Raucous in the Caucasus

Trip Region: Eastern Europe
Country(ies): Georgia, Armenia
Partners Trek? No
Trip Cost: $1595
Airfare Estimate: $1700
Nightlife: 7   •   Activity: 8

What do the Kardashians, every history book ever (shoutout history), System of a Down, Zaza Pachulia, the late Anthony Bourdain, and the New York Times Places to Go lists have in common? They all f&@$#* love Georgia and Armenia.

Do you like culture? Would you like to eat some of the best food in the world? Do you want to meet a group of MBA2s from all walks of life (even Minnesota!) who are committed to giving you a fun-having, foreign-lands-exploring, wine-tasting, boat-riding, Instagram-filling, 35-more-adjectives-for-awesomeness-including trip of your life? If so, then please join us as we embark on a trek to the Caucasus!

Our journey begins in Armenia, a landlocked country with an intensely rich history and so much cognac that it makes rap videos from 2003 look like meditation retreats. In four days you will explore virtually every element this country has to offer. From its world heritage sites to its food, we will travel by foot, bus, and boat as we take in all of the sights and sounds of the former Soviet republic. Along the way, we will make time to get to know each other, share secrets together, laugh together, cry together, and eat so much together that we will no longer be able to physically fit together. (Calories don’t count in the Caucasus, it’s whatever.)

After a seamless border crossing, we will make our way into Georgia. If you are expecting to see Atlanta or find a Chik-Fil-A, then you probably didn’t read this overview. Instead, we will kick things off in the capital city of Tbilisi, one of the most fun, eclectic, and (again) historical cities in the region. We will take a dip in the famous sulfur baths and get to dine with a local family. To say that the local hospitality is generous would be an understatement, so be prepared for the hosted dining experience of your dreams. And because no MTrek would be complete without a little viniculture, we’ll make a stop at a winery on our way out to the coastal city of Batumi, the summertime hotspot. There, you’ll have your pick of activities, ranging from botanical gardens and beach to (of course) more boat rides and nightlife.

With that, in the blink of an eye, our time together will be over, your trek leaders will say a toast that sounded better in their heads than it did in real life, and we’ll be heading back home to the US of A.

Travel Day — Friday, Aug 16

You’ve settled into your new Ann Arbor digs. You’ve caught up with your buddies from GBR and met some of your new classmates. You like some of them. Others treat the Ross Class of 2021 GroupMe like it’s an AIM chatroom. Schmoozing is exhausting, Bill’s Beer Garden is humid, and you are no longer employed. Sounds like there’s no better time to hop on a transcontinental flight to the Caucasus. Pack a good book and download a few episodes of Parts Unknown or Keeping up with the Kardashians, because in a matter of (many) hours, we’ll be touching down in Yerevan, Armenia.

Day 1 — Saturday, Aug 17

That was a long flight, know what Armenia? Once we pray to the baggage gods that everyone’s stuff made it halfway around the world (BRING A CARRY-ON!), we’ll gather our things and make our way into Yerevan. Travel days can be exhausting, so we’ll give everybody a chance to freshen up, take a quick snooze, and explore Armenia’s capital city. We aren’t suggesting that you punt the day away, and your leaders will likely want to visit a bar or three on our first night. It is Saturday night, after all.

Day 2 — Sunday, Aug 18

After our first-night hibernation, we’ll be led on a walking tour of Yerevan, where our guide will take us to open-air modern art museums, postcard monuments, and all of the epic views your Instagram-controlled hearts can handle. #Culture. We will then take a quick ride to the Garni Temple, a Hellenistic monument built more than two thousand years ago and the only one in the world of its kind. From there, a jeep tour will take us to the Garni Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that our tour guides have told us is commonly called a “Symphony of Stones.” Groovy. Lunch will be followed by a trip to the Armenian Brandy factory on our way home. We can’t imagine what we’ll do there. And as we make our way back into Yerevan, we’ll load up on micronutrients at the popular Fruit Market and hit the town for our second night.

Day 3 — Monday, Aug 19

Look at me - I am the captain now. It’s boat day. Pack your sailor caps. Our day kicks off with a ride to Lake Sevan, known as the “Pearl of Armenia” and the largest alpine freshwater lake in the Caucasus region. After basking in the tranquility of the water and the whispers of your new family, we will hop to our feed and trek through green valleys and dense woods. Our destination is Gosh Village, a forest oasis, at which we’ll have lunch with the locals. Think of this day as a choose your own adventure, where you’ll have a choice to live your best life on the back of a horse, on another beautiful hike, or at the YELL Extreme Park. This is the actual name of the park. Sounds extreme. This will be our last night in Armenia, and tomorrow we will be making our way toward *Ludacris voice* Georgia.

Day 4 — Tuesday, Aug 20

Get up, stretch your legs, and do those pushups you swore you’d do every morning but haven’t even considered to this point. We’re hopping back our bus and heading toward the Sadkhlo border crossing. Once we emerge on the other side, we will continue to Tbilisi. Things can get a little weird (in a good way) in Tbilisi, so make sure you get a nap in on the bus. Who knows where the night will take us?

Day 5 — Wednesday, Aug 21

It’s already Day 5. How’s that fair? Anyway, we’ll kick things off with another walking tour, which begins with a trip to the traditional sulfur baths. Nothing like cleansing your soul in warm water that smells like a fart. (But seriously, we heard this is a very relaxing experience.) Once we’ve reached our optimal Zen levels, we’ll check out some of Tbilisi’s best known sites. Then it’s time for the main event – a hosted meal with a Georgian family. Local custom dictates that guests are blessed gifts from God (they clearly haven’t met Zach), so prepare to be welcomed into the family like a long-lost relative. This might be the first time we taste Khachapuri, the famous Georgian cheese bread that we will eat approximately 27 times. They may kill us with calories, but assuming we all make it through, we’ll head back to the hotel and into the night.

Day 6 — Thursday, Aug 22

Wave goodbye to Tsblisi, as we have more adventure to undertake. We will take the historic Georgian Military Road, named for its use by foreign invaders (read: us,) north to Aragavi River for some white water rafting. After ignoring Ben’s request to paddle the entirety of the river, we will head to the Ananuri Fortress where we will take in incredible views and get schooled on medieval architecture. From here we finish our day in Stepantsminda where we continue our new tradition of gorgeoing on Georgian food.

Day 7 — Friday, Aug 23

We start the day in Stepantsminda by getting our culture on at the Gergeti Trinity church with its sweeping views of Mt Kazbegi. After that, it’s Bertony and Jenni’s time to shine as we drive to Chardakhi and visit the Iago’s wine cellar. The traditional BIO wine produced here is featured around the world as a delicacy, so why not get it from the source? We end the day in Kutaisi, a unique city on the Rioni River.

Day 8 — Saturday, Aug 24

Onwards to Batumi! This city is Georgia’s summer holiday capital and has fully embraced its nickname as the Vegas of the Black Sea. We intend to test those credentials. We’ll introduce ourselves by taking a tour along Batumi Boulevard taking in the sculptures, fountains, Piazza square and possibly finding our way into a beach bar. Dinner will feature more Georgian food than we will admit back in Ann Arbor, followed by a night exploring the Batumi’s nightlife

Day 9 — Sunday, Aug 25

We did mention the Black Sea right? And what’s summer without a little boating and beer. We’ll spend our last full day together on the water taking in the sights and having a few adult beverages as we enjoy a private boat cruise. Once back on the mainland we’ll enjoy a teary eyed final group dinner before ending the trip in style

Departure Day — Monday, Aug 26

All good things must come to an end, and sadly this trip is no exception. But hey, at least you don’t have to go back to your job! And you’ll have the memories of rafting, exploring historic sights, wine tours, and Pat icing Zach multiple times to see you through. Not to mention the inevitable embarrassing dance offs with your new family that we will pretend didn’t happen. See you all back at Skeeps...we mean Ross!

Patrick Whelan

Here’s a fun bit of trivia: there are people actually from Michigan. Pat, our token Michigander, is sickeningly nice. Cut him open and he bleeds compliments and teamwork. Wreck your car into his and he’ll apologize and pay for the damage. If good guys finish last, Pat lost the race – twice.

Former Pat began his career in healthcare consulting, a path inspired by his lifelong battle with an incurable disease: Michigan sports fandom. Although he has left the world of healthcare in pursuit of marketing products that may or may not be good for people, Current Pat still consults his chronic disappointment by drinking cheap beer on gamedays and Googling things like “Are 31-year-olds still considered millennials?”

Future Pat very much looks forward to leaving the flophouse that he and Zach shared as interns during the summer and embarking on a trip to a new land with new friends. He may have been born in a decade that most of us have only read about in history books, but he still has an undying affinity for Smirnoff Ices. If he plays his cards right, he will end his summer having taken a knee in his fifth continent. What an achievement. We are so proud of you.

Ask Pat about: Trey Burke’s assist to turnover ratio, salon choices in Ann Arbor, deepcut J. Cole tracks

Don’t ask Pat about: Appalachian State, heights, showing up late to the airport

Liz Kent

We made a quick list of the people that Liz doesn’t know at Ross:

Liz has the personality of a vodka soda with a splash of cran, which is, quite literally, what she will order at every single bar in the Caucasus. The Venn diagram of people who know Liz and people who love Liz is just a circle. You don’t want to know anyone who falls outside of the circle.

Have you ever been to Seattle? Do you love it? Do all of your friends talk about how it’s so fun and so hipster but also so quirky and so cultural? Of course they do – it’s where Liz is from. Prior to Ross, Liz spent a few years in LA and is now transitioning into a career in human capital consulting. If you spent a few years around people in Los Angeles, you probably would, too. (JK we <3 LA.)

We don’t want to use terms like “trek mom,” so we’ll call Liz our “trek supervisor.”  Who will be there to pick us up when we’re tired? Liz. Who will calmly remind Ben that we cannot illegally cross borders or embark on potentially deadly hikes? Liz. Who will force us to go to karaoke but then ensure our safe return home. All of your leaders, hopefully. But probably just Liz.

Ask Liz about: What goes with ranch dressing, Pets of Ross GroupMe (no, Liz doesn’t have a dog), and why Dominos is 1000x better than Cottage Inn

Don’t ask Liz about: Sheck Wes/Mo Bamba, the Seattle Sonics, and mascots (she has an irrational fear of them)

Bertony Jean-Louis

These leader bios may make it seem like we don’t take ourselves seriously, but we are genuinely committed to providing a safe, thought-provoking, and educationally fulfilling environment on your MTrek. To do this, we have taken an oath, as leaders, to follow each rule to its full extent. And perhaps no rule is more important to this mission than Rule 4A.2 of the MTrek Leader Handbook, which reads: “No leader with more than four (4) visible abs shall go shirtless at any point during the trip.” (This isn’t an actual rule, but it applies to Bertony and if he takes off his shirt and does irreparable damage to our egos we’re going to feed his passport to fish in the Black Sea.)

A native of Connecticut and former D1 athlete, Bertony has since traded his spikes for spreadsheets as he sprints (we’ll see ourselves out) to Wall Street. He’s a frustratingly humble guy, so we’ve had a tough time figuring out what he did this summer. Something about a small liberal arts bank called Goldman-Sachs. Have you heard of it?

Bertony wore a sleeveless plaid button-up on the first day of Ross orientation. He has an aura that whispers “Milan” under its breath as he walks by you while you’re wearing the same pair of sweatpants for the third day in a row (it’s cold outside leave us alone). Without Bertony, our group would be a 2 on the cool scale. He makes us a 12.

Ask Bertony about: Favorite bars around campus, Why he loves PB&J, and his 6-month quest to purchase a correctly fitting Canada Goose jacket

Don’t ask Bertony about: How he strained his hamstring before the start of Fall classes.

Ben Quam

If this trek were exclusively up to Ben, we would be embarking on an 80-day transcontinental journey through West Asia and sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder in deserted opium dens. Fortunately for us, this trek is not exclusively up to Ben!

If there was a direct correlation between weird intellectual curiosity and height, Ben would be 6-foot-4. Oh holy $&!# he is actually 6-foot-4. He pregamed this trip by wasting 45 hours of his time researching failed expeditions to Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat. While recruiting for tech. During final exams. Bless his soul.

Ben is from Minnesota but spent five years before Ross at a Colombian startup. Yes, he is fluent in Spanish. Yes, he had a wild man bun when we first met him. Yes, he is the only Timberwolves fan in the world.  No, he is not “Minnesota nice,” but we’d never know if he was.

As the only member of this team to have previously led a trek (shoutout C-Trek Spring Break 2019), Ben is an important cog in our wheel. Just don’t let him roll us up Mt. Ararat.

Ask Ben about: Joining C-Trek, the Midwest, Mt Ararat’s role in humanity’s quest to find Noah’s Ark.

Don’t ask Ben about: GroupMe, College Football.

Jenni Wiener

With representation from Michigan and Minnesota, you really thought we forgot about Ohio? If the rest of us are a soggy plate of spaghetti, Jenni is the skyline chili blanketing us with kindness and positive energy. That’s just a little Cincinnati humor for y’all.

Jenni would never brag, but she’s been to ~50 more countries than you. She recently took the Trans-Siberian Railway deep into the underbelly of Russia and was name-dropping Georgian foods like they were Domino’s pizza toppings. Rumor has it that Jenni has actually been to Georgia and Armenia before and knows all of the restaurant owners by name and is just refusing to tell us.

We attribute Jenni’s patience to the time she spent as a high school teacher in Texas. Handling teenagers during their toughest years makes wrangling business school students beating down 30’s door (no offense, Pat) seem easy. Before Ross, she was also a human capital consultant, so we clearly have some weird obsession with creating optimal teams. Jenni has guaranteed, scientifically, that this is the best set of MTrek leaders. Please don’t argue with science.

It is possible that Jenni will have a few glasses of wine on this trip, at which point she won’t get emotional or hostile or belligerent or loud. She’ll just give you a hug and tell you what she admires about all of your best qualities. This is normal behavior for someone whose 23andMe results came back as “100% heaven.”

Ask Jenni about: face chugging, chugging 10 seconds (any kind of chugging, really), tacos, knowing all the words to most 90s music, extreme sports!

Don’t ask Jenni about: transitioning from warm Texas winters to Ann Arbor polar vortexes, keeping up with GroupMe texts, staying focused in 8ams

Zach Zimmerman

Ever wonder what happens when you combine an Orlando strip mall with a Stanford education? Of course you haven’t. But we’ve got the answer anyway, it’s Zach! Everyone’s favorite two-word texter, Zach is here to brighten your day with his patented smile, good humor and encyclopedic knowledge of underachieving Magic basketball players. Just make sure you catch him before his nonnegotiable 9:30pm bedtime. The war between Zach’s sleep schedule and our Mtrek activities is going to be epic.

Post college, Zach took the traditional Stanford career path to Red Bull where he perfected using the terms “gnarly” and “hella,” while producing hella gnarly content for Red Bull TV. But after realizing that Monster energy was a superior product, Zach moved to the advertising agency R/GA where he handled Nike accounts. He’d be happy to tell you about it, but his association is unmistakable from what we have deemed his “cartoon closet” of clothes. Free khachapuri on me if he doesn’t wear a black t shirt with Nike shoes for over half the trip.

When Zach isn’t taking elevated Instagram videos of his daily activities, or volunteering for the 13th time in our MO class, he’s hanging at home with his much cooler wife Marisa and dog Zoe. That or he’s testing the hair limits of how much fade really is too much fade (hint: the limit does not exist.) Either way, Zach has never been more excited for a trip in his life (editor’s note: outside of his honeymoon) and is ready to Instagram, sleep, eat, and sleep across two of the most interesting countries on the planet.

Ask Zach about: The great state of Florida, Soundcloud rappers, planning and having a wedding during business school like an idiot

Don’t ask Zach about: Not raising your hand in class, Shaq leaving Orlando for LA, group texting etiquette