Armenia: Antiquities, the Apostolic Church and Genocide


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Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan
September 27th 2017
Published: September 10th 2017
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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 FountainsThe Singing FountainsThe 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?Rocks with meaning?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
Monastery GeghardMonastery GeghardMonastery Geghard

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
Genocide Museum in YerevanGenocide Museum in YerevanGenocide Museum in Yerevan

Somber, but well done
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 MonasteryMore of Tatev MonasteryMore 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
Newer ChurchNewer ChurchNewer Church

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:

Lavash, Yerevan

Hotel Chirsty, Goris


Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 30


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CaravanseraiCaravanserai
Caravanserai

From the 1300's
Inside the CaravanseraiInside the Caravanserai
Inside the Caravanserai

Along the Silk Road
Monatsery TatevMonatsery Tatev
Monatsery Tatev

Well planned lighting
Preparing our watermelonPreparing our watermelon
Preparing our watermelon

Seriously tasty roadside stop!
In town of JermuckIn town of Jermuck
In town of Jermuck

Lovely location
Jazz Club in YerevanJazz Club in Yerevan
Jazz Club in Yerevan

These guys were pretty good!


10th September 2017

Armenia visit
I led a Habitat for Humanity trip here a few years ago and went to a few of the same places. If you are still there and have the time, it is worthwhile to take a minibus to Georgia- make sure to visit the Joseph Stalin Museum
11th September 2017

Armenia visit
It was a good trip. We are in Italy now and decided to save Georgia for a future trip. Thank you for reading and commenting.
11th September 2017

Armenia - a hisotry not that rosy
Hi David and MJ, Thank you for presenting another great blog. I was not aware about the genocide part of Armenia, _ my ignorance. Facing such a hostility around them, it's no wonder they are so determined a race and proud of their history. I used to have a colleague from Armenia. I could easily observe such a resolve in him. Nagorno-Karabakh is an interesting subject for political researchers. I still remember the 1991 referendum for independence of Nagorno -Karabakh after the fall of Soviet Union and the ethnic conflict that followed that. sure it has not been a cake-walk for the Nation for many years.
11th September 2017

Armenia-a history not that rosy
It is an interesting country to visit. So much to learn about these people. A hard past but resilient. Glad your friend demonstrated these qualities. Always interesting how history helps form us.
11th September 2017

Lavash
Man oh man the food was good. Trim & terrific from staple foods in Tajikistan just had to do some catching up in Armenia...starting each meal with goodies wrapped in lavash...boy do I miss that. Then there are the memories...of Armenia's extraordinary history...of amazing adventures...amazing company...Denise & I miss you guys. Until next time!
12th September 2017

Lavash
Each morsel was good and always made better wrapping it in Lavash. It was an adventure and glad we shared it with both of you. Thanks for reading and commenting. Chat soon.
12th September 2017
Zvartnots, Armenia

I was in Armenia in the mid 90-ies
Back in the mid 90-ies I visited Armenia for two weeks. It was in mid winter so you might say that my experience was unusual. When I read your blog entry many memories return and I now feel that it would be pretty cool to go back there again now 20 years later and first see the country in summer and second to see how it has changed and third to see all the places I missed mostly because I had no guide book and there was no Google to ask for "Things to see in Armenia". Thanks for bringing back memories. /Ake
12th September 2017
Zvartnots, Armenia

Back in the 90's
I think it would be cool if you wrote the first part of your blog from memory... giving your impressions of what you remember. Put it on paper before you go and then reflect on the changes you see and if your impressions changes. That could be a very interesting adventure. I'm not sure how much has changed. Yerevan is more than likely where the big changes have occurred. MJ
12th September 2017
Zvartnots, Armenia

Maybe I could make one retro and one new blog...
I have photos and a journal from my travels in the 90-ies. I guess I could create a decent blog based on them. after that I could go to Armenia take new photos and make a blog using them. It sounds interesting. Finding the time to do it is another story though. The only time I have done anything similar to that was when I went to Bosnia a couple of years ago. I have a few Before and After-pictures there. See blog number 513363. I have two more of those Befoe and After-photos in blog number 513371 (about Mostar). /Ake
12th September 2017
Zvartnots, Armenia

One retro and one new
Great idea! I would love to read both of those blogs so I hope you end up doing this. Love to hear your impressions from the 90's. I really doubt much has changed. I hope you can make the time. I will go back and read your Bosnia blogs. Sounds interesting.
16th September 2017

Abundant
So much to take in. Would love to see the fountains-a mix of water, lights & music is a big winner. Structure & scenery captivating. Those grape leaves made me drool! And your tradition of candle lightning for Mom, well, tears for that- touched my heart!
16th September 2017

Abundant
We get educated on all our travels but Armenia provided more than we were expecting. There is so much to know and understand about the world and relationships between people. Dave lights candles for your mother in some amazing settings. The dancing waters were fun.
16th September 2017

"Don't mention the Armenians"
I visited Ani while in East Turkey...a ghost town ruin of an old Armenian city. Now cashed in by Turkey as an historical site. But...I could not find reference to "Armenia " at all on the printed explanation boards. Hm...denial extraordinaire no? Informative blog...thanks :)
16th September 2017

Don't mention the Armenians
Denial extraordinare is a simple way to explain it. Sad the complicated histories these countries have with each other. Thanks for reading and commenting.
17th September 2017

Gem
Great blog as always - Armenia is certainly a country I would like to visit at some point, it sounds indeed like an undiscovered gem. I'm amazed at how many places you were able to visit whilst there, and what fascinating and beautiful sights there are. Your food descriptions are also very enticing :)
17th September 2017

Gem
Armenia really is an undiscovered travel destination. A country struggling financially. If they could harness tourism they could improve things. Many of the sites are long distances a part. I don't think they will make drastic changes over night but you'll want to go in the next few years before more people start going. The museums and Unesco sites are amazing. MJ
23rd September 2017

Wow!
This has been quite the trip Binkleys! I just finished reading your "Stan" blogs and found you had jetted off to Italy and now Armenia. Very interesting place. It's never been on my radar, until now.
24th September 2017

Wow!
This has been an interesting collection of countries to visit. Armenia has so much to offer. Really far more interesting than we ever expected. A history of struggles and yet they continue on with pride. You'll have to give it some consideration. Thanks for following along.
25th September 2017
Sinful Cabbage Rolls

Sinful Cabbage Rolls
There's no such thing! All the food here looks amazing. Love the sound of Armenia and those small caucasus nations. I love the former Soviet Union nations and their turbulent past... Keep these blogs coming.
26th September 2017
Sinful Cabbage Rolls

Sinful Cabbage Rolls
Armenia is moving up on the food scene. These...well ... just amazing. Yes these nations come from a turbulent past. The Armenians were nearly wiped out. Sad times. Thanks again for commenting.

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