August 2006


Armenia Planning Update

Sunday night I started panicking about my September trip to Armenia. Hotels in Yerevan, the capital city, are more expensive than I expected, although I suspect there is a significant price premium for booking hotels that can be found on the Internet—this is a country where few places have a web presence.

I finally drew a calendar covering the eleven nights that I am going to be out of town and started to relax: two nights are now covered—the first night, when I will be sleeping on a short red-eye flight to Moscow, and the last night, when I will be sleeping in Frankfurt after my late arrival back in Germany.

That leaves nine nights to cover, and I have started to decide where I want to go—I may leave a couple of nights to on the spot planning, but I will be sure to cover my first night, my last night, and the nights around Armenian Independence Day on September 21st.

On the legal progress front, I applied for my Armenian e-Visa this week and quickly got an affirmative answer. This is the first country I’ve wanted to travel to that requires a Visa in advance. (Something that actually prevented me from going to The Ukraine earlier—I didn’t want to go to Berlin just to apply for a visa and deal with all of that in advance; when the Ukraine introduced visas at the border for Americans, I was willing to go. An e-visa approach would have also worked for me.)

A few people have asked me why I chose Armenia, so here it goes, and it has interesting roots. After my first few trips to Europe, which consisted of visiting the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, I wanted to be more adventurous. As I liked looking at the websites for low cost carriers, I discovered that I could fly “go” from London Luton to Prague—and for some reason Prague captured my imagination and it went to the top of my list of places to visit, and I managed to plan a trip to Prague flying from London Luton to Prague. By the time I actually flew to Prague, “go” was purchased and absorbed by easyJet, and I was the first person to check-in for the flight, holding in my hand a plastic boarding card for Prague with the number “1” on the card. Of course this was pre-9/11 so plastic boarding cards without names was still okay, something that is now history.

I fell in love with Prague and Prague is now my favorite city in Europe. For awhile it was my favorite city in the world, but Vancouver is currently competing in Mental Olympics for first place.

Recently it occurred to me that most of the places I’ve visited (Tallinn, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Berlin, Bristol, and Dublin, to name a few), are all destinations for low cost carriers like easyJet, RyanAir, and skyEurope, and that by being destinations they are also tourist destinations that have modified their economy and cultures to cater for tourists. Indeed in Prague it is possible to rarely hear Czech spoken while in the heart of the city.

Kyiv was the exception. It is not yet on the route map of low cost carriers. My experiences there were guided by a local (thankfully) who helped me understand what I was seeing in a post-Soviet Republic that was still a member of the CIS (Estonia and the other Baltic Republics have distanced themselves as much as possible from Russia and their Soviet history, joining the European Union and not participating in the CIS).

After realizing that most of the places I’ve been are either western or corrupted by low cost carriers, I decided I wanted to strike out elsewhere. To pick the place I relied upon two things to guide my decision: the Spartacus International Gay Guide and the Northwest Airlines route map.

The former was used to help me identify places that are gay friendly—or at least not gay-unfriendly. This is an important criteria and why I am not particularly interested in visiting India, Namibia, or The Vatican (despite its extremely high concentration of homos). Armenia did not have a negative description of gay life inSpartacus, but that is not to say Armenia had the Gay Mecca rating, it was at least not negative and it was rated as beautiful.

The later, the Northwest Airlines route map, helped me identify possible destinations: Armenia was on the route map because Air France and Czech Airlines flew there, but the two did not offer daily flights. Armenia became far more accessible when Aeroflot joined skyTeam, nwa’s airline alliance. A bit of careless searching and I found myself with roundtrip tickets to Armenia in hand. (Russia does not allow eticketing, so I was obliged to get paper tickets issued since I am transiting Moscow.)

Airline route maps have always been dream maps for me. Northwest has the best one that I’ve seen—the lines visually let you see where you can go and from where. The starbursts around their hubs and their partner hubs let you imagine how hubs work. Indianapolis. Detroit. Minneapolis/St. Paul. Memphis. Newark. Atlanta. Amsterdam. Tokyo. Houston. Prague. Nairobi. Seoul. Paris. April’s newest starburst, Moscow, has ignited many new ideas. Maybe Mongolia is next.

2 comments to Armenia Planning Update

  • Ooohh I cant wait to see pictures from your trip! Yeah you should book hotels from the Internet coz you can see they always have discounts and specials.

  • Charles- It should be a great trip.

    Armenia appears to have very few hotels that have websites, and based on what I’ve read about pricing, I believe that making reservations at places bookable on the web involves paying a premium.