We are driving on some lonely roads in the western part of Armenia close to the border to turkey. We are not allowed to take the car to turkey so we need to take care not to make a wrong turn across the border. In this aspect we are helped by the unfortunate ongoing animosity between the people of Armenia and turkey – the border is closed to all traffic so we won’t be making a mistaken turn.
There are not a lot of people on the road and I am wondering why there is a road at all – it doesn’t seem like we are passing any settlements of any note and the landscape is pretty desert like so there is hardly enough grass for a sheep to survive let alone a herd of sheep’s tended by a shepherd. We don’t see any cars as we are driving along on the good road – maybe this is the secret to the good condition of the road – with so limited traffic and probably not a lot of rain the road might survive forever.
Suddenly we see a structure in the distance. It is the old fortress of Dashtadem which is located just outside the small village of the same name. We go up to the fortress and considering we have only seen a few cars for a long time we expect to get the place solely to ourselves.
There is no ticket office selling admission tickets – probably the staff wouldn’t be able to earn their own salary considering the very limited number of tourist dropping by on this part of Armenia. So we go inside and realize we are not alone. On the top of the fortress is a black flag which looks surprisingly like an Isis flag. It is a bit surprising to see an Isis stronghold in Armenia after they have been kicked out of Syria and Iraq – they would have to make it all the way across Turkey or Iran to get to Armenia. It turns out the flag doesn’t belong to the last Isis stronghold but a film crew which are shooting a film at this location. I guess this desert fortress could look like something you would find in Syria and it is a still a lot safer to travel around the country side of Armenia compared to the desert of Syria.
The film crew is making a scene with a soldier – but they keep signing to us we have to keep our distance and be quite – so we can’t get a good view of the actual actors only the staff around the film set which is actually pretty big. So the private visit was not so private – but at least the film crew doesn’t get in front of our cameras so we can get decent photos of the central fortress and the wall around the fortress.