Sunday, September 3, 2017

round round get around I get around

Countries I've now visited (100 according to Travellers Century Club!!):

Saturday, August 12, 2017

desiccated and dehydrated in doha

Our last stop on the way home was Doha in Qatar - the 8th country on this trip.

When we booked our flight from Yerevan to Sydney we were faced with a 14 hour stop over in Doha. Too long to spend at the airport I discovered Qatar had begun to offer Qatar Airline passengers who had stopovers more than 4 hours and less than 48, were eligible for a free transit visit to leave the airport.

It had to be booked online and no earlier than 30 days before arriving. So I had to do this during the trip. As the trip neared the end we were still waiting to hear back about the visas. Then I received mine 2 days before we were due to arrive. Then Paul's arrived the day we left Yerevan.

The flight from Yerevan to Doha was short 'n sweet. We arrived at 5.30 in the morning (having been awake for by this time for 22 hours) and the outside temperature was 37 deg C.

The woman at customs, in response to my query as to whether they would accept our visas electronically on my tablet, cheerily told me that 2 days prior Qatar had introduced free visas to 75 countries including Australia.

Doha city I knew was only about 6 - 8kms from the airport so I was a bit shocked when we had quotes of around $35-$40 for a taxi. So we caught the shuttle bus to the old city centre for about $1.50 each!

Unfortunately being a Friday most of the shops were closed (Friday being the Muslim equivalent of a Sunday). Also we were wandering around at 06.30 and most places were shut that early anyway.

The old city was not that old and there was very little to sustain our interest. Also as the day progressed the temperature climbed higher and higher.

Eventually it became so uncomfortably hot we decided to seek refuge in an air conditioned shopping mall. The largest was in the modern city centre another few kms further around the harbour front.

This area was full of high rise modern skyscrapers a little like a mini version of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

After wasting several hours in the mall we headed over to the I.M.Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art on the harbour.

I have to say it is the most beautifully designed museum, the most stylishly presented art and the most magnificent selection of Islamic Art that I've ever seen.

Below are a selection of photos of our day in Doha and some of the works from the museum.

In addition - by 1.30pm the outside temperature had climbed to 52.3 degrees C - and when we were outside we were close to DEATH!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

roman around

Our last day in Yerevan saw us visiting Geghard Monastery only a couple of hours out of Yerevan.

Set at the end of a gorge it has one of the most picturesque settings of Armenian Monasteries and blends nicely with the local stone. A UNESCO World Heritage site it is partially carved out the bedrock and dates from the 13th Century.

Geghard is short for Geghardavank and means 'Monastery of the Spear' believing to have held part of the spear that was used to pierce the side of Christ during the crucifixion.

Not far from Geghard is the temple of Garni. It was destroyed by an earthquake whose epicentre was in the town of Garni in 1679. It was reconstructed in the late 19th Century.

Dedicated to Helios, the Roman god of the sun, the Garni temple was built by the Armenian King Tiridates I in the 1st century AD and is the only Hellenistic colonnaded temple in Armenia and in fact, in the former Soviet Union.

Our final visit to Armenian Monasteries was to the wonderful Khor Virap Monastery. At around 40kms South East of Yerevan and only a handful of kms from the Turkish border it has the fabled Mount Ararat as its backdrop.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

ta ta tatev

Today was a long day as we were driving to Tatev Monastery which is more than 250kms South East of Yerevan. In addition we were stopping off at Noravank Monastery which was close to halfway to Tatev.

The scenery long the way was a little tedious - fairly flat and very dry for much of the way.

We turned off the main road into a small canyon, the scenery improved immediately and Noravank appeared high up (as with most Armenian monasteries) on the hillside about 6kms down the road. 

And as with most Armenian monasteries, its best perspective is from a distance!

A couple of hours drive later and we arrived at Tatev. Its popularity is reflected in the long queue to buy a ticket on the world longest cable car ride to get to it.

Tatev was undecorated inside and slightly larger than Noravank and, again, looked better from a distance.

Monday, August 7, 2017

stones and tiles

Arriving in Yerevan we encountered a hitch as the apartment we had booked for 4 days couldn't be found!

We found the street and the number - but unfortunately the building number covered the entire city block. Then the phone number attached to the accommodation was not working. As we were not carrying a phone (several concerned locals had tried ringing the apartment for us) Paul sat with (on) our luggage while I went off in search of internet to email the booking agency.

I found a cafe and ordered a Sprite so I could use their internet. I sent off several terse emails to say we were waiting on the street somewhere near where we thought the room would be.

About an hour later while I was in the back lane trying to work out where this apartment could be a woman approached me an asked if I was Terry. She said she received a phone call and would take us to another apartment.

Sounding suspicious we had few options so we agreed. It turned out we were given another really good apartment not far away and this woman turned out to work for an agency that the original apartment owner had called as as it turned out our apartment (apparently) had water issues and couldn't be used.

By this time it was late afternoon and still around the high 30's temperature wise.

So we found a supermarket and bought a few things for breakfast and then found a restaurant for dinner.

Yerevan was to be our base from where we were taking day trips to various places in the country.

We were stymied several times in the city as several places we wanted to see were shut - such as the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts and the Museum of Modern Art. We did get to the Museum of Art and the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, usually referred to as the Matenadaran.

We also had a look at the Katoghike Holy Mother of God Church: 

and the only mosque in the entire country:

The Matenadaran:

The following day we had a car and driver take us to lake Sevan and several monasteries and a wonderful old cemetery called Noratus which contained more than 800 stone crosses called khachkars some of which date back to the 10th Century.

Fruit stalls along the road to Sevan.

Sevanavank Monsatery:

Heyravank Monastery:

Noratus Cemetery: