One's first visit to a new city brings with it the conflicting feelings of excitement and anxiety. As you settle down and learn its orientation and character, the strangeness wears off and familiarity kicks in. Earlier in this trip, we got to visit Tashkent three times. As we departed for the final time, we recollected the feeling of strangeness we felt on arriving there for the first time from New Delhi and how odd and strange it looked. And how this had completely vanished during our stay there over multiple trips. On the final trip, we had simply breezed through the metro and bus rides as if we had lived there all our lives.
It was Tbilisi's turn now. It was a long 600+ km. haul from Stepanakert in the Nagarno Karabakh Republic to Tbilisi in Georgia. It required us to cross 2 borders in the same day. The first was the NKR border (where we relinquished the all important registration slip - the guard did not even care to check our visa) which is technically only half a border as Armenia does not bother with any controls there since it considers the NKR as yet another Armenian province. The 8 am bus from Stepananert bus reached Yerevan at 3 pm in the afternoon and we duly transfered to a Tbilisi bound marshrutka that arrived at Tbilisi at 9 pm after crossing into Georgia.
We met a couple of interesting people on the marshrutka to Tbilisi. A young woman was reading a Turkish edition of Homer's Iliad studiously and revealed that she was studying for her exams in a Turkish University. It turned out that she was of Armenian descent, but a resident of Turkey due to mixed marriage. She was in Armenia to meet with old family connections and was on he way back to Turkey. She had to go through Georgia due to the closed border between Armenia and Turkey. She revealed that Armenians don't have problems living in Turkey's cosmopolitan cities. But she would never be able to visit Azerbaijan due to her surname. She sometimes worked in the tourism industry in Turkey and when encountering Azeri tourists, she would refrain from revealing her Armenian ancestry. She was curious about our Azerbaijan trip and asked us if we encountered any anti-Armenian sentiments when we were there.
The other encounter was with a young man of Turkish ancestry who had a European passport. He was in Armenia to see first hand what the fuss was all about. He was friendly and open to discussing sensitive topics. He had not visited the Genocide museum (much to our disappointment) and did not know too much about that. From his point of view, he was willing to discuss the issue with Armenians, but drew the line when it came to Turkey giving up land. We gave him a brief account of what we had learnt at the museum. Our conversations with this duo were separate.
The young woman got off before the final stop and when it was time for us to get off at the last stop, the driver of the van noticed her Iliad lying in the cargo space. We hope that she does well at her exams despite this setback. We regret not exchanging email addresses, but we still hold on to the book. It is a bit too bulky for us to carry for too long but we felt that the least we could do was to take it with us to Turkey and see if yet another coincidence (of which we had seen plenty on this trip!) will bring us in contact with the owner of the book. If not, we will have to find a new Turkish speaking owner for the book.
We flirted with the masochistic idea of rushing to the train station to catch the overnight train to Batumi (on the Black Sea!) but heeded the feeble protests of our tired minds and chose to wind down in Tbilisi for one more night. We enjoyed the flashback of the now familiar city with the metro ride and walking back to our home-away-from-home, the hostel where we had stayed 5 nights not too long ago. We woke up in the morning to make our coffees in the familiar kitchen before heading out. A mini nostalgia trip!
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Amazing how familiarity comes in so quickly. I suppose you now have many "homes" around the world and if you every go back someday, many of them might be very "familiar and comforting" ! From, on Nov 12, 2012 at 03:25AM