The flight to Heathrow was fine and even arrived early. Getting my boarding pass for the flight to Washington proved more challenging, as somehow or other they seemed to have two reservations for me, one of which included an upgrade. Eventually, the agent got the computer to cought up a boarding pass, with the upgrade to World Traveler Plus. (Slightly more leg room, many more movie choices.) I called Robert to let him know I'd gotten back that far safely, resupplied myself with reading matter, and settled in to endure the long flight home.
Washington Dulles is probably the most efficient airport in the U.S. for international arrivals. I was through immigration and customs in maybe 15 minutes. And, I'll note that they had no issues with the delamination of my passport. (I will still get it replaced, though - why tempt fate?) Before long I was on the bus to the metro, followed by the short ride home.
So what did I think of it overall? Georgia was the definite highlight and I would happily go back there. I can't see any reason to go back to Azerbaijan, since I think I saw pretty much everything I'd be interested in there. As for Armenia, I'd want to be very sure that everything else I might conceivably want to see was actually open. Still, I'm glad I went to all three countries, which enabled me to see the similarities and differences between them.
Finally, I'll note that it actually worked out well that the organized tour was cancelled. Mir's arrangements (through local partners in each country) were excellent throughout and I'm sure I'd have enjoyed the tour, too. But my favorite places were Kutaisi and Bakuriani - and those weren't on the original tour itinerary. I'll also note that a lot of this trip would have been very difficult and frustrating in the limited time available had I tried to do it entirely on my own.
I wouldn't recommend this trip to everyone, as you do need to have a certain tolerance for bad roads, disgusting toilets (especially in Azerbaijan), and amazingly slow border crossings. If you can handle that, there are certainly plenty of interesting things to see. And there isn't any significant hardship involved, since there are good hotels and good food available. I will suggest, however, checking the renovation plans for any site you might have a special interest in, particularly in Armenia!
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Copyright 2003 Miriam H. Nadel
last updated 16 June 2003