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Published: October 9th 2023
Day 11 Armenia Hanging Out at Lake Sevan
When we first arrived at our hotel / chalet accommodation last night I felt a little deflated. We’ve booked for three nights here, and the quiet remoteness of Nature Rooms has set a high standard.
Driving is such a challenge in Armenia when you are used to consistent road surfaces and the Highway Code. Here, a smooth bit of tarmac for 20kms can change, without warning, into a deeply gouged mud bath where other drivers are still trying to overtake you ...... as on coming traffic is doing the same. And our Lavash Tearooms accommodation is only 50m from the main Yerevan Highway, so the traffic noise is a constant reminder that we’ll be out on another road trip adventure soon.
But this morning I feel a change of spirit. After a late and hearty breakfast we dawdled at the lakeside enjoying the lapping of the water, watching Armenian seagulls and cormorants fighting and crying with laughing howls for space on a small islet off shore. At the water’s edge, coots, grebes and white tailed rails swim in and out of the reeds and dive for
The weather forecast is for rain but we decide to enjoy the present currant bun here, as long as it lasts, and sketch a scene in front of our balcony.
It’s my 4th watercolour in a new sketchbook and I’m starting to get back into the swing of things after neglecting such skills for a year or two.
We decide to forego lunch and, at about 2pm drove off to the Sevan Botanical Garden for a look round. And we do precisely that, looking all away around the perimeter and finding no gateway open (despite Mr/Ms. Google’s ‘Open’ claim).
So on to Plan B: to the Sevan Peninsula where the ancient 9C monastery of Sevanavank is perched. The lake was drained in the 20th century to such and extent that what was Sevan Island became a peninsula.
There are two chapels at the top which have survived the test of time and many other buildings used to be part of the monastery, evidenced by floor plans of low remnants of walls.
Once a centre of learning for reading, writing and decorating texts, it’s now the most touristy attraction we’ve
seen with bars, stalls and individuals all try to catch a bit of trade and at inflated prices.
I ordered a pressed pomegranate juice from one stall, (Mount Ararat is said to be No. 1 Armenian icon, and the pomegranate No. 2 representing good luck). We watched the red juice being pressed from three large fruits, then walked away refusing to pay the £6 the vendor asked for. In Yerevan similar traders charge about £1.
The first chapel is roughly constructed in black stone, heavily pointed with lime mortar. It is built in the usual style, cross shape with a dome of stone on top. The second has stonework built with skill equivalent to that of the the Incas in Peru, beautifully jigsawed stones with barely any mortar. The carved front door of this chapel is said to be from the 14C and is heavily engraved. In addition, in the churchyard is a big collection of Khachkar stones, one in green slate different to the usual terracotta coloured ones.
It’s a privilege to see such old buildings which have survived earthquake and hostile interference. But it strikes me that they are all very
small. You can’t get many worshippers in there, even if they are standing. Perhaps the role of the priest as mediator is the most important thing here, for the believer..... you don’t have to turn up, you rely upon his petitioning to get you through life with only occasional attendance?
There’s a walk to the south end of the ‘island’ ridge where there is a Khachkar standing alone. Against the red carved tufa stonework is a black splash almost like a face, a soaking of some sacred nature? A miraculous tear event? No........ I spot there are remains of taper candles, sold on the footpath on the hill up here, and the blackness is molten wax which has drooled and has been absorbed with a build up up over time.
Further on here’s a defensive site at the end of the peninsula which is all fenced off with photography banned. There’s evidence of an old gun position above it, as well, where we stand to catch the view it commands of the vast expanse of water to the south.
On the way back in the car, there are loads of roadside sellers with
bright orange juice in bottles. And berries in buckets beneath. It’s when I see another car parked by the roadside with two people stripping branches off forests of sea buckthorn, that I work out what the product is. We love the sea buckthorn on our own Northumberland coast in England and have fond have memories of a Baltic trip with Swedish sea buckthorn ice-cream ....... miam. We’ve planted sea buckthorn in our back garden and they have done well, but no fruit.
For the evening meal I enjoy Yakhni, a pan Asian bowl of soup literally meaning ‘stock’. In this Armenian version It’s an un-thickened tomato soup with potatoes, peppers, turmeric, paprika, meat and chopped mint. Delicious. Marion has Horse Sorrel and lentil soup. Side orders of fried potatoes and flat green beans complete the fare with dry red Areni (at room temperature).
But a bonus........ we spot sea buckthorn vodka on the menu and order a couple as digestifs. Packed with flavours of passion fruit and sherbet. Oof...
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