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Gandzasar Monastery meets kitschy Vank

By the time I visited Gandzasar I had had my dose of monasteries and had chosen my clear favorites: Khor Virap with majestic Mount Ararat as a backdrop and fairyland-like Noravank wrapped in a blanket of snow. Gandzasar became the perfect number three. Why? It was so quiet there, I hardly wanted to leave. You could hear nothing, absolutely nothing, but a few birds. At the end of March I was the only tourist, summers are busy I was told. Besides it is a popular wedding destination for Russians.

Gandazhar Monastery 10th century

Monastery & Graveyard with a view

It was a good hour drive from Stepanakert to the village of Vank, from there a road paid by a local millionaire leads up to the monastery. A tiny cemetery with very personal tombstones flanks the monastery. I spent a lot of time studying the tomb stones and the pictures of the people buried there. I guess this scenic graveyard overlooking a valley added to the serenity.

Gandazhar Monastery flanked by scenic graveyard


Gandazhar Monastery + graveyard, photo on tombstone


Gandazhar Monastery& graveyard with a view

Kitschy playground for Russian millionaire

Vank is just weird, the village center is dominated by the  Titanic-shaped Hotel Eclectic, also financed by the local businessman Levon Hairapetyan. I checked out the pompous inside, everything expensively overloaded.

Village of Vank, Titanic-shaped hotel


Village of Vank, Titanic-shaped hotel

The other bizarre trademark of the village is that everything is painted in green and yellow, EVERYTHING. There is more kitsch outside the village, a kind of resort. An ugly hotel is surrounded by a number of terraces that descend down to a creek. Again everything is painted in green and yellow. Large wooden vessels serve as restaurants and bars, although there was nobody around the music blasting from hidden speakers. It was simply surreal.

But there was one highlight.

Zhingalov khats 

This most delicious flatbread is filled with a variety of fresh herbs, 7 or was it 27? It is a specialty from Nagorno-Karabakh, literally, it means bread with herbs in Armenian. A tiny door opened into a super hot kitchen where three ladies were cooking away, for whom I did not know. They were sorting through tons of herbs so much used in Armenian cooking. They asked me in and served me hot super delicious Zhingalov khats.

Vank flat bread (1 von 1)

Zhingalov khats – flat brad filled with lots of herbs, specialty of Nagorno Karabakh


Making Zhingalov khats the famous local flat bread



herbs used for flat bread

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