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So very Armenian -Khachkar, Lavash, Zhingalov

There are quite a few things that I found either unique to Armenian or omnipresent in this country: the gas-pipelines crisscrossing the country , the  candle trays in churches, Lavash and Zhingalov, the famous flat bread, or Khachkars, stone crosses. And lets not forget the current hairstyle for young men.

 

Zhngalov Khat, flat bread filled with 7-27 herbs

Lavash and  Zhingalov Khat

Lavash, a kind of flatbread, is the staple food in Armenia, it is found everywhere. There is even a sweet version. Unique to Nagorno Karabagh is a  refined  version,  Zhingalov Khat. It is Lavash filled with many different herbs. In Goris I was lucky enough to come across a group of ladies who were making lavash in a tiny bakery, they three were working like machines. One was rolling the dough out flat and thin , the next step and done by a second woman  was spreading the think spread of dough on a cushioned board and then slamming sticking against the walls of an oven set in the ground. The third was getting the Lavash out with a long iron hook.

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Ejminatsin – The Armenian Vatican

Armenians are deeply religious, churches are packed with people of all ages during mass. Around Easter is an excellent time to visit Armenia, lots of fascinating ceremonies like the candle-lightening ceremony or the blessing of small wreaths offer great photo ops. Both of these ceremonies I did not know about, but literally ran into them. Like when I passed street vendors selling little green wreaths on a street corner near my hotel, I simply followed the buyers and ended up at a small church dating back to 1694. A week later I noticed  people in the street carrying small, lit candles.  I quickly walked back to this church and again I stumbled into the most moving ceremony, the lightening of candles.

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Candle Lightning Ceremony

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Windswept Lake Sevan

Being the biggest lake in the Caucasus region makes it a very popular summer destination for Armenians. End of March was certainly not the best time to visit this lake high up at almost 2000m. Windswept, bare and snow-covered mountains in the distance did not allow any summerly feelings. Nevertheless the place was packed, mainly with Iranian tourists who literally let their hair down during those trips.

Lake Sevan - bare and windswept

Lake Sevan – bare and windswept

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A Day of monastery hopping: Noravank – Garni – Geghard Monastery

Armenia prides itself to be the first country that made Christianity its state religion. Consequently, the country is plastered with monasteries that have one thing in common: a setting with a breathtaking view. The inside of these mostly small stone buildings is usually simple: an altar without much décor, no seats, very few paintings, the omnipresent candle tray, that’s it. Those monasteries are Armenia’s main touristic attractions, although I wanted to avoid this touristic itinerary, I ended up doing exactly that, for one long day.

Typical interior of Armenian churches

Typical interior of Armenian churches

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Armenian Genocide of 2015

In 2015 Armenia commemorated the 100th anniversary of the genocide of 1915. The number of victims is incomprehensible –  1,5 million Armenians lost their lives. They were executed or marched across the Syrian desert. Many died along the way  of exhaustion, exposure and starvation. In Yerevan the Genocide Museum is a stark reminder of this very dark part of Armenian history.

Genocide Memorial

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Khor Virap Monastery comes with a view

Khor Virap

Mount Ararat, 5300m, Khor Virap Monastery

From Khor Virap Monastery the view of Mount Ararat is unbeatable, but unfortunately its summit is almost always hidden behind thick clouds. Therefore, I had watched the weather forecast carefully, and Monday March 21st, was the day to do it! Clear skies, off to Khor Virap.

Though Mount Ararat is 8km across the border onTurkish territory, this 5,300m high mountain seems so close. While marveling at its beauty you wonder where exactly Noah’s Ark stranded on the mountain, during the biblical flood.  If you have time to visit only one monastery while in Armenia, choose this one. Continue Reading →

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Armenia’s South – Goris

_MG_9551Goris rockformation2

Goris – rock formation and ancient cave dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Goris

The absolute highlights in Goris are the majestic and bizarre rock formations. Many are punctured with wide caves hewn into the soft rock where people used to live and shelter their animals. Accounts of a Greek historian mention cavemen living here in the 5th century BC, now beat that. This sight came completely unexpected, since my guidebook did not mention it.

The scenery is really dramatic; spires rise up into the sky from the very green carpet of grass that covers the less vertical parts, with a huge cemetery at its feet. It was definitely worth walking up to the feet of the rocks: great view with the river below, snow covered mountains around it, all in a secluded valley. Continue Reading →

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Yerevan beyond the radio

I didn’t know what to expect. All I ever associated with Yervan was the bad joke about Radio Yerevan during Communist days. By and by I discovered a thriving, enterprising city. Businesses are open seven days a week, often until late in the evening.

What Yerevan has plenty of is museums. The must-see: the Genocide Museum – a powerful and well-made reminder of the Armenian Genocide in 1915. About 1,5 million Armenians fell victim to the mass killing ordered by the decaying Ottoman Empire.

Genocide Museum

Genocide Memorial and Museum, bleak reminder of the 1,5 million Armenians killed during the 1915 genocide

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