No:56 – Armenia – The 1st Christian Country …

About the Blog …

The blog is based on my visit to Armenia, as a part of my 2023 Silk Road Tour.

Type of vacation …

Small group tour with driver and guide, exploring Yerevan,  Lake Sevan, Khor Virap, Haghpat, Areni Etc.

Country Counter: Countries/territories I have visited so far …

Travel TipsTips based on my travels so far …

What I liked best …

(1) Downtown Yerevan is spectacular!

(2) Food!

What I did not like …

Nothing comes to mind … I had a great time!

Location in the World map …

 

Some interesting tidbits about Armenia …

• First nation to adopt Christianity as official Religion.
• Armenian history dates back to before 10000BC!
• One of the most mono-ethnic countries in the World. 97% of people living in Armenia are Armenians.
• Has the World’s longest non-stop Cable Car (5.7km!).
• Chess is a very important part of Armenian life. First nation to make Chess mandatory in schools.
• It is believed (or claimed) that 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire.
• Close to 6 million Armenians live outside Armenia, more than the 3 million who live in Armenia.
• Celebrities like Andre Agassi, Cher, Kardashians Etc. have Armenian roots.

• Armenian capital, Yerevan, is one of the oldest cities in the World (After Aleppo, Athens, Varanasi Etc.).
• Currency is Armenian Dram. 1 INR == 4.7 AMD.

My Experiences

My initial impressions:

(1) Roads, though 1 or 2 lanes only, are good quality (Generally speaking, of course!).
(2) Yerevan, at least downtown Yerevan, is very beautiful.

No, not a Police LineUp … This is my personal “Armenian Beer LineUp” 😀 All these bad boys are going to get their apt conclusions, very soon … 😂
The natural beauty of Armenia … As per our Guide, Armenia, or rather, people of Armenian origin, have played vital roles in ATM, MRI, Plastic Surgery Etc.
Lake Sevan, Armenia: One of the largest lakes in this part of the World (and at this altitude). At an altitude of just under 2000 meters. 74km length. 32km width. Mean depth of 26 meters and a peak depth of 79 meters. Several villages dot the periphery. Quite crowded in the months of July and August.
Haghpat Monastery, Armenia: From 10th Century. UNESCO World Heritage Site. For me, the highlight was its location. Absolutely stunning. There were Kachkhars (Armenian Stone Carvings) galore …
Sevanavank Monastery, at Lake Sevan, Armenia. We have to climb 230-odd steps to get to the Monastery. I was wearing my pullover’s hood and was requested to remove it, inside the Monastery.
Sea Buckthorns! Never heard of it before. Apparently has many health benefits. I saw these stalls alongside the highway and wanted to try it. Tried both the sour version (Which I liked better) and the sweet version (A tad too syrupy for my taste).
Etchmiadzin Cathedral, home of the Head of Armenian Apostolic Church: There was originally a wooden one in 303AD. In Etchmiadzin town. The 1st Christian Cathedral in the World. There is a Seminary. The staff gave a short guided tour. They claim to have a tiny piece from Noah’s Ark. Also an axe used to check if Jesus Christ was dead, while on the cross. There was a painting/carpet showing torture of Gregor the Illuminator. The 1st Armenian Bible, printed in Amsterdam in 1600s, was displayed. They claim to have a small piece of Jesus’ Cross, in the form of a relic. There was also this pure Silver vessel gifted by Armenians in Russia for holding Holy Oil (65kg vessel). The oil is made once in 7 years and sent all over the World. Shopped at the Cathedral store (Magnets, Postcards, Wall-hangings, Dolls Etc.).
Armenian Genocide Memorial: During the Ottoman Empire (Turkey, World War I), it is believed that 500K-1.5M Armenians were killed. Of course, Turkey denies it. Armenia does seem to have quite a lot of “Enemies”. Wars with Azerbaijan. Bad relations with Turkey, Israel Etc. Pakistan does not even recognize Armenia. On April 24th, there is a Memorial Day. The pile of flowers are from the recent one. There are 12 flower-like pillars indicating the 12 capitals Armenia has had. Many nations, including USA, recognize and acknowledge the Genocide.
Armenian Khachkars are everywhere. A lot of them have that pink hue. The Cochineal insect used to be used in the past for producing the dye.
Pagan Temple of Garni, Armenia: After Christianity was adopted in Armenia (Thanks to the efforts of “Gregory the Illuminator”), all Pagan temples were destroyed, except this one. After some earthquake damage, this temple was restored, during 1966-1976. There were lots of people. After Registan, in Uzbekistan, this is the most tourists I have seen in one site, during the entire trip.
Geghard Monastery Complex: By the side of a mountain. There is a holy water spring, supposedly found by “Gregor the Illuminator”. Original structure, carved on solid rock, is all but destroyed. The compound has a huge rock that fell in 1975 and was left as is. Inside the Monastery Complex, which has a working Church by the way (Armenian Orthodox) was very dark (Not sure why). These newer structures are from the 13th Century. There are animal sacrifice pedestals, where sheep Etc. are sacrificed. The resultant meat has to be cooked only with water and salt (Which is blessed by the Priest). They then proceed to bury the bones. The food has to be distributed to 7 people. There is also a building where the priests live.
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, Yerevan, Armenia: The largest one for Armenian Apostolic Church. For such a large church, there was hardly anyone there. Right next to it was what looked like the “Dharavi” of Yerevan, an urban slum. Just 22 years old (Built in 2001).
During dinner, there was a performance by a local folk music group. Armenia seems to be under “Russian tourists attack”. There were Russians everywhere. The big restaurant was filled with 95% Russian tourists. After a few swigs of the local Vodka, they could hold no more and joined in with the artists 😀
My 1st Lunch in Armenia … Lavash, Pork Barbeque, Halva, Armenian Coffee, Lentil Soup Etc.
The drive to Lake Sevan was very beautiful … Smooth roads.
View of the villages around Haghpat Monastery …
Inside one of the several structures within Haghpat Monastery. Over 270 Monks used to live here.
Armenian Wines … Tough to carry back. Hence just looked at it and moved on 🙂
Cascade Complex, Yerevan, Armenia: Made using Limestone, from 1971. Its a stairclimbers delight (Elevators are also available). It overlooks an open air statue museum, with several pieces from Columbia’s Fernando Botero.
Armenian Dram (AMD). Currently, 1 INR == 4.7 AMD.
St. Hripsime Church: From 7th Century. Several Nuns were stoned to death and there is a Tomb for Saint Hripsime.
Armenian Coffee … So strong, it will keep you buzzing for a long time 🙂
Segways, like Transformers 🙂 Yerevan, Armenia.
Opera and Ballet Theater, Yerevan, Armenia. Some show or the other happens daily.
I liked this Lion statue in the open air statue museum at Cascade Complex, Yerevan, Armenia.
During the lunch break … Strawberry and Basil Smoothie and Berry Tea.
Armenian flag in full glory … At Genocide Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia. Over half a million trees are planted here. Many leaders from all over the World have planted trees as well.
Areni Caves, Armenia: There was a brief guided tour. Around 500 bats live in these caves. But I did not see any. Excavations were done in this region during 2007-2014. Bronze Age jewelry Etc. were found here. A 5500 years old shoe, claimed to be the World’s oldest shoe, was found here. Also, Leather which is 6000+ years old. The caves are home to a lot of birds. Remnants of the World’s oldest Winery was found here: 6500yr old! Pots Etc. Also, there were many Stone Age items as well.
Areni Winery, Ararat Wine Region, Armenia: Really liked the Pomegranate Wine. This is a medium-size Winery, a family business it seems.
Armenian countryside, during the ride to (and from) Ararat Wine Region. To get there, we go beside that weird separate region of the hated enemy Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan province.
Noravank Monastery Complex, Armenia: From the 13th Century. The brick red cliffs give it a beautiful background. Though a cloudy day, the Sun did come out briefly. Climbed up the mountainside, to get better views of the complex.
Noravank Monastery Complex, Armenia: From the 13th Century. The brick red cliffs give it a beautiful background. Though a cloudy day, the Sun did come out briefly. Climbed up the mountainside, to get better views of the complex.
Been to several countries, which claim to have their version of “Grand Canyon” (IMO, nothing, NOTHING, comes remotely close to the Grand Canyon 😀) … This is Armenia’s humble Canyonland. It looked very beautiful though.
Khor Virap (“Deep Pit”): Near to Turkey border. We can actually see Turkish houses! “Gregory the Illuminator” was from a Royal family. King Tiridates’ father was killed by Gregory’s family. Gregory tried to preach Christianity to Pagans and got himself imprisoned. Teridates became sick while Gregory was imprisoned in the deep pit. Gregory cured Teridates and Teridates agreed to adopt Christianity as state religion, making Armenia the 1st nation to adopt Christianity as state religion. 6’x6′ pit was used to imprison Gregory in Khor Virap. There was a long queue to down to the pit. I skipped as I heard it is just a simple rocky enclosure. I climbed up the hill next to Khor Virap.
The various colors of GUM Food Market, Yerevan, Armenia. Part-1.
The various colors of GUM Food Market, Yerevan, Armenia. Part-2.
The lunch spread … At an eatery next to the Noravank Monastery Complex. The Chicken Kebab was spectacular. So were all the various salads, and of course the Lavash bread (Which is recognized by UNESCO). I ate the Peaches from the jug of Peach Compote. And that is Taragon I am holding (Not everyone likes it 🙂 )
Fruit-jelly-covered Walnut Candy. Loved it! Bought the Pomegranate one (Red). There were also Grape, Apple Etc.
Yerevan Metro, Yerevan, Armenia. Very simple one, with bare stations, rickety trains Etc. Different colors, I saw a Green one and an Orange one.
Pastries at SAS Food Court. Bought a couple, to try.
Ladies making fresh bread … SAS Food Court, Yerevan, Armenia.
Liked these green artificial-grass figures in front of a restaurant.
Night lamps in a store … During my walk in a Yerevan neighborhood.
Took all my will power to NOT be tempted and go to this stall. GUM Market, Yerevan, Armenia.
Loved these red colored hills … Armenia.
Bought a set of these painted wooden spoons … Areni Winery, Armenia.
Armenia is huge on Pomegranates … And Pomegranate souvenirs.
Grand Candy Store: What I liked the most was this toy train on a hanging track 🙂
Grand Candy Store, Yerevan, Armenia. They have a restaurant as well.
View of Yerevan, capital of Armenia. Population of around 1 million.
View of Yerevan, capital of Armenia. Population of around 1 million.
Chess is big here …. Here’s proof 🙂 Not a big Chess guy, hence taking a photo is all I did here.
Loved this tree … At Geghard Monastery Complex.
View of the mountains and valleys around Garni Pagan Temple, Armenia.
View of the mountains and valleys around Garni Pagan Temple, Armenia.
View of the mountains and valleys on the way to Garni Pagan Temple, Armenia.
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, Yerevan, Armenia: The largest one for Armenian Apostolic Church. For such a large church, there was hardly anyone there. Right next to it was what looked like the “Dharavi” of Yerevan, an urban slum. Just 22 years old (Built in 2001).
Armenian coffee, I love. The Armenian noodles/pasta (“Arishta”), not so much. Tried it with yogurt. Liked the various types of fruit compote.

 

Adios!

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