delay at the Armenien boarder – lots of paperwork to be done – but were once again rewarded for the hassle by stunning views, fun riding, sunny weather on our way to Yerevan, the Armenian capital. We checked in to a guesthouse, did some laundry and had the first Armenian beer.

Now it’s time to discover Armenia for a bit before heading to Iran.

See here where we are and how we got here.

Back on track

3 weeks of rest for our bikes, 3 weeks of time-out for us.

We are happy to be back in Georgia, happy to be re-united with our motorbikes which stayed safe and sound at KTM Georgia.

Today we got the tyres changed, new break pads mounted, oil changed and the bikes are ready to go. Big props to Lewan from KTM Georgia for all the support and help!

A bit of refreshment for our gear, sorting the equipment and planning the route was the task for later today.

The sweat, dust and dirt from 8500km sat inside the helmets which got a good clean as well as the boots and gloves.

The next few days we will be driving around in Gerogia before heading to Armenia, slowly making our way to Iran, the next milestone on our trip.

We are looking forward to the next adventures, beautiful sights, friendly encounters, panoramic views, tasty food, dirt roads, mountains, desert, rivers and much more to come and will be back blogging on here in usual manner.

Cheers!

So close but so different – Georgia

We’ve already crossed some borders during our tour. Most of them used to be ones and are nowadays just theoretical lines on a map. Cultural differences are often marginal. Sure the languages differ, architecture varies and cuisine changes. In the Baltic’s that happened but not in a way we experienced from Russia to Georgia now. The words don’t sound so harsh to us anymore, a little bit scratchy, but more melodic. The food changed to more diverse dishes with more and different herbs and flavors. The music has an oriental touch. And the letters are completely different. It’s nice when there is the translation stated right away…

Dill, used everywhere in Russia, changed to coriander, Pelmeni are Khinkali, and nobody orders his food just for himself. If only one person orders, everybody at the table gets a plate and the dish is placed in the middle for sharing. Taxis drive as bad/fast as in Moscow, but people are even (almost not possible) a little bit more helpful and friendly than in Russia. Everyone seems to be up for a chat. Everyone is caring.

Apart from the above observations we got to enjoy three days in picturesque Tiflis, Georgia’s capital which is surrounded by mountains and can be visited by a cable car. Its old town with the wooden houses and old buildings is very charming.

Jens and Andre from the Black Forest in Southwest Germany validated these impressions to be true. We met them at the Russian border drove side by side to Tiflis and met them for watching football together.

They are traveling on their Yamaha Teneres and started their trip almost at the same day we did. They plan outstanding things with their bikes, so please check out their website as well. See ya in India 🙂

We are not heading further South now as we both interrupt our trip. Our bikes are parked in a garage in Tiflis. Another proof of the Georgian hospitality, in this case from Slava and his team of KTM Georgia. This break wouldn’t be possible without their kindness and help which is not a matter of course.

In three weeks we’re both returning to Tiflis and keep going on our route through Armenia and Iran in direction of India. We’ll try to keep you entertained with some videos of the recent 8 weeks and more than entertained after we returned on our bikes. Thanks for reading our blog.

To be continued…

From the sea to the summit

We wanted to stay in Sochi for a bit of leisure and relaxing with a beach day or two. Also we were hoping for a nice match in the Fisht-Stadium. But for some reason not much is relaxed though. We had to stay in the hostel more or less for half a day because heavy rain forced us to before going to explore the city and watch Brazil being sent home by the brilliantly performing team from Belgium later that day. Melting hot temperatures replaced the refreshing rain in the afternoon and not the Brazilians filled the streets with sadness and disappointment but the little number of Argentinians celebrated the elimination of the Selecao more than a victory of their own squad. What a rivalry!

Daniel visited Sochi 10 years ago, before the Olympics and the World Cup and nothing but the train station and the old port remind of the city from 2008. Condominiums, hotels, parks, malls, cafes everywhere and a modern infrastructure (Some busses from 1970 are still on duty, but these were already old 10 years ago).

The Olympic Park with most of the Olympic facilities, the stadium and the Formula 1 racetrack are not even in Sochi and a 45 minutes train ride out of the city to the premises of Adler town, but are really breathtaking without a doubt.

The match Russia vs. Croatia really brought us close to a heart attack but was worth every penny and for us the final match we think we deserved to watch! 😉

The relaxing part shouldn’t be missed out and we decided to leave Sochi for another place along the black sea coast before we go around the Caucasus Mountains into Georgia. Dederkoy was the village of our choice and two days at the beach really gave us what we craved for.

The Shashlik (always tasty, always keep it in mind when you only get a Russian menu somewhere and don’t have any clue what is on there) with the homemade wine and bread was simple, but Arun, Sergey and Levan showed their amazing hospitality, thanks for that slight headache the next day guys.

The next three days are pretty easy summarized. Stand up, sweat, drive, sweat, refuel, sweat, drink, drink, drink, sweat, drive, eat, sweat, sleep, sweat. Three times and we arrived in Vladikavkas the last town before entering Georgia.

Two encounters are relevant to be mentioned. Natalia, a 55 year old woman, born in Münster, who works in the gas station near Armavir who still travels to Germany twice a year to visit her son Daniel and her granddaughter Anna-Maria. She was filled with joy and super happy to speak a few words in German with us. And Nikolai from the Krim, we passed him on his Yamaha WR450 from ancient times and met him at a break short after. He’s on his way to Batumi in Georgia in his two weeks holiday. Approximately 3000 kilometers round trip. Even we felt overequipped in that moment…

We almost forgot, that we entered the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. This region has a pretty turbulent history in the recent 30 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Republic and before, but still belongs to Russia. Passport control, armed soldiers around, but no bad feeling at all. The way to Vladikavkas was an easy one and left us about 30 kilometers to the border. Shouldn’t take longer than an hour unless cars line up for more than 3 kilometers – Shit, we might have gotten up earlier. It didn’t take long until the driver of the car with Georgian licence plate and „Fliesenleger Harder“ printed on his rear window insinuated that we can pass the line on the right. We weren’t sure and started to go until we reached an police officer who also gave us a sign to go on. It still took us more than an hour to go through customs and passport control, but it would have taken us literally a day if we hadn’t passed all cars. The whole process ran surprisingly smooth. No questions about registration, no speed violations no bag check, this was it – this was Russia.

What can we expect from the Georgian immigration? Another hour or two, vehicle checkpoint, customs? 10 minutes later we had our stamp and were ready to go. Finally we were able to enjoy the stunning environment of the Caucasian Mountains around us and couldn’t wait to relish the ride and the view in Georgia. What a beautiful windy road it is!

This is our route to the capital city of Georgia, Tiflis or Tbilisi.

Our World Cup is over – Watch what we watched!

Sochi was supposed to be our last stop in Russia unless there’s no ferry from here to Trabzon (Turkey) or Batumi (Georgia). It’s not and costs us a detour of 1000 kilometers to the next open border to Georgia. No big deal. We don’t mind staying in Russia a bit longer. What is definitely over for us is the World Cup 2018. We had tickets for 7 games in 5 cities in 6 different stadiums. Here are our impressions: