I left on December 30, 2017 for a 130 kilometer solo walk between Etchmiadzin and Gyumri. I wanted to escape my routine and this infernal noise of city engines and human promiscuity. I wanted to see people, villages, and mountains, yet be alone and give myself some time. That's why I chose to walk. When we walk, the elements do not scroll, they are profiled. We are moving slowly past them and we take them over. I wanted to end this constant race against the clock. Work. I did not want to sell myself to time anymore, rather, time to sell to me.
I had planned this route to see Armenian-Turkish border. I was going to cross maybe twenty towns and villages and follow the railway between Armavir and Gyumri, which I would see for the first time.
Winter was opportune to these motivations because it imposed effort and surpassing oneself. I would have to find a roof in each village and did not know anyone on my way. It was New Year's week. I relied on Armenian hospitality.
I walked nearly 20 kilometres for 7 days.
I was invited for to New Year party in the village of Myasnikyan, where I made some friends who thought me crazy and for not taking the car or the train.
Many conversations have stayed in my mind. I found the Armenian soul in those villages, smiles, and youth which were going to military service. In the tolmas, vodka, cognac, and compote. In this cow patty stove. In these evocations of Great Armenia. In Ararat that I saw at sunrise. In these snowy mountains. In this cold. In those dogs that screamed at me and in those others which chased me galloping. In these flocks. In these wrinkled faces. In these horns. In this hospitality. In this mixture of hate, love and regret that I felt in the voices of those who told me their stories.
I slept in five villages: Myasnikyan, Karakert, Aragatsavan, Aniavan and Aghin. Twice I did not find any families to house me: in Karakert (where I slept in the office of a railway controller) and in Aniavan (where I slept in a room of the “party room” of the village).
I followed the rails. Every day I saw the train slip and once almost hit, as I walked on the tracks.
Many ruins were in my way. Villages and abandoned houses.
In Karakert and other hamlets I passed through, people warned me that there were wolves on my way. Others told me there weren’t. This made me doubt but I continued regardles. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I did not encounter any.
On the last day of the walk, the mist masked everything. She associated with the snow and the white sky so that only the tar road was visible. Then I heard the muezzin sing. I heard Turkey while I was still in Armenia. Borders mean nothing, and it’s beautiful.
I was stopped by soldiers: a Russian and an Armenian. They questioned me for an hour and examined my passport. They did not let me finish my walk but took me to Gyumri's entrance by car. This was January 5th. The next day was Armenian Christmas. I started writing my travel story, which I completed a short time ago. Then the next day, I took advantage of the Christmas excitement in the sunny streets of this great and beautiful city. It was an amazing experience. This week was as intense as a month of life.
These people I met were far from the concerns of the people of the capital. They were content themselves sharing, eating, drinking and making sure that they could continue to do so. No need, however, to idealize them. They would refuse to suffer the pathetic compassion of the city dweller and are humbly satisfied with breathing.
And these barbed wire and watchtowers I rode along were ridiculous compared to what they thought they had appropriated: all these landscapes that I have seen, these immaculate peaks, these multicolour expanses, these forests. They do not have Armenian or Turkish names, but the name of their magic. And this magic surpasses the nations.