After leaving Georgia, I strayed into Armenia before my route took me to Iran. Life gifted me many experiences and spectacular visions in this ancient lands. I will remember this country with its breathtaking sceneries of nature, its deep and rich history, interesting medieval monasteries and of course again with its lovely people.
Here I am standing at the feet of Mount Ararat which is the highest mountain of Turkey. (5137m) From the lands of Armenia, I am looking at this beauty for the first time in my life, feeling how all the borders are just imaginative lines that can never seperate the sisterhood, brotherhood of humanity.
These are the opening views that I saw in my very first day in Armenia. Leaving the lush green forests behind in Georgia it was quite surprising to see the changing landscapes into desert like features now. I really like to travel this way, by not bouncing to one place -lets say by flying- and find myself at that point out of blue. I prefer to plan routes in such a sequence that I can see the changes in the landscapes, settlements and the elements of culture.
I’ve chosen Yerevan, the capital as my first base as you can visit many sites in a day trip from here. My first visit was to Garni Gorge. (above)
Due to my low budget I’ve mostly taken local buses or marshrutkas but I must say public transport is not so practical in Armenia as there aren’t many buses running all day long. Hitchhiking works fine or as another option you can use shared taxi. Remember it is not easy to make a last minute plan as people are quite laid back here.
Garni Temple situated at Garni Gorge (above) is a symbol of pre-Christian times and can be seen as a Neo-Pagan shrine. Even though there had been many invasions (Greek, Roman, Persian, Arab) or eathquakes in the past, we can still see a big list of historical sites all around the country. And luckily most of these sites are set in extremely beautiful sceneries.
Geghard Monastery complex (above) is dated from 4th to 13th century and is my favourite out of many monasteries I’ve visited in Armenia. It’s surrounded by rocky cliffs.
Geghard Monastery (above) is partly carved out of the mountain. It’s unbelievable to think how these huge spaces as well as all the details had been carved and formed out of rocks. I’m so impressed by the magnificent acoustics and the lights flowing into the space through picturesque ceilings.
My interest is not the detailed history of all monasteries but I’m more into the feeling, into the vibration of the spaces. In this sense Geghard gifted me a spectacular experience in its dark and mysterious medieval interiors.
The interiors are highly impressive. Above we see three dimensional representations of animals and geometrical patterns on the walls.
I took a day to see the surrounding of Lake Sevan in the east of Armenia. It is the largest lake in Caucasus. (80km length, 30km width) It has some historical sites and some beaches in the waterfront. Hayravank Monastery –we see on the left side above- has been enjoying the calm and peaceful scenery for the last 11 centuries here.
Sevanavank Monastery (9th century) at Sevan Lake (above)
Another historical site by Sevan Lake is Noratus Cemetery (above). It has the largest group of khackhars in Armenia. Khachkars are the steles carved from stone which are the characteristic of medieval Christian Armenian art. They act as memorial stones and focal points for worship. They were erected mostly for the salvation of the soul.
Khachkars are ornamented with crosses which rest on the symbol of sun or wheel of eternity. They also take many other forms and details -such as the ones on the right- where you see images of farmers and animals. There are more than 40.000 khachkars in Armenia.
Coming back to Yerevan, the capital. This is the Republic Square (above) at the heart of the city. The building you see on the right is the History Museum of Armenia which is a really well-designed big museum. It has wide range of archeological and ethnographic collections. It is worth to visit due to the rich and deep history of Armenia. You can also attend the very informative walking tour that starts everyday in front of this building at 17.00. If you do so, say hi from me to the guide Vako.
There are many churches and cathedrals in the city, some old, some brand new. Above is an example of a new one, Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral. All Armenian religious structures have one common distinctive element which is the conical, umbrella style domes.
There are 1 million people living in Yerevan. (3 million in the whole country) It is a vibrant city full of theaters, libraries, museums, parks, squares, cafes and restaurants. Many old buildings are still standing in central neighbourhoods. Above is the view from the Cascade where Mount Ararat is again visible as in most parts of Yerevan. The sculptures and grafittis of many international artists are all over the place in the city.
There are almost 2000 street fountains called Pulpulak in Yerevan. (above) I was so pleased to see them as a traveller who is quite attentive on avoiding the consumption of plastic water bottles.
Another important site to visit close to Yerevan is Khor Virap Monastery (above) which is one of Armenia’s major pilgrimage destinations. The Monastery stands at the foot of Mount Ararat, just few kilometres away from Turkish border. Mount Ararat is a holy mountain for Armenians. According to Bible Armenians are the descendants of Hayk, great great grandson of Noah whose ark grounded on Mount Ararat after the flood.
Then I felt this was it for north Armenia and I hit the road for the southern parts.