Armenia Journals

Rediscovering my Armenian Roots

Best of IgoUgo

A June 2010 trip to Armenia by Hishyeness

Armenian Apricots Photo, Yerevan, Armenia More Photos
Quote: After a gap of 23 years, I returned to Armenia this summer for my sister's wedding. What i found filled me with equal parts of inspiration and despair. This is a log of the places I visited and the impression they left on me.

Saghmosavank Monastery

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Spectacular Saghmosavank"

Saghmosavank Monastery Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
THE GOLDEN AGEArmenia is often described as an open-air museum. As the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion (in 301 AD) the thousand years following its conversion bore witness to a steady programme of church building. Some of its most beautiful monasteries and churches were constructed between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, a period which is recognised by scholars as a "golden era" for Armenian religious architecture. Armenian Orthodox churches are distinct - much in the same way that the famous onion domes of Russian Orthodox churches are also instantly recognisable - you can’t really mistake them for anything else. However, despite their obvious similarities (f...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 20, 2010

Saghmosavank Monastery
Village Of Saghmosavan
Armenia, Middle East

Genocide Memorial and Museum

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Remember & Reflect - Lest We Forget"

Genocide Memorial and Museum Photo, Yerevan, Armenia
Quote:
When I first visited Yerevan twenty-three years ago as an impressionable Armenian American teenager, much of the experience passed me by. As upper middle class kids we were guilty of creating a little bubble around ourselves characterised by surf T-shirts, sunglasses, Levi jeans and Sony Walkman’s. We strolled around the ancient churches, temples and monasteries with a detached and uninvolved air, much more concerned with getting our hands on illicit booze, dodging chaperones and sneaking out to nightclubs than we were about absorbing the culture and history of our homeland. However, fast forward almost a quarter century and, even after all this time, our visit to Dzidzernagapert (Armenian...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 6, 2010

Genocide Memorial and Museum
Tsitsernakaberd, Yerevan
Yerevan
+374 (10) 39 09 81

The Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots

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Attraction | "St Gregory’s Celestial Angel"

The Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots Photo, Yerevan, Armenia
Quote:
CULTURAL RESILIENCEIt is something of a minor miracle that so many of Armenia’s ancient buildings have survived to the present day - or at least survived enough to benefit from judicious and sympathetic reconstruction. Armenia’s golden era of church building and cultural development spanned almost 300 years, from the 10th to the 13th century, but the intervening period has seen countless foreign invasions and natural disasters (Armenia is in an earthquake zone) which, by rights, should have accounted for most of these architectural treasures. Instead, the landscape is littered with monuments to Armenia’s cultural heritage, many of which are still used today, providing both spir...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 18, 2010

The Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots

Yerevan, Armenia

Monastery of Tegher

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "The Tegher Tomb of Mama Khatoum"

Monastery of Tegher Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
OFF THE BEATEN PATHBefore my recent trip to Armenia, I spent a fair bit of time planning where to go and what to see. As the primary reason for going was to attend a wedding, my free time was relatively limited, so I wanted to ensure I maximised what little I had. Fortunately, my sister’s network of local contacts, developed mainly during her two year stint in-country, ensured that there were plenty of people keen to show me around. There is no substitute for local knowledge, and so it proved as my driver (and now friend) Andranik, repeatedly took me "off itinerary" to visit places I had never heard of, much less planned for. One such bonus was to the little known 13th century monastic com...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 13, 2010

Monastery of Tegher
Southeastern slopes of Mount Aragats near Tegher Village
Armenia, Middle East

Armenia's Natural Appeal

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Story/Tip

Slopes of Aragats Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
One of the most uplifting and beautiful experiences during my trip to Armenia was an all day drive into the Aragatsotn region, which took in a number of notable sights. It started with the 13th century monastery of Saghmosavank and then a detour to the birthplace of St Mesrob Mashdots at Oshagan, before taking a long drive to Pahlavuni fortress at Amberd. After lunch, we left the heat of the foothills behind to travel up the alpine slopes of Mt Aragats to the crystal lake just below its snow-covered summit. After dipping our feet into its painfully icy waters, we descended the mountain in the early evening, taking the little visited monastery at Tegher on the way home. Our day concluded with a well ea...Read More

Selling My Shorts

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Story/Tip

Kiosk Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
Armenians are an intensely proud people. For a small nation, spread around the world, they have had considerable success in all spheres of human activity. One half of the MIG partnership that produced some of Russia’s most famous fighter aircraft – Artem Mikoyan – was born in Lori province. Tennis great, Andre Agassi is half Armenian, as is Cherilyn "Cher" Sarkissian. You may also have heard of Charles Aznavour, the band System of A Down, actress Andrea Martin, actor Eric Bogosian and director Atom Egoyan. The roll call of greats also includes Formula One driver Alain Prost, cymbal makers Zildjian and Sabian, chess master Garry Kasparov, composer Aram Khatchadourian and the guy who invented the MRI ma...Read More

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin

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Attraction | "Haghpat: A Jewel in Armenia’s Monastic Crown"

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
TWO PEAS IN A PODI recently visited the land of my forefathers – Armenia – to attend my sister’s traditional wedding in the capital, Yerevan. Given the unusual location, my wife was uncertain about bringing our eight-month old son along, which gave me a rare opportunity to travel alone. was determined to make the most of it, and had my sights set firmly on the long trip to the Northern province of Lori to visit two medieval monasteries of considerable renown – Haghpat and Sanahin. Both of these sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list (in 1996 and 2000 respectively) and are usually visited together because of their proximity to each other – they are just seven ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 5, 2010

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin
Lorri Region
Armenia

Zvartnots International Airport

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Story/Tip

Mini Vegas? Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
Almost all international visitors to Armenia will arrive at Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport, which is about a 20 minute (and 12km) drive from the city centre and its main hotels. The airport has undergone extensive renovation and remodelling, but still retains the original concrete–dominated monolithic features so beloved of Soviet architects. Zvartnots is served by a number of major airlines, but only British Midland fly direct from the UK (Heathrow). If you don’t mind changing aircraft, Air France, Austrian Airlines and Czech Airlines all offer flights from Heathrow with layovers in Paris, Salzburg and Prague respectively. For reference, BMI were charging £750 for a direct flig...Read More

To Have and Have Not

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Story/Tip

Smoking Gun Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
What struck me on my belated return to Armenia was the growing chasm between those who have money and those who don’t. A tourist who keeps to the relatively well-trodden area around the centre of Yerevan and the tourist attractions on the outskirts of town will not get any idea of this very pronounced and very real divide. Yerevan is full of vanity projects. Rich benefactors, both from the Diaspora and from the oligarch class, the latter ostensibly seeking to redeem their excesses, will sponsor or build almost anything, as long as their name remains indelibly connected to it. Some might say that such "naming rights" are a small price to pay for the greater public good, and in many cases, w...Read More

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Sanahin: This One Is Older Than That One"

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
RICH REWARDSArmenia is not a large country by European standards. However, within a relatively small area, there are wild contrasts in geography – from the flat and fertile Ararat plain, to the mountainous deciduous and evergreen forests in the Northern provinces. With harsh winters and little money in the national coffers for repairs, the roads are patchy at best and nigh on impassable at worst, making a map of the country a very unreliable indicator of the time and distance required to travel anywhere that’s off the beaten track. For any intrepid tourist who has the curiosity and courage to venture beyond the comfort of the capital Yerevan and its immediate environs, there are rich rewar...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 31, 2010

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin
Lorri Region
Armenia

The Best Diesel in Yerevan

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Story/Tip

The Best Diesel in Yerevan Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
The Best Diesel in YerevanThe catalyst for my return to Armenia, my ancestral homeland, after a 23 year absence, was to see my sister get married in Yerevan. In a manner typical of the Armenian Diaspora, which is actually larger than the population of the mother country, my sister, UK-born and New York-raised (but resident in Yerevan for the past two years) was getting married to a Lebanese-born, LA-raised Armenian fellow. The wedding was to be traditional Armenian, with all of the ancient customs that my sister had meticulously researched. The main event was to be two days after I arrived, so I left myself five days after the newlyweds disappeared off on honeymoon to explore Armenia....Read More

Garni Temple

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "A Temple Amongst Churches"

Garni Temple Photo, Yerevan, Armenia
Quote:
In a country rich with exquisite medieval churches and monasteries, it’s often easy to forget that some of Armenia’s most impressive architectural and historic treasures pre-date the conversion to Christianity in 301AD. However, these sites are scarce – for two main reasons. Firstly, the very antiquity of these relics has worked against them. Armenia is located in an earthquake zone and features hot summers and harsh winters, so nature has taken its toll over the centuries. Secondly, when King Tiridates III decreed Christianity as his country’s state religion, a programme of church building began. In common with the spread of Christianity in Europe and the Levant, pagan religious sites w...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 27, 2010

Garni Temple
Kotayk Province
Yerevan, Armenia

St. Mesrob Mashdots Church

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "A Pilgrimage to the Armenian Saint of Letters"

St. Mesrob Mashdots Church  Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
LEARNING MY A to FDuring my childhood, my parents went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that I grew up with an understanding and appreciation of my Armenian heritage. Having moved us from London to New York so we could be part of the well established 300,000 strong community there, they ensured we spoke Armenian at home, taught us to read and write our unique language, and sent us to Saturday school at the local Armenian Orthodox Church. As a people, there are two things that have kept us distinct from our Caucasian neighbours, faith and language. These are the twin bedrocks on which our culture is based, and the genesis of both is inextricably intertwined. Armenia became the first natio...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 25, 2010

St. Mesrob Mashdots Church
Oshagan Village
Ashtarak, Armenia

Amberd (Castle of Amberd)

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "A Fortress in the Clouds"

Amberd (Castle of Amberd) Photo, Armenia, Middle East
Quote:
Having arrived in Armenia as an independent traveller, I had a distinct advantage over others in my position. I spoke the lingo, I could read the funky looking native script, my parents had a flat in Yerevan and my sister, having lived there for almost two years, was very well connected. The upshot was that several of her friends were only too happy to put themselves and their vehicles at my disposal, each of them keener than the next to introduce me to Armenia’s architectural treasures. So, on a sunny, cloudless morning I set off from the heart of Yerevan in the well maintained and lovingly pampered Nissan of my new best friend Andranik – an affable chap with a tasteful number of gold teeth and a pa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 16, 2010

Amberd (Castle of Amberd)
on the slopes of Mount Aragats
Byurakan, Armenia

Yerevan (General)

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Story/Tip

Armenian Apricots Photo, Yerevan, Armenia
Quote:
ARRIVALMost visitors to Yerevan (and Armenia) will arrive at Zvartnots International Airport, which is about a 20 minute (and 12km) drive from the city centre (known as "getron"). This small airport is an odd mixture of the old and new – with 1960’s Soviet style monolithic architecture supplemented by an attractive modern terminal. You will need immediate access to cash to pay for your 21 day visa, the luggage trolleys and also your cab fare. Helpfully, there are exchange facilities available in the airport (at typically unfavourable rates). There is no train service into the city, so you will need to take a taxi or (if booked) a hotel courtesy bus. Prices vary, but generally, you should n...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 20, 2010

The Monastery of Geghard

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "The Monastery of the Holy Lance"

The Monastery of Geghard Photo, Yerevan, Armenia
Quote:
Armenia is often referred to, justifiably, as an open air museum. With a long and storied religious history (Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion in 303 AD) many of its rich architectural treasures take the form of Orthodox churches and monasteries. To keep cultural and religious treasures safe from marauders, churches - and monasteries in particular - were often built in remote areas, heavily fortified, and crafted to blend expertly into the local terrain. As such, many of them remain remarkably preserved and still serve the community as working churches. The 13th century monastery of Geghard is a fine example and is easily one of the most accessible, both in terms ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 24, 2010

The Monastery of Geghard
Kotayk Province
Yerevan, Armenia

About the Writer

Hishyeness

Hishyeness
Walton-on-thames, United Kingdom

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