Lost (and not quite found) in Armenia
It's like something out of an absurdist comedy - we walk into Yerevan's Central Bus Station, a building that looks like it hasn't been restored since the Soviet days, and...it's empty. There are a few people waiting on benches in the middle, but all the booths are empty. There is a lone ticket agent selling tickets to customers, and a TV screen with flashing bus times, which gives us our only clue as to what buses there are. We look around, completely baffled, and start trying to figure out what to do. People look at us strangely as they hear us speaking English. It's clear that they don't get many tourists around here.
After squinting at the TV screen and frantically trying to decipher the Armenian before it disappears, we manage to discern that there is a bus to Stepanakert, but not to any of our other destinations. Finally, I work up the courage to go and question the ticket agent. With my broken Armenian, I manage to find out that there is no bus to Shushi, but there is one to Stepanakert every day at 8, 9, 10, and 11am. You can take your luggage inside the bus, but not if it's too big. I ask her for a schedule, and she simply repeats the times of the bus. There's no paper maps, or schedules, or anything that we could find on the internet. So how do people know the bus times here? Is it some telepathic Armenian connection that we're just too American to tap into?
We leave the station disappointed and decide to forgo our trips to any other bus or train stations, and just ask our Armenian friends for help instead. We then take a long walk home, going down the sidewalk of something that appears to be a highway, and crossing the Hrazdan gorge to go back into the center of the city. We buy some gata at a local bakery to fortify ourselves as we navigate through a maze of sidewalks that seem to start and end with no concern for logic. Google maps leads us through a run-down park with abandoned Soviet carnival rides, past a statue of Bolshevik revolutionary Stepan Shahumyan, and finally into the familiar area of Republic Square.
A few hours later, we're laughing about our misadventure over an Adjarian Khachapuri at OST (one of our favorite "fast food" restaurants) when suddenly all the lights turn off. We hear the clap of thunder outside and realize that the rainstorm has made the power go out momentarily. When the lights come back on, all of the little kids in the room ooh and ah, and we just marvel over the perfect ending to an absurd day.