Armenia

It’s been a while since I have updated this blog, partly because I was in Armenia for five days, and partly because I am a little bit of a slacker and creating a post is actually kind of time consuming. Anyway, Armenia was a lot of fun, there were some beautiful sites and we had a good group of people. We arranged our trip to Yerevan (the capital city) through Envoy, a hostel in Armenia.

We left from Freedom Square in Tbilisi via taxis at 10:30 am (it would have been 9:30 if I didn’t have to take a taxi back to my house to retrieve my passport, d’oh!), and arrived at the Armenian border about an hour and a half later. The border crossing was quick, easy and cheap. Next we loaded on to a nice clean mini-bus and headed South to Yerevan. The drive took about ten hours in all, but we stopped at some incredibly scenic locations along the way.

The first stop was in Atkhtala to see a 10th-century fortified Armenian Apostolic Church and monastery, one of the best preserved in Armenia, and the only church with Georgian style frescoes.

envoy hostel, armenia, envoy tour guide, envoy tour, atkhtala, atkhtala monastery

Our awesome tour guide

akhtala, akhtala church, armenia, garrison, envoy tours

An old garrison next to the church

Surb Astvatsatsin church, armenia, envoy hostel tour

Surb Astvatsatsin church

The story goes that when the mongols invaded Armenia they got to this church but were unable to find any villagers, until they heard a baby crying from inside one of the walls. So they rolled in a cannon and shot it at the face of the mural depicting the Virgin Mary (I don’t know Mongols, but that sounds like pretty bad karma to me). After they did this they discovered that all of the townspeople had been hiding in secret passages in the walls of the church. They pulled all of them out and executed them but…

Surb Astvatsatsin church, envoy hostel tour, armenia, cannon ball

Surb Astvatsatsin church exterior

…the cannon ball came out the other end directly in the center of a cross on the exterior of the church without causing any more damage, which the people perceived as a miracle. Mongols: 1, Villagers: 1.

Surb Astvatsatsin, Akhtala, envoy hostel tour

Surb Astvatsatsin church, Akhtala

Akhtala monastery

Akhtala monastery

Next our tour guide brought us to a traditional Armenian barbecue.

Mmmmmmmmmm meat, armenian bbq, envoy hostel lunch

Mmmmmmmmmm meat

Our next stop was Haghpat Monastery a UNESCO World Heritage site and a “masterpiece of religious architecture and a major center of learning in the Middle Ages.”

Haghpat Monastery, armenia, envoy hostel tour

Haghpat Monastery

Belltower at the Haghpat Monastery

Belltower at the Haghpat Monastery

Sanahin Monastery

Sanahin Monastery

Giant underground ceramic vessels for making wine

Giant underground ceramic vessels used by monks to make wine

Hmmm, maybe not the most responsible thing to do at a world heritage site...

Hmmm, maybe not the most responsible thing to do at a world heritage site...

A gravestone that shows how the people died, never seen that before

A gravestone that shows how the people died, never seen that before

Yerevan at last!

cascades, yerevan, armenia, tlg

View from the top of the Cascades in Yerevan

armenia, marriott, ussr, soviet

There were to tons of buildings that looked like this around Yerevan that were built when Armenia was part of the USSR. I guess not everything the Soviets built was grey and drab.

Bazaar in downtown Yerevan

Bazaar in downtown Yerevan

Cool piano man statue in Yerevan

Cool statue in Yerevan

A statue of Armenia's most famous DJ

A statue of Armenia's most famous DJ

Dinner

Dinner

Armenian Genocide memorial

Armenian Genocide memorial

On the third day we got in a cab to run an errand and somehow the cab driver convinced us to change our plans and spend the day driving around the Armenian country side with him checking out a bunch of different sites, for a good price. The impressive part was that he only spoke about twenty words of English. That didn’t stop him from attempting to explain the historical significance of every site that we came across. Definitely a character. Overall a fun day:

Sketch of our cab driver, armenia, drawing, cab

Sketch of our cab driver

Filling up the taxi with gas? He had us stand 100 feet away, I'm just glad we didn't get rear ended.

Filling up the taxi with gas? He had us stand 100 feet away, I'm just glad we didn't get rear ended.

khor virap, armenia, gregory the illluminator

Khor Virap, this church was originally built in 642 AD, and over looks Mt. Ararat (where Noah's Ark was supposed to have landed after the biblical floods)

In a prison cell beneath the church

In a prison cell underneath the church

Mt. Ararat

Mt. Ararat

Scenic view

Scenic view

Flat tire!!! Why bother pulling off on to the shoulder, when you can just as easily changed it on the road.

Flat tire!!! Why bother pulling off on to the shoulder, when you can just as easily changed it on the road.

I had no idea there were Roman ruins in Armenia

I had no idea there were Roman ruins in Armenia

Sketch of an intense chess match in the hostel, envoy hostel, chess

Sketch of an intense chess match in the hostel

overnight train, party time, armenia, tbilisi, wine, beer, mafia

Overnight train back to Tbilisi. Not the most comfortable thing in the world, but some beer, wine and card games made it go by a little easier

Overall Armenia was a good time. It was nice to get out of the Georgian bubble, and see another country. The people I met were very friendly and the food was great (lots of meat, vegetables and all sorts of dried fruit, good Cognac too). Yerevan is a more westernized, modern, cleaner city but it doesn’t have the character or history of Tbilisi in my opinion.

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About the country not the state

I am teaching English in Georgia through the TLG program through December 23rd. It's fun.
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