The same day that you visit Garni you can visit the Geghard temple, in fact, one of the options is to walk there (which takes about 2 hours) and back before dark with an overnight stop at Garni. The Gegahd temple is an architectural miracle. It is made of stone and embedded in Azat Valley. At the entrance of the monastery, we can find "khachkars" which are crosses carved in huge rocks and are one of the country's most beautiful symbols. It is said that the monastery's name means "spear" since, supposedly, one of the spears that pierced the body of crucified Jesus is there. I didn't see it. But I did really visiting one of the most interesting parts of Kotayc.
The Waterfall is a Soviet style monument with a native touch. Construction began in 1970 and is still underway. In 1997, after the fall of communism and with it, the country's economy, construction stopped and dozens of fountains stopped working as well. The waterfall was a very ambitious project. Located in the centre of the city, it provides great views of downtown. It's made of white marble. Again, Gerard Cafesjian, belonging to the Armenian diaspora and a great art collector, resumed work on the Waterfall at the beginning of 2000 and gave it a decorative detail of a black cat sculpture by the artist Botero. You can climb to the top and have a Kilikia while watching the city centre at your feet. It's a rendezvous for young people and if you go at night, you can meet friendly security officers who are bored and curious (there isn't a lot of tourism because Armenia is very poor) and won't hesitate to tell you everything from their family's story to how they became official guides. They will show you every corner of the waterfall and describe it in detail.
Lake Sevan is the largest lake in Armenia. It is located 1930 meters above sea level making it one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world. Many plans have occurred to cause the decline in the water level of the lake. Even with the bad, Armenia tends to find something good and because of the declining archaeological remains, something more than 2000 years old were found, known as khachkars (crosses carved into giant precious stones). Armenia is a country full of legends and the Lake obviously has one too also. Legend has it that the origin of the name comes from Van Lake (now Lake Turkey), it is said that when people were living in Van, visiting Sevan, the nights were cold and dark. And they began to call the lake The Black Van (sev means Black in Armenian). In early spring or fall, the lake is pretty bleak so it's not the best time to visit. At that time, there aren't any people or colors and it is really just a sad place. Then, in summer the wind whispers the happy laughter of children. Lake Sevan is a meeting place for Armenians in summer. It is full of life. In winter snow freezes before us, offering a majestic landscape.
Hayravank Monastery stands proudly on Lake Sevan, has a ninth-century church (quite modern considering that Armenia is the first Christian country in the world). There are many beautiful khachkars (crosses carved in stone) around the monastery. It is a wonderful place to enjoy some peace and some lovely views.
The best kept secret of all Armenia is located in a hidden canyon: the Noravank Monastery. "Noravank" in Armenian means "new monastery" (Նորավանք), and it's found near the town of Yeghegnadzor, in the region of Vayots Dzor about 120 km from Yerevan. It was built in the 12th century on the ruins of a 9th century church. The complex is formed by the main church of the monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Surp Karapet), another dedicated to St. Gregory (Surp Grigor), one dedicated to the Holy Mother of God (Surp Astvatsatsin). Around the monastery in the sixteenth and seventeenth century were built the walls that still exist.
There are also the famous "khachkars" (huge carved stone crosses) that are omnipresent around Armenian monasteries and churches. Noravank is known for being a very important "scriptorium", where the monks copyists transcribed, decorated and restored historic books. Thanks to them, within the monastery there is a space dedicated to the Armenian alphabet, which is engraved on the stone that is on the floor.
Noravank has been restored twice in the last century. I've traveled a lot and seen a lot but discovering this monastery made me realize that there is still a lot to be seen. Armenia is a country of monasteries, all beautiful and all different. After having seen many, a friend offered me a trip to Noravank and I thought, "Another monastery?" In the end, though, it's simply amazing. I could even say that maybe it's my favorite place in Armenia.
The temple of Garni is located 26 km from Yerevan in Armenia, which was the first Christian country in the world. In fact, the Armenians support the theory that the remains of Noah's ark rest on Mount Ararat. The temple of Garni is one of the few pagan temples in Armenia that remains and it is thanks to its location amongst the mountains that it survived the collapse of the pagan temples. The Hellenistic style temple takes you back in time and it really is a jaw-dropping experience.
The Grigor Lusavorich National Cathedral is one of the most controversial churches in Armenia. This huge cathedral was built in 2001 to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of Christianity as the country's official religion. It's between Kino Russia and the Boulevard Tigran Mets, and it's almost impossible to miss because of its exterior. Actually, it has three churches in one: The main one features 1,700 seats, then the chapel of St. Tiridates and the Chapel of Santa Askhen Queen both have 150 seats. These two figures played a role in helping St. Gregory the Illuminator convert Armenia into the world's first Christian country. The controversy erupted due to the country's permanent state of crisis. People, despite being devout, questioned the need to build a new cathedral since the country already has a large number of churches and monasteries, all with historical value. The controversy continued, but in the end, it wasn't the town that made the decision. It's worth going to a Mass during certain festivals to admire its grandeur.
What to do on a Sunday in Yerevan? You can enjoy a few kilikias or some khorovats next to the Hrazdan River, which passes through Yerevan, from Lake Sevan (the preferred Armenian resort), and flows into the Aras River (the border between Armenia and Turkey). Under the Victoria Bridge, you can discover a new world within the city, away from the car horns, the central crowd and the shops. There are outdoor BBQ pits and you can take a dip in the river. On the way to the river and just past the bridge, there is a playground where children can enjoy a train ride. If you look, you will find. Following the train tracks, there is a Soviet era treasure: a deserted train. Armenia has many of these treasures, you just have to be curious and explore.
This is the view that I got this year, a 24th of April 2014, 99 years after the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Monument during the memorial day. Incredible view with the breathtaking mountain that is the symbol of Armenia and the limit between Turkey and Armenia.
On December 7, 1988 an earthquake hit this industrial city called Spitak. The earthquake killed half the population, especially children and the sick because they were in schools and hospitals. Currently, the city is "rebuilt" it's still a very precarious situation, as houses built with waste. People stop you on the street and invite you home for a coffee or walk with you and tell you about the history. The population is 20,000 inhabitants and is in the region of Lori, in the north. History and faith are two of the pillars of the Armenian people. The main square welcomes you to this beautiful mountain town, it has has very Soviet architecture, by that I mean much cement, size does matter: The bigger the better, aesthetic ... The fair, squares and buildings are practical. Armenia was a Soviet country for 70 years and is a latent fact, fortunately, Armenians have always known how to sculpt beautiful shapes in these buildings, thus smoothing the roughness Soviet. Spitak means "white" in Armenian as snow covers the mountains in winter. As with every good trip, the best part of Spitak is the people.
I don't understand anything about the simple metro system of the Armenian capital. Endless stairs separate it from the snow, while you take refuge between columns with signals immersed in a language that I can't yet read. If you follow your instinct, or sometimes just follow someone else, you'll get to the platform. Dozens of people are looking, the women in black dresses and the men with pointed shoes, their eyes still trying to decipher the codes of the stop's name. You know it's the fifth. In the car no one speaks. Many people watch you, wondering how you can eat with a pierced lip. You get off, you get lost, you follow the crowd. You crisscross the market that gives life to the subway exits. There is food, clothing, telephone calls. You climb the stairs, stunned, you look around agitated, you find a friendly face and smile.
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, presents itself as a rough city, full of cement in the eyes of the traveller seeking architectural beauty. But from the 16th floor, this not very graceful town shows its charms and leverages, with a background like Ararat and hot air balloons with a note of colour.
Lada is the oldest car brand of the former Soviet Union, which was launched in 1966, belonging to the Russian automaker AvtoVAZ. The most remarkable features of these cars were their low consumption, purchase cost and long life. Currently the best known Lada model in Europe is the Lada Niva, an SUV that was first manufactured in 1977. Apart from Lada cars, in Armenia there are a variety of other forms of transport: trams, trains, buses, and van. The most convenient way to travel around the country is to hire a van, yes, he is very brave who dares to drive in the Caucasus. In fact, pedestrians are brave in the cities, although there are traffic lights, cars are the kings of the road and have the right to toot the horn if you think you could go faster. Madness. Armenian style.
You find Armenian kindness in the most unexpected places. For example, in the van/bus that goes all around the capital, people give their seats to the elderly, and no one is hiding behind a newspaper pretending not to see them. In fact, people are crowding into two seats to make room for a third. Don't be surprised if someone offers to help you with your bag, especially if they're large or shopping bags. It's very normal for someone to hold your bags on their lap for you. If you want to know what happened when Lada fell, even though nothing actually did, look at the last photo.
Known among the Armenians as Hanrapetutyan Hraparak (one day I will speak of Mashtots and ease that I had to learn the language that they invented), this square is situated in the center of the Armenian capital. It was designed to represent the typical Armenian handmade rug, and to give a welcome to the city. A statue of Lenin dominated the Square for many years until they decided to "remove" the vestiges of the communist era, after the end of which Armenia sank into a serious economic crisis. The buildings in the square are: The Government House, the National History Museum, the Clock Tower which flies the flag of the country, the Post Office (an experience in itself) and the Marriot Hotel. It is located where there are major avenues full of shops where prices exceed Europe (for the same product) and reach the absurd, cafes and restaurants. In the summer you can enjoy the spectacle of colored lights, music and water which the fountains of the square provide.
These two Byzantine monasteries are in Tumania region and were, in their time, major schools. Both complexes represent the flowering stage of Armenian religious architecture, which is a unique product of the mixture of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and architecture of the Caucasian region. Sanahin is a village in the northern province of Norri and whose Armenian name means "this is older than that" perhaps referring to the neighboring monastery. Haghpat meanwhile, is a few kilometers north of Sanahin and is famous for its beautiful complex, which includes a bell tower, a church containing a fresco of Christ on the altar, a chapel and a library. Both villages and their monasteries are similar in many ways and lie on a plateau, separated by a deep cleft formed by the river Debed. These complexes belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church and part of its fame is due to the khachkars, which are stones with engravings representing a cross and decorated with rosettes, leaves, grapes, disks and other ornamental motifs. Both monasteries are a mix of architectural styles and religions - they are worth visiting, both for their rich culture and beauty.
In the market Vernissage you'll find everything you need to decorate your house in a Soviet style: Alarm clocks, lamps, furniture, telephones, etc.. You can see the inside of one of the houses that I didn't live in.