Picto Diary - Armenia with MotoDiscovery - Pics and words by Steve Taylor

Picture of Joseph Stalin as a young boy, at a time when he entered Tiflis seminary.
Above:  Young Stalin.
Soso (Young Stalin) suffered bitterly, terrified of the drunk Beso (his father).  "My Soso was a very sensitive child," reports Keke (Stalin's mother).  "As soon as he heard the sound of his father's singing balaam-balaam from the street, he'd immediately run to me asking if he could go and wait at our neighbours until his father fell asleep."
Crazy Beso now spent so much on drink that he even had to sell his belt - and, explained Stalin later, "a Georgian has to bee in desperate straits to sell his belt."  The more she despised Beso, the more Keke spoiled Soso:  "I always wrapped him up warmly with his woollen scarf.  He for his part loved me very much too.  When he saw the drunken father, his eyes filled with tears, his lips turned blue and he cuddled me and begged me to hide him."
Beso was violent to both Keke and Soso.  A son was the pride of a Georgian man, but perhaps Soso had come to represent a husband's greatest humiliation if the evil tongues were right after all (that Beso wasn't Stalin's father).  Once Beso threw Stalin so hard to the floor that there was blood in the child's urine for days.  "Undeserved beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as the father himself," believed his schoolmate Josef Iremashvili, who published his memoirs.  It was through his father "that he learned to hate people."  Young Davrichewy recalls how Keke "surrounded him with maternal love and defended him against all comers," while Beso treated him "like a dog beating him for nothing."
Chapter 2, "Young Stalin,"  Simon Sebag Montefiore
On the road to Baku....
Above:  TIMDT checks out ancient, 8th century Armenian church along the route from Gyumri to Yerevan, Armenia.  Brightness to the right is sun coming in from open, long since destroyed, dome.
Above the three windows in the apse is a partial fresco dating to the 7th century. 
Above:  Bikes and riders at rest stop.  On the road to Baku.  Short ride today from Gyumri to Yerevan.  Terrain is grass covered steppe like landscape with outline of high mountain ranges in the distance on either side.
As we rode (TIMDT pillion) I frequently glanced in a direction, 2 o'clock, to see if I could capture the outlines of Mt. Ararat.  It wasn't until around 20 kilometers outside of Yerevan, however, that the big mountain, over 5000 meters in elevation, loomed.  The atmosphere was hazy, but I could see the mountain and its contours fairly clearly.  I thought about stopping to capture an image, but, coming into a strange town, and riding without GPS, I wanted to stay close to the group.  With TIMDT on the back I didn't want to do a "goose chase" looking for the hotel in a strange city.  Surely, I'd get a chance to "image" the famed mountain during our two night stay in Yerevan.
Ararat is a sacred mountain to Armenians, but has little significance to Turks.  Yet because of the closed border between Turkey and Armenia, Armenians have no access to the mountain, located in Turkey, other than seeing it loom over their capital city.
Above:  Bar at Tufenkian Hotel, Yerevan, Armenia.
Bartender Q and A:
The Bishop:  Will the border between Turkey and Armenia ever be opened?
BT:  (good English, low 30's, married, one child):  I don't think so.  There is too much bad history.  We are Christian and our neighbors on either side of us are Muslim.  They want to kill us.
The Bishop:  Is there compulsory military service in Armenia?
BT:  Yes.  Boys must serve three years.  Girls can join and do non combat jobs, but it is not compulsory for them.
We Armenians are always on our guard.  We are on edge.  Fighting on the border with Azerbaijan could start any time.  Regularly there are incidents where they kill our troops.
Bishop:  What is Arminia's relationship with Israel, considering Turkey has a strong connection with Israel?
BT:  Not good.  Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide.  They feel that the Holocaust should be the only genocide that is recognized. 
Bishop:  How important is the large Armenian diaspora?
BT:  The diaspora is very important.  Armenians abroad... Charles Aznavour, Kirk Kerkorian and many others contribute to Armenia.  We are embarrassed by Kim Kardashian. 
Above:  Tavern Yerevan.  Dinner.
Above:  Bread plate and one of the many appetizers placed on the table before arrival of the main course.
Above:  Beef kofta and peas.
Above:  Armenian red.
Above:  Spontaneous boogy by restaurant patrons, including some of our group, to Armenian folk music.  Locals were happy to see us gringos dancing and were eager to offer dancing tips.  Very festive atmosphere!
The music highlighted Armenia's ambiguous location, neither Europe, nor Asia.  While Armenians are Christian, and while their life-style practices seem orientated towards European life, their folk music is decidedly "Eastern" in sound and rhythm. 
Located in the southern Caucusus, with Asian Anatolia on the west and Moslem Azerbaijan on the east, it seems hard to categorize, at least from a cartographer's point of view, Armenia as Europe.
Above:  Uh... waiter... could you please itemize this bill?

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