Booking an Airbnb is a bit of a lucky dip – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.
I certainly didn’t expect however, after booking a £19 wooden lodge in Armenia, that the stay would come with home cooked meals, a tour of the local area, a spot of opera at the dinner table and flowing shots of vodka.
The wacky two-bedroom abode my friend Jane and I stayed in also featured some very interesting decor, with holes in the wall, a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acting as the bathroom mirror and a trippy picture of Armenian musician Sayat Nova hanging above one of the beds, which gave me nightmares.
MailOnline Travel’s Sadie Whielocks checked into a £19 Airbnb while cycling in Armenia. The Airbnb was located in the small Armenian village of Arzakan and it features two bedrooms. Above, the bedroom artwork that gave Sadie nightmares
Sadie said a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acted as the bathroom mirror, seen above
After searching Airbnb for somewhere to stay, Sadie said she was immediately drawn to the listing for a ‘charming wooden house in Arzakan’, with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical
We had cycled just over 25 miles (40km) from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to the small village of Arzakan and quickly checked Airbnb en route to find somewhere to stay for the night.
I was immediately drawn to the ‘charming wooden house in Arzakan’ listing, with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical. As we cycled into Arzakan we met up with our Airbnb host, Levon, and followed his car to our accommodation for the night.
We soon realised after getting to Armenia that communication is tricky, as most people out of the main cities don’t speak English.
Thankfully, Levon had a young neighbour who was able to roughly translate and the duo directed us to the wooden house we’d be staying in.
It was certainly an unusual cabin, with an eclectic mix of furnishings making my head spin slightly. After dumping our cycle packs, Levon insisted we go to the main house for some tea and coffee. After a long cycle it sounded ideal and we eagerly followed.
The Airbnb hosts provided a homecooked meal. The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread
A plate of steamed white fish served as the main course for dinner
The Airbnb hosts laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time (seen above), with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit
Levon’s wife Eva had laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time, with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit.
Jane and I felt slightly awkward with the friendliness of our hosts and the lack of a shared language, but we tried the best we could with the help of the translator.
A music channel played away on the TV and we directed our attention there in moments of silence. Another source of entertainment were Levon’s children, with his baby daughter softly gurgling and his toddler son excitingly flying around.
Going above and beyond, Levon then offered us a tour of the surrounding area and said that he would drive us to the neighbouring village of Bjni to see the 11th century Holy Mother of God church, but that extra would cost us 3,000 Armenian Dram (just £4.95).
Sadie and her friend Jane seen fuelling up at breakfast before a day of cycling
Sadie said the homestay was ‘unusual but certainly memorable’, with wacky interiors and a friendly host. Above, one of the bedrooms
A view of the toilet at the quirky Airbnb (left), and the property hosts Levon and Eva with their two young children (right)
We took up the offer and drove around with him and his translator soaking up some of the local sights – including hot springs, a derelict night club and ancient fortress.
As soon as we returned – still in our sweaty cycling gear – we were ushered back to the main house for a family-style dinner.
It certainly seemed extravagant and we offered to do our own thing for dinner – we still had bread and peanuts in our supply packs – but Levon insisted we dine with them.
The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread.
A map showing where the small village of Arzakan in Armenia is located
Eva then brought through a plate of steamed white fish while Levon doused our glasses with local wine and vodka.
It all felt rather bizarre but the alcohol certainly helped get everyone in good spirits and there were multiple ‘genatzts’ (the phonetic translation for cheers in Armenian) as we feasted. It also inspired Eva to serenade us with a spot of opera-style singing, which was beautiful and quite haunting.
After dinner we rolled into our beds for the night. Luckily it was a warm night, so there was no cold seeping through the flimsy walls.
The next morning Eva had made us breakfast, with some more of the delicious syrupy walnuts serving as fuel for the next leg of our cycle ahead.
All in all, our £19 stay at the ‘charming wooden house’ had been quite unusual but memorable to say the least.