Tag: Armenia

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, oh Yerevan. What can I say that does you justice? The first thing one notices is the water fountains! Fountains are absolutely every where. Drinking fountains and coffee dispensers on nearly every corner! Large leafy trees provide one with the necessary shade. Yerevan was hot, stinking, boiling hot. Most days it was forty degrees, in the shade!! I had so many plans, but running around in this heat was just not practical! Instead I found a lovely cafe with very friendly staff, and cold, cheap beer! It became my favourite watering hole!

The museum was fantastic. Informative and well set out. It was a tad confusing that they had the national art gallery on the second floor and you needed to buy extra tickets! I saw the works of Minas Avetisyan, an Armenian artist, who died quite young, at age of forty seven in a car crash. His works are vibrant, colourful and stunningly beautiful.

I did a tour of three of the major attractions. Khor Virap, which has Mount Ararat as a back drop. However, it is unusual to see the mountain in the summer time due to the haze. I was fortunate that the fog lifted for about ten minutes and I could see the impressive mountain. The mountain, as the myth has it, was the landing place of Noah’s arc. It was from this mountain that he send the doves to see if the water had diminished. The mountain has always been part of Armenia, and is regarded as a Holy site. Now, however, it belongs to Turkey, which is an on going dispute between the two countries. Needless to say they are not friends.

Khor Virap was build in IV till XVIII, I was disappointed there were no frescoes of importance. When I saw the Armenian churches in the Armenian quarters of Isfahan, Iran, my expectations were set too high! After KHor Virap, my crazy taxi driver, Artur, drove me to Etchmiadzin, the Hripsime church, which was build in 618. (I was suppose to see the cathedral, to this day I am not sure if this church was the cathedral or not! ) Not having a Lonely Planet is a problem at times. I realise how much I rely on the information in the guide book!

Last but certainly not least, we visited Zvartnots. The first cathedral in Armenia, if I am correct. The remains of St Gregory are buried here, or was it St George?? So many Saints, such a small brain to retain all the information given to me! If I had been smart I could have written down the main points of interest!

There is so much to see and do here, it comes down to having the energy and the money. One can do tours, with groups, but only on certain days is one able to visit certain sites. I took a private taxi, which is a tad more expensive, but gives those young people an income as well. Plus it is a lot more fun when one cannot speak a communal language and you need hands, feet and facial expressions to communicate ! We laughed so much. Artur was thirty seven years old and had a seven year old daughter and five year old son. He was keen to show photos of his lovely family, just a shame he was driving while doing so!!

Garni was another fascinating place.i believe it is the oldest pre Christian site in Armenia, it dates from the 8th century BC. The Temple of the god Mihr was beautifully restored. There were ruins of the palace and the King’s bathroom, which had Roman mosaic floors. It threatened to rain all day, and it was extremely overcast. The previous night it had rained profusely, resulting in a rockslide, which closed off the road to Geghard! I had paid Artur to visit both sites, but as this was an act of God, neither of us could help this. We did have an interesting intermezzo with a trail of police cars behind us, sirens blaring, lights flashing, Artur was not disturbed by any of it!

When we were stopped by the police, who had blocked the road, Artur told me it was the president, with his entourage, visiting the rock slide site! Hm! It could have been! I choose to believe him!

I visited the impressive Genocide Museum and monument. Deeply disturbing tribute to the genocide of 1915-1922 , when an enormous part of the population was murdered by the Ottoman Empire. I cried. How anybody can kill small children and innocent babies if beyond my human understanding. ( and still goes on today!) I met a lovely woman from England, Glynis, ( who was also crying ) and we ended up spending the day together, and shared a meal at the end of it. I don’t often eat out, mainly because it is a boring thing to do on my own, and the breakfast at the Bonjour Guest house is so incredibly huge, that I am often not really hungry for the rest of the day. We ended up going back to the museum, and again to see the art of Minas Avetisyan.

Last but certainly not least, was Cafesjian, Center for the arts. An amazing place where I spend nearly a whole day! The main galleries were closed, only open from Friday till Sunday, I happened to be there on a Thursday! Shame! Didn’t have the energy to go back a second time! A sculpture garden and show casing European artist, in a display that changes every couple of weeks.

Glynis was going to Dilijan the next day, and asked if I wanted to come. I had to organise this with the guest house, as I had booked and wasn’t sure if I could change the dates!

So the next day I travelled to Dilijan, high in the mountains, where it would be lovely and cool! Of course it was Murphy’s Law, that the cool change came the night before I left! Go and figure!

Ancient, Amazing, Armenia

Armenia, what did I know about Armenia? I knew it was one of the first Christian countries in the world. That seemed to be the extend of my knowledge. I did visit the Armenian quarters in Isfahan, Iran. Where I visited the genocide museum. So I knew about that too. Two small facts. Hm! I have no Lonely planet, so I visited the tourist information centre in Gyumri. I was helped by the gorgeous Araks. My level of ignorance showed up very quickly.

I had seen a star with Charles Aznavour’s name on it in the fort at Akhalkalaki, Georgia. Here is an enormous statue of Charles Aznavour at the beginning of the centre of town.
What has Charles Aznavour got in common with this region? Charles real name is Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian. His father Michael, was Armenian, born in Akhaltsikhe ( now Georgia) and mother, Knar, was Armenian, born in Izmir, Turkey. Apparently he has got his statue, because of his enormous financial support of the people of Gyumri, after the earthquake.

Earthquake? Which earthquake? On the 7th of December 1988 at 11.45 an earthquake hit Armenia. Two different accounts on how high it was on the Richter scale. One source says 7.2 and another 6.8 either way it was enormous. A large area was affected, mainly Gyumri. Most of the buildings that were build during the Soviet time, had a poor quality concrete, and hence collapsed. An estimated 50.000 People died, and an estimated 130,000 were injured. Over 500,000 people ended up homeless.

There is an enormous monument that reminds people of this tragedy. It also explains why so many of the buildings in town are damaged and derelict. Overgrown with weeds, high grasses and wild daisies, it creates a feeling of despair and neglect, even after thirty years. Large concrete blocks, rubble and an enormous amount of rubbish add even more to these negative feelings. The centre of town, the main tourist area, is being done up beautifully, a lot of major repairs are undertaken.

Arak took me to the oldest barbershop, in Armenia(?), which was completely undated by the earthquake, and still in the same state as when it was first opened!

I have read all the articles suggested by the lovely Araks. I now know about the Velvet Revolution last May, when people took to the streets in their millions and over threw the government. Without any blood shed. I now also know more about the Armenian Genocide, but will visit the museum in Yerevan, and afterwards write about it.

One of the major highlights in Gyumri was the visit to the two sisters, Eranuhi and Mariam Aslamazyan. I liked the bold, colourful works of Mariam the best, while I admired the subtle portraits of Eranuhi. These sisters were something else. Eranuhi was married and had a daughter, while Mariam stayed single. These sisters travelled all over the world, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and painted on location. This is way back in the seventies, when home duties, kitchen duties and duties to husbands and children was still the norm!! After spending time here all I wanted to do was paint! I will re think my travelling, I have been dreaming of taking an easel and materials to the slopes of the mountains in Mestia, Georgia. I will look into this!

I stayed in a lovely backpackers, right in the centre of Gyumri, and although very noisy, I had two excellent nights before travelling on to Yerevan.

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