Friday, April 30, 2010

Yerevan to Dilijan


Took my own advice today. Dan and I took a mini-bus to Sevan, a city near one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. Get out your atlas and see it. It is surrounded by mountains still covered with snow. My geology is not as good as it should be but I think it might be the remnants of a BIG caldera lake.

Any way, we started walking from the bus stop in the city toward the lake – a couple of Kilometers. An old guy named Vanya, in an old beat up taxi, stopped by us as we walked – we were in the middle of nothing – and offered to take us to a monastery on the lake. Before it was over we hired Vanya to take us to see it and then over the pass to Dilijan and area known as Armenia’s Switzerland. (For the day we paid Vanya 9,000 AMD’s at an exchange rate of 384 AMD’s to $1.00)

So nice to be able to stop and take pictures where we wanted to. And do other things as I needed to.

It was approaching lunch as we made it into Dilijan. I have a 6th sense when it comes to food. Just ask Dan. Never fails that what I order is always way better than what he orders. Being a good dad, I share and then finish his. As we came into the town I noticed two important things at one spot – three trucks parked along the road and they were parked near some smoke. The Armenians love to grill their meat. You see little grilled meat stand all along the highways. In deference to being from Kansas City I will not call it barbeque. I motioned for Vanya to pull over. I was right. It was a grilled meat restaurant – of sorts. IF YOU ARE SQUIMISH STOP NOW.

Not only was it a grilled meat place it was also a butcher shop. This morning they had butchered a sheep. The fore quarters were hanging on a hook just outside the door, the pelt was rolled up and the head was on a ledge. Dan made an interesting observation. He said “I’ve never seen the face of anything I’ve eaten. There is something “close” about seeing your food that way.” The cook/butcher took the fore quarter off the hook and into the shop and came out with two skewers of meat for the grill. That fresh grilled sheep, a cabbage and carrot salad, cooked wild greens, fried potatoes, cheese and bread was our lunch. And again the nose knows.

At several of the important cultural/archeological sites we have been to there has been interpretative signs in Armenia, English, German, and Russian. Discretely on the lower left hand corner in relatively small print is a notice that the restoration has been supported by USAID. I’ve decided that I’m going to assume that they used my IRS contribution for these projects.

Tomorrow morning we are heading back to Tbilisi Georgia. It is a 7 hour mini-bus ride. We are going to spend 4 or 5 days in Georgia before going back into Turkey. The entire three country trip is about three weeks. Three weeks isn’t even enough for Armenia, one of the best places I’ve ever been.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Travel Issues - this way or that way

Well we are back in Yerevan.
Left Jermuk this morning at 7:40. Inch of wet snow overnight.
Bus windows were all steamed up so we couldn’t see very much. On the way to Jermuk we went through a lot of rain so our view of the country side was rather limited.
Here is a travel problem . The local bus gives you a connection to the locals and the culture. And it is cheap. On a nice day you can take pictures out the window – may not be able to frame them the way you want. When you do see something real neat you can only hope you get the right photo. The long distance bus goes from point A to point B without stops along the way ( generally a “rest” stop every 1.5-2 hrs). And, there may be only one or two buses as day.
The other alternative is to rent a car. Gives you unlimited flexibility but separates you from the locals and is expensive. Maybe the best alternative is to take the local bus to a destination and then hire a taxi for the day to take you to the site/places in the general area.
A rudimentary knowledge of the local language would also be a big help. There are a couple of phrases not in the books I’ve had access to that would be nice to have. Google translate is simple way to do it if you have internet access. But more likely than not, it won’t be available. When I get back I’m going to make a list of the phrases I’ve wished I had. Before my next adventure I’ll Google translate them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We are in Jermuk today. Got here last night about 7 PM. COLD and snow off and on all day!. Jermuk is a decaying resort town from the soviet days. Two new big hotels and one smaller newer hotel. Two restaurants that we can go to - only guests at the hotels can eat there. Staying in one of the dilapidated old Soviet hotels. Clean and barely functional but only $12.00 each a night. This morning stopped in a little store and asked about coffee or tea. Woman running it went back in her quarters and fixed us tea and gave us bread with some greens cooked with eggs.

Tonight went to one of the restaurants and had a nice meal then went to the other and listen to some locals performing Armenian techno-pop music.

Tomorrow back to Yerevan and then start back north toward Tbilisi Georgia.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Adventure Continues - In Armenia


Well we made it to Yerevan and have been enjoying the local sites for the last two days.

We flew from Istanbul to Trabzon on the Black Sea near the Georgian boarder and spent the night there.

Next morning ( 4/23) we got a bus to the boarder and on to Batumi where we would get a bus for Tiblisi. Only problem was that the bus driver didn’t wait for us on the Georgian side! Not to worry we shared a taxi with a Brit and a German into Batumi. There we picked up a mini-bus for the 6 hour cramped drive to Tiblisi, arriving about 9 PM. Arriving in a new city at night and in the rain is not a lot of fun. After a couple of false starts we found the “home stay” we were looking for. Home stays are basically older couples who have space in their apartments and take in travelers like us for the night or a few days. An empty room gets a couple of bunk beds. Ours was clean and we had kitchen privileges and cost about $14.00 each a night.

On the 24th we set off for Yerevan on another cramped mini-bus. This time we didn’t get left at the boarder! A young Economics professor from Yerevan made sure that the bus didn’t leave us. Edward was a great help in getting us to our Yerevan home stay (about $12.00 each a night)

Yerevan is fantastic. It is clean, friendly and easy to get around. Yesterday we wondered around a flea market for a couple of yours and then caught a bus to Vagarshapat to see an important church to the Armenian orthodox religion. It was nice but the most amazing part was seeing Mt Ararat! I’ve seen a couple of big name mountains, Mt Cook in New Zealand, the Matterhorn, Mt Rainer, Mt Olympus, Annapurna and Mt Kearsarge but Mt Ararat is something way beyond all of them. I’m sure that none of the many pictures I took will do it justice.

Today we took an old broken down Russian bus to Khor-Virup Church and fortress. It looks out on Mt Ararat and is where the Armenian Orthodox religion – the start of Christianity - began. The bus dropped us off near the town and we started walking with an Armenian gentleman. After about a quarter mile a car stopped and took the three of us to the turn off for the Church. Dan and I walked on and our companion waved us good by and went the other way down a gravel path. It was a great day to spend looking at what to me is my new favorite mountain. No offence Mt Kearsarge.

Tomorrow we are off to Jermuk and then start making our way north to Georgia.

ARMENIA IS FANTASTIC - friendly, clean and cheap!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our Adventure Begins - First Day in Istanbul

We made it just fine to the hostel. Metro to Tram 1 and off at Sultanamet stop. Short walk and we were there. After a quick stroll around the area we got a kabob from a street seller for dinner.

Flights are about as cheap as the bus or train so we are flying this afternoon to eastern Turkey. Tomorrow we will take a bus to Georgia.

After breakfast this morning we walk to the edge of Europe and looked across to Asia. The Straits were alive with boats fishing boats, ferries, and cargo ships. From there made our way back through a park along a fortress wall to the plaza by the Blue Mosque.

We sat in the sun as the faithful were called to midday prays.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thank You Delta! Norm is in Istanbul

Webmaster's Note: Norm tried to access his blog to post the following update, but was not successful. Instead, he emailed in the information and asked that I post it on his behalf.  I haven't a clue what time he arrived - his message came in at about 5:15 Wednesday morning. According to Norm:

I'm in Istanbul, thanks to Delta! The Delta folks in Boston were great. I just smiled and engaged them in what I was doing, and it made all the difference. Once they heard my story and what Dan and I were trying to do they made it happen. First, they tried to get me to Prague via Madrid, but the Madrid to Prague would not confirm. So, they sent me to Istanbul via New York, and sent Dan an email with my flight info and told him I would meet his plane from Prague to Istanbul.

The only down side was that I had to spend the night in the airport in Boston, had to fly out of Boston at 6:00 am, then spend 8 hours at JFK airport waiting for my flight to Istanbul. The flight was an added segment to get people back to the U.S. from Istanbul (because of the Iceland volcano eruption), so there were only about 50 people on the flight (it was a 767). I had an entire row all to myself, and slept all the way over on the 10 hour flight. Finally, after a 7 hour wait in Istanbul airport for Dan, we are now ready to begin our adventure.

What I learned - be nice to folks; smile, engage them, and be flexible. A wink when appropriate doesn't hurt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Will the Volcano Keep Us Home

We I've made it as far as Andover, NH. I'm not sure about the rest of the trip! The Icelandic volcano may have us stuck here for a bit. We will see tomorrow what happens. Could be worse. Gram is teaching my son's girlfriend how to making cookies this afternoon.

Trip here on the 12th was uneventful. Weather was nice - in the low to mid 50's with sun. I got a little fishing in on Hameshop Brook. Just two small Brookies. Then things changed. Woke up Wednesday morning to SNOW. Not much but still an inch or so on the ground. Until today, highs have been in the low to mid 30's.

Friday, my son's Ethan and Dan, Dan's girlfriend Ciara, my partner Kathy and I took "Gram" to her favorite restaurant Newick’s in Portsmouth for her 90th birthday lunch. At 90 Gram is still a little imp and taunted me with slowly eating her broiled scallops and teasing me with them before finally letting me finish her lunch.

Yesterday (Saturday) we had some more snow. Most of it was at higher elevations. Dan and I when up to Mt Kearsarge to see how much snow had fallen. Just a couple more inches. But it is the middle of April! In the afternoon we had Gram’s Birthday party at Blue Water Farm ( just up the hill on Bradley Lake where we would swim when I was a boy. It was so special to be able to bring my family “home” for Gram’s birthday.

So far I’ve checked in from Mom’s yard, Newick’s in Portsmouth, Mt Kearsarge, and Bradley Lake. I sure hope I can check in on Tuesday from Prague! I’ll send some pictures of the festivities of Gram’s B’day as soon as I can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My SPOT personal locator beacon is activated! And it works. Thanks to the wonders of my web master you can now track me on-line at my web site Starting on the afternoon of the 12th of April I’ll be “checking in” from New Hampshire. This will give you a chance to see where I grew up and learned to fly fish. It also is a shake down of the tracking system for the big trip.

The real fun will start on the 20th when I get to Prague for the start of my Eurasian adventure. After a day in Prague I’ll be flying to Istanbul, Turkey. At least twice each day I hope to check in so you can see where I am. When I can get internet access I’ll be sending some pictures and brief reports on the streams I’ve fished, the things I’ve seen, food I’ve eaten and trouble I’ve dodged.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


On any trip that can take you off the beaten path, it is a wise move to have a few things with you that might come in handy. I only made it to “Life Scout” ranking in Boy Scouts but I took the motto “Be Prepared” to heart.

Of course a basic first aid kit is a necessity. One we suggest for fly fishing will cover most of your needs. But what about non-injury situations? On a trip like my Eurasian Adventures a lot things can go wrong and cause potential problems beyond medical problems. My scout master, Howard George, for Troop 281 taught me well the importance of being prepared by carrying a “I’m ready for most anything kit”. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, but it can sure make life simpler when there is a problem.

It goes without saying that I always have a knife in my pocket or on my belt. I should carry a “Leatherman” type tool as well. (Note to Self – go to Micky’s tomorrow and get one!). But what else should you have ready? Here is a basic list I try to keep with me all the time:

Superglue. If it breaks there is a good chance that super glue will fix it. And,in extreme conditions you can use it close a serious wound. I have some medical grade that I carry. The vet supply section of a farm and ranch store will have it.

Dental Floss. Great for tying things up and a lot of other uses. Once on a mountain road in Idaho the accelerator linkage on a friend’s car broke. We made a “get us to civilization” one out of my dental floss.

Space Blanket. If you get cold and wet one of these little foil blankets will save your life. Even if your not going to go into hypothermia, if you are caught out someplace with only a barn to sleep in it sure make’s the night a little more bearable.

Single Edged Razor Blade. Super sharp and the small size makes them much better for having to cut something in tight quarters. Make sure you still carry a knife.

Latex Glove or Condom. There are stretchy and can be use for the same kind of thing you would use a little bungee cord for. Combine it with the dental floss and the space blanket and you have a crude but workable shelter. They can also be used as water vessels.

Waterproof Matches. There is nothing better than a fire to cheer you up when things are bleak. And, of course, keep you warmer if you are cold.

Alcohol Wipes. Make great fire starters.

There are a host of other things that you can include but before very long you end up with a kit that is getting to big to fit in a quart sized zip lock bag. Once it gets bigger than that there will be a tendency to leave it behind. Keep it to the bear essentials and keep it with you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


As my trip to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia draws closer it is time to prepare what I need for trout fishing in Turkey. First on the list is finding out where they are. I knew, from a paper I wrote many years ago in graduate school that brown trout are native to Turkey, I just had to find exactly where they are. Thank you GOOGLE! All I needed to do was make a few entries in the search box on my computer.

My first search attempt, while it seamed logical (Brown Trout Distribution Turkey) didn’t yield very good results. I got a lot of entries on Brown Trout and Turkey Distribution. Incidentally, if you want to fly fish and turkey hunt at the same location let me know.

Brown Trout Biology Turkey was the search phrase. This search resulted in several scientific papers written by or in collaboration with Turkish scientists. With most of the journal papers all I could see was the abstract. But with a few of them that was all I needed. If there was the name of a city, village or river in the abstract I had a starting place. Next came Google Earth. Just entered the location found in the abstract and hit enter!

Now I have three locations where Brown trout have be collected. For two of the studies the authors e-mail address was included. Both of them are getting an e-mail from me asking for more specifics.

What did I do before the internet?

Now I have to figure out how to get a fishing permit.