Month: May 2017

Gampr … armenian gampr


GyumriWow, me and Bicio are traveling in time. The rural campaign took us 100 years back in time. And now, after about 60 km southward, we reached Gyumri and we dived in the 70′-80’s. Even the dress style of people recalls those times and everywhere: LADA, LADA and LADA … I love this car.


All these buildings are empty.

Gyumri and his people left me some sadness. The second Armenian city has been almost completely destroyed by the earthquake in 1988… the signs are still visible on the facades of the houses but also on the faces of the people … The town and its inhabitants seem to be abandoned to themselves.

Gyumri-4The weather was not on my side so I stopped in Gyumri for 3 nights. Ophelia, the guest house keeper took care of me and she even read me the cards … Ophelia, the mapreader … wow!


In Gyumri many roads are in these conditions … yes, the dog is looking at me.

In Armenia the road conditions are really bad … I quickly realized that the tour across the country villages I wanted to do, could become a torture … the best route? The highway. Positive in biking on the highway is that you never miss the exit. It was an “exotic” experience for me and clearly I was hoping …

Highway-1… to not end up like this poor dog …


But, no danger: Armenian drivers are very respectful. After almost 90 km I began to feel a bit tired. But where to put the tent? Here it is all flat and there is HIM! How do I do if HE sees or feels me? HE … he is Gampr, the Armenian Gampr … and I assure you that when you see one of them running towards you, you start pedaling fast … very fast. These dogs can kill a bear and they can use my legs as a toothpick.

One day I met one very close. I could feel his warm humid breath on my right leg … everytime I think about it I burst out: the people on the roadside were all stuck like stockfishes with their opened mouths looking at the scene, maybe waiting to see who would emerge victorious … Gesùgiuseppemariamaddalena it was sooo close!

So I decided to stop in the next village and ask for permission to place my tent in the garden of somebody. I reached Sharam … and when you see this:

Sharam-1… you found this:


Arthur, Alex, Ani, Susanna, Bareck and Karim thank you so much for your lovely hospitality and shots of vodka 🙂

The tent remained in the backpack (again) and Bareck (on the back … I’m a poet) and his lovely family hosted me for one night. I spent a beautiful evening with these wonderful people.

Finally, I was on the way to Yerevan (1.2 Mio. inhabitants)  … and there it is, with the mount Ararat on the right.


I admit that getting into the city made me increase the adrenaline: biking in the intense traffic, on a road of a total of 6 lanes, has made me climb a bit up the ego.

In Yerevan, me and Bicio we found us in the years 2000 … and I was almost feeling at home … almost.


Now I’m still in the capital waiting for the Iranian visa. Am I bored? Not at all! I will tell you more in the next post.

Un abbraccio, a presto






Never refuse a Ch’ai


Long time has passed since the last post, but finding an internet connection is not always easy.

Beshtasheni was behind me and I was heading to Vardzia.  Again, people offered me help, a lift and some stopped just to make a selfie with me. A car with two guys stopped me: “You Stepani?” … What? Seriously?! Yes, I am Stepani! The little swiss girl has become a legend … it is said that she was dancing with the wolves …

Because the strong wind I decided to take another road and the fate made me meet Joni! This trip is crazy! There was nothing to do: I begged, I supplicate, but NOTHING! He loaded me into the car and he and his brother brought me to Vardzia.

Vardzia-7Vardzia was just what I needed: tranquility and peace. Even Nazi, the owner of the hotel was THE person I needed. She was cuddling me with her natural products like jams, honey, cheeses and teas. I think that telepathy with some people really exists. Some tourists asked me if I can Georgian … No, I can not! But me and Nazi we understood eachother perfectly. I stayed there 3 days. Vardzia-6


Happy tourist in tights.

Finally I was on the way to Armenia … and what for a way! The most demanding thing? Take a selfie …


Vardzia: on the way to Bavra.


When looking back can bring satisfaction.

After about 25 km I asked a young woman, who was hanging out the loundry, in which village I was: Okami. She didn’t hesitate a second and she offered me a tea (ch’ai). Josephine, the little voice jumped out: “Oh no Stef! You have to move on, it’s only 14:30! You’re already late on the roadmap! You have to think about the visas!” … I silenced Josephine and, as for magic, the story repeated again: me, my muddy shoes and beautiful people.



These people not only saved my day but they made it great! Thank you Salome, your beautiful family, friends and neighbours.

After about 20 minutes a hail storm dropped down and everything became white … it was really cold! Incredible, the ch’ai saved me! … Never refuse a ch’ai. I stayed in Okami one night. Ironically, the day after in Ninotsminda a ch’ai took me in a birthday party where young girls, dancing traditional music, offered me a piece of cake and big smiles.

Armenia-1Finally I was at the Armenian border. Wet and cold I made my way between the waiting trucks. A couple of stamps and I was in another reality. A completely different (and very difficult) language, friendly but very reserved people. The border policeman told me that I had not chance to find an accomodation in Bavra … he was right: I didn’t found an accomodation, but a lovely family … again! Asja is only 17 but she speaks fluently English and she has a big heart.

Bavra-3Soon she will start the university in Yerevan, therefore she has to leave her mother and brothers in the farm in Bavra … while I look at her and at her books stacked in the kitchen I can not stop thinking about how lucky I was during my studies … yes Stef, your life is simply wonderful and you have to savor every moment.



Now I’m in Gyumri … but I will tell you about it in the next post.

Lesson learned: a ch’ai can make the difference.

Alla prossima! Next stop: Yerevan.

Un abbraccio

Stef e Josephine




She Wolf … Aahuuuuuu!


Sincerely: Where should I start? I promised myself to be short on my posts, but … how?
I left Tbilisi besieged by Russian tourists to find myself, after few agonizing km, in the authentic Georgia I was looking for.

Kojori-5The first night, in my sleeping bag, I was simply incredulous about what was happening to me: “All this in a single day? … really?? … WOW!”
Few days before I was in the Zurich airport, shocked by the indifference of the people: no one gave me a hand, not even when it was clear that I needed it … and here? Here the first words I’ve learned are “no, thank you” (ara, madloba) to refuse all the help offers.


The weather can change quickly. Once, in few hours the temperature dropped from 31°C to 10°C … but the weather doesn’ t matter … I’m in PARADISE.

on-the-road-4The roads are not so bad. Some craters and slopes up to 10% do not leave a moment of respite to Morena and Priscilla (my legs). The adventure begins when (without GPS) I take the off track. Completely alone, I enjoy every moment, even the most demanding … and there you can sing loudly … very loudly …

roads-1In a mountain road I meet a shepherd. As soon as he saw me he jumped. With one hand on his heart he started to grumble me in Georgian … I got it all! The literal translation: “Have you gone off your head? That thing is not a car!! You don’t see? This is not asphalt! And where do you want to sleep? Jesus! Here there are the wolves!! Aaaahuuuuuuu, aaaahhuuuuuu! (like Shakira in “She Wolf”). You want to make me die!?” … I admit that Morena and Priscilla have put the turbo-plus, but what a laugh! … Aaahuuuuuu!…


Babu, Lado, Georgie, Lasha (foto), Elison, Dodo, Lella, Natalie, Moris, Davit… you make my stay in Kojori unforgettable. Thank you soooo much my dear friends!

Along my way I met great people, all ready to help me: who wanted to tie me to a rope and pull me with the car (I regret to have refused!), the policemen who offered me the lunch, who just stopped to know if I needed something and those who welcomed me at their home and treated me like a queen.


Tetritskaro: Nino, Joni, me and Zotne. You have a beautiful soul my friends and I will never forget what you did for me (thanks also to Jaba!) and the beautiful days we spent together… you are jigaro!


Beer, fishing gear, fire and friendship … nothing is missing … only the fishes.

I got into their homes with my muddy shoes and dirty clothes … and I left them  with my heart loaded of gratitude and my eyes full of tears. This is not a trip about bicycle, but about people … and georgian people are good ones.


Beshtasheni: Eldari, Eka (the strongest woman I ever met) and their 3 amazing boys Luka, Nika and the little Gabriel. We will see eachother in Svaneti and have some chacha, promised!




Only 12 days have passed, but for me seem like months! I have so many things to tell! … I remember the worries before the departure … it’s really true: the most difficult step is the first one.


Armenia I’m coming! …. Aahuuuuuuuuu!

Un abbraccio


p.s. Bicio in Georgian means “boy”… and I have a good boy!


I’m from Roger Federer


In a few hours flight I found myself catapulted in another time. Tbilisi has been a pleasant surprise. Its contrasts have served me as gasoline to walk on its most hidden roads.


Abanotubani, Tbilisi



Georgians are reserved people (maybe shy?), but pleasantly nice. For example at the supermarket I was looking for sugar, so I asked to a young woman. She didn’t understand me well but she was determined to help me … I found myself with some oregano in the hands: “this also good” she told me.



Bridge of Peace, Tbilisi

Tbilisi-6 At the restaurants the wait can be infinite, but once you are served the palate rejoices and the wallet too. It’s all cheap and delicious. When I can communicate with some of them they ask me where I come from: “I’m from Switzerland”… no, they don’t know about Switzerland, let’s try with “Roger Federer!”… Their faces relax and a smile illuminates them: “aaah beautiful place!”



The Titanic just after the collision

The Georgians have a very devoted faith attached to the traditions. The Orthodox processions are quite suggestive and I admit that I was almost feeling uncomfortable when I was entering the churches during the Mass … although I was copying every movement of my neighbor I didn’t go unnoticed with my jeans and sneakers.


I still have a couple of days and then I will mount on my bicycle. Destination? I’m still not sure …  first I have to figure out how to get out of this city.

Kargi ghame!

A presto Stefi