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Published: September 10th 2017
After an amazing experience lead by the Travel Camel, it was time for another adventure…..this time just in the exclusive company of Dancing Dave and Denise. We’d decided long ago that after spending a couple of weeks in the wonderfully beautiful but rustic environs of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that a jaunt to a nearby nation was in order to try and shake off the dust and take a good look around at another Asian nation…..Armenia.
The Dancing One and Denise had made all the necessary arrangements, so when we landed in Yerevan, we were whisked off to the Grand Hotel to sort of clean up our act……and also some of our clothing. It was simply grand to be basking it a bit of luxury and we took full advantage of the situation by pampering ourselves in the spa and digging into some very tasty morsels Yerevan had to offer. In an extremely short time, we had gone from rustic to regal…..and were loving it!
It was fortunate that just down the street from our hotel was Republic Square, which has the Singing Fountains, along with other impressive buildings. Each night, the fountains are set to lights and music and
The Singing Fountains
Amazing water and light show each evening in Republic Square
shoot up into the air….a neat spectacle to behold. We were mesmerized by the waters dancing in rhythm to the music. The tourists and locals alike take in this unique performance amidst a festive atmosphere. These fountains are worth a trip to Yerevan.
No matter what town we are in we are encouraged to go to the market. The Yerevan market is no different with produce, trinkets, jewelry and rugs a plenty. David Hooper has an extensive rug collection which he added to on this trip. Yerevan also has a rather large jewelry market where we helped feed the economy. Antiquities
Armenia’s story is a rather complex one, but was made immensely easier to understand as on day one we visited the Museum of Armenian History which is also in Republic Square. It became abundantly clear to us that this nation had a long and storied history, but more importantly had somehow been able to excavate successfully an incredible amount of antiquities dating from thousands of years past. It was well presented and our guide was extremely knowledgeable…..which of course is always a plus. Seems many of the oldest recovered pieces had been preserved under the ground
due to some cataclysmic occurrences, which proved to be an archeologists’ delight thousands of years later. Another reason so many pieces were still around is that Armenia generally had been spared the typical plundering and sacking that many other nations endured through time. Simply an amazing collection. The Apostolic Church
A quick look at a map would show you the location of Armenia in Western Asia and also show you its neighbors….all of which are primarily Muslim. Armenia though, is a Christian nation of some three million people and has been one since 301 A.D. It was even deemed the national religion. As a result, there are numerous monasteries and churches throughout the land. Communism put a hold on Christianity for about 70 years, but some monasteries are in remarkably good shape, especially the ones that have been restored, much to the delight of the Dancing One.
In the end, you’ve got this Christian and rather smallish land-locked nation (smaller than the Netherlands) surrounded by Muslim nations like Turkey and Azerbaijan, who are not the friendliest of neighbors, trying to continually emerge from decades of Soviet influence. This is no easy task, but the Armenians are an
Rocks with meaning?
Armenian Stonehenge....more questions than answers
incredibly stoic and strong people who are extremely proud of their history.
** Interestingly enough, we learned that there was a land to the southeast of Armenia named the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, where most of the population is in effect, Armenian. The odd thing here is that this land is not recognized as a country……by anyone. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but that country does not govern it. It has its own elected officials and …….well it’s simply confusing to us. You’ve got sort of a country full of Armenians with a government not recognized internationally, yet the U.N. says it is part of Azerbaijan…..that’s seriously complex….. plus we could not figure out how there was so much land that’s not really a part of any country …and as world travelers we had not heard of this before…..hence….one of the reasons we need to keep traveling….to continue our education.
There are also many millions of Armenians living around the world, with the biggest concentrations in Russia and U.S. As a former Soviet republic, many Armenians work in Russia as can be difficult to attain gainful employment at home. Armenian communities are in many countries…..due to circumstances
we’ll describe later. It would seem that there are more Armenians not in Armenia than there are in Armenia. Most it seems, have immigrated to France, Russia and the U.S.
After a couple of days of touring in and around Yerevan, we ventured out to see what other sights the country offered. The Wings of Tatev proved exciting as it is “the longest reversible aerial tramway
built in only one section, and holds the record for longest non-stop double track cable car.” (per Wikipedia) We are talking about 3 ½ miles (5.7km) of cable car fun. MJ held up reasonably well, given her previously described fear of falling. In this case well-founded as it about a 1000 feet (300 meters) at its peak. Once again, she never hesitated to confront her fear and overcome it. The tramway leads to the restored Tatev Monastery, providing stunning views of the area.
Armenia provided us with many stunning vistas as we drove through a good portion of the nation’s countryside. This included Vardenyats Pass, which is 7900 feet, (2410 meters) the highest part of the highway in Armenia and includes Orbeylyan’s Caravanserai, which provided shelter for travelers along the Silk Road as
Light beams have eerie placement... well planned we're sure.
far back as the 1300’s.
Mount Ararat can be seen on clear days from many parts of Armenia. Our photos show it faintly in the distance…not great. It is an extremely tall peak of 16,800 feet (5130 meters) and provides a great backdrop. It is considered the national symbol of Armenia, but actually rests in eastern Turkey. Blame this on Lenin, who ceded it to Turkey back in the 1920’s.
Armenia has its own version of Stonehenge as well. Not well-known outside of Armenia, archeologists are somewhat vexed by these rocks and we discovered that a new attempt at discovering the meaning was about to be underway. “Carahunge” as it known in Armenia (apparently there are other names) has stones of various sizes, some of which have circular holes in them. Many theories exist about these holes, including them being used for astronomical observation, including some associated with sunrise or sunset at the solstices and equinoxes………they are still trying to figure the whole thing out, frankly. In reality, it doesn’t begin to compare withStonehenge … certainly just our opinion.
During our travels we have been fortunate to visit all the Unesco World Heritage Sites and most of
the major Monasteries and Churches in Armenia. Genocide
Depending on which source you consult, upwards of 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed in the second decade of the 20th
century by the Turks. At the time, there were only 2 million Armenians so you can see the enormity of this atrocity. Once again, this kind of inhumanity is incomprehensible. While some controversy exists, this is an astounding number to say the least. There is a Genocide Museum and Memorial in Yerevan which tells the horrible tale of these poor souls. There is a lot of angst and anger among Armenians as the Turkish Government has never admitted to these atrocities, even after all these years. While most people have heard of the Holocaust in Germany, this was the first modern systematic killing of a race. It is a somber experience as you can imagine…..but it is always important never to forget man’s inhumanity against man in the hopes it will not happen again…..but this is not the case…… This museum is extremely well done and worth a visit if you are in Yerevan. Peeling back the onion
When we arrived in Yerevan we were quite
taken by this lively modern city and felt like Armenia was a hidden gem. As we explored the market, embraced the cuisine and explored the museums we fell in love. Over several days we traveled several hundred miles to many UNESCO Heritage Sites, amazing monasteries and small towns, all while experiencing the people and the culture. We listened to our guide who gave a depressing picture of the current Armenian economy and as sense of hopelessness by the citizens of this country. Is this his personal view or the view of the majority? He lead us to believe the only reason people stay in this country is because they do not have the means to leave.
As we peeled back the onion we had an array of emotions sorting out fact from fiction. What we observed in the countryside were that people who were poor, showed pride in their country and seemed hopeful. That didn’t always seem in alignment with what our guide was telling us. We found Yerevan a delightful city where the young people seemed engaged in moving this country forward. They were kind and respectful. We enjoyed a night out on the town and went to
More of Tatev Monastery
Scenic location in Armenia
a jazz club.
We enjoyed our time in Yerevan. We encourage you to go but do not believe you need to see all the nooks and crannies that we saw to get a feel for Armenian. They are still working on their infrastructure to move travelers around to different historical sites as they are long distances apart.
On our last day in Yerevan we had the pleasure of the Manuscript Museum. To tell the truth we thought we might be bored to tears in this one, but it turned out to be a real treasure. You should hire the guide to walk you through as they are an incredible wealth of information. Armenian Bees
Of note is that we saw quite a few people in the countryside who had beehives. Our guide also said that the monasteries made wine and honey. You could be traveling along any given highway and could see multiple boxes of bees and a small trailer where the beekeepers either lived or kept their supplies. You did not always see vegetation where the bees would busy themselves pollenating, so this was different.
This begs the question……is Armenian honey this good….we
Paid for and built by an American Armenian.....looking for absolution?
really can’t say.
We also wondered who was buying all the honey if everyone seems to have bee hives.
Evidentially many beehives in the U.S. are dying…this is not happening in Armenia. Is this due to pesticides? Food for foodies
We had read on the internet before our trip that Armenia was becoming a foodie destination. We ran into an Italian couple in the airport in Istanbul and told them all the countries we were traveling to. The woman became very excited because she really wanted to travel to Armenia for the food. After visiting here, we can understand this hype and excitement. It’s no Italy, but certainly heading in that direction. We had amazing meals of fish, lamb and cabbage rolls. When discussing various towns around the country we will be able to tell you about the monastery but more memorable may be the meal near each of these monasteries. At each meal they generally serve three or four salads with a meat or fish dish and baskets of bread. They make some tasty flat breads that you must try. We have photos of Dancing Dave slurping sauces of our first fish feast. Our guide
stared in amazement at the gusto in which the Dancing One enjoyed his food. The joy of traveling with David and Denise is their joy of embracing all that is around them. We miss them…until next time.
You'll have to go toward the back to find all the food photos. Places we stayed:
Grand Hotel, Yerevan - nice accommodation
Hotel Christy, Goris - highly recommend
Nairi Hotel, Jermuk - rooms were nice, meals were horrible... eat somewhere else
Homestay low end hotel in Dilijan that we do not recommend Restaurants:
Hotel Chirsty, Goris
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