The Silky Way Adventure
Slices of Armenia
Prologue – And so it started
I had been in Yerevan for a week. I don’t like spending time only in the capital city of a country, and if possible, I try not to start with it. But this time, we had gotten a direct ride to Yerevan with a Turkish truck. Right at the beginning of our stay, I learned that a jam session was scheduled for the following Sunday, in a pub, with other musicians and a few couchsurfers. I heard of a guitar player who was supposed to come along.
Since it’s not very polite to stay at the same place for too long, and even if it wouldhave been fine with our very flexible and open-minded host, Alfie and Küç, my travel mates since Turkey, had started having a look at other profiles on the website. Both of them mentioned an interesting character, a « hippie living 25 km away from Yerevan ». And soon enough, I learned that this guy and the guitar player were one and the same person. I liked the idea of going away from the city for a while, and decided to wait for the jam session to ask in person if I could maybe stay at this hippie guy’s place, rather than writing him a couch request through the website.
And it was Sunday. I met with Tigran, my new guitarist friend who was organising the jam session and wanted us to play together before the event started. Soon, a thin bearded guy in a striped jumper that was too big for him, wearing long hair attached in a ponytail, sat down with us and a guitar. His name was Artyom.
“Where are you from? he asked.
- France, I said.
- Sweet!” And we started to play.
A little while later, as the evening was about to really begin, and because I was worried I would forget, I asked him bluntly:
“I have been at the same couchsurfer’s for a week already, can I come and stay at your place next week?
- “Oh”, he answered,”It’s not possible. For the next two weeks, I’m not gonna be home. I’ll be hitchhiking along the Armenian Silk Road to write an article about it.”
Hitchhiking the Armenian Silk Road? How sweet did this sound to my ear!
“Can I come with you on your trip then?
- Hm… He did look a bit surprised, but it didn’t take him long to answer. “Alright, then!”
We agreed to meet on the next day. We were to stay one or two nights in his place Ahstarak, near Yerevan, and set off for our trip.
As simple as that! A bit later that evening though, as I was about to inform my two mates of my new plans, I wondered if the whole thing wasn’t maybe a bit nutty. What did I know about him? That he was a hippie, a musician, and living twenty-five kilometres away from Yerevan. Him about me? That I was French, and also trying to play music a little, too. Big deal! And what if we didn’t get along? Because being on the road with someone else, I now know it for a fact, can be as hard as a holiday with friends. It doesn’t always turn out pretty. Those very same friends that you like so much every time you party with them can sometimes drive you mad after just forty-eight hours living together in a beautiful seaside villa you rented out for a supposedly idyllic week. Being on the road can be like that, and a bit worse maybe, because most of the time you don’t know what’s about to happen, you don’t know where you’ll be in the evening, or even in the next ten minutes. So you’d better be with someone you can really get along with, or be a master at staying cool whatever happens.
I slept, as planned, two nights in Ashtarak before we got started with the Silk Road. The evening before we left, we were invited to a birthday party at friends of Artyom’s. Towards the end of the evening, I peeked into the kitchen. Two older men were sitting there and invited me to join them. One of them was the father of the teenager whose birthday we had been celebrating, and he could speak some English. He was well-read and well-travelled, very much into languages too, so the conversation proved interesting. He explained to me that in Farsi (the language spoken in Iran), in Armenian and also in Cypriot*, the word used to designate a strong fruit alcohol means “sweat” – it’s the fruit’s sweat that you are drinking. He went for quite some time over the difference between vodka and spirits. The first one doesn’t have a soul, he told me, the second one does, and that’s why those who drink a lot of vodka tend to drown their despair in it, while the disciples of spirits, like the Japanese and their sake for example, have dozens of centenarians. I told him that in French, the Armenian oghi – the spirit we had been drinking since the beginning of the conversation – was called “eau-de-vie”, “water-of-life”. Water of life! He was absolutely delighted. What a proof that he was right! Let’s drink to alcohol itself!
I then told him about our Silk Road plans, and, telling me all he knew on the topic, he consistently referred to it as “the Silky Way”. I find this phrase so poetic that I decided to keep it as the name of this set of articles. The Silky Way, or some slices of Armenia that I would very much like to share with you.
Next chapter: The mayor’s office
And to read how it all started for Artyom, click here!
*I am not sure what he meant. Maybe Cypriot Maronite Arabic, one of the language spoken on the island along with Armenian, Turkish, Greek and Romani?