It seems that not too many people know about,or visit this country. Sometimes the unknown turns put to be a pure gem, for a traveller to explore. Armenia is located in the mountainous Caucasus region in western Asia, where it is bordered by Turkey to the West and Georgia to the North. I was fortunate enough to visit the capital city of Yerevan and other cities in the springtime. The weather was still cold and there was plenty of ice and snow in the mountains. The lakes and the rivers were still frozen.
The drive from Georgia was very smooth, however I had a problem at the border with Immigration, as I did not have visa in advance and I expected to obtain a visa on arrival. The immigration officials needed to call their office for confirmation, that I could get a visa on arrival. However, the next stumbling block was that the visa fees must be paid in Armenian currency. This created the next problem since their currencies are not widely known, not easily obtained and I could pay with a credit card. In the end, patience paid dividends and I managed to enter into the country and enjoy its’ hospitality. Just a bit of hassle at the border, but after all, travel is supposed to be interesting.
I spent one full day exploring Yerevan City centre from the Blue Mosque, to the Opera house, to the many beautiful theatres, to the museums and the famous and impressive Marriot Hotel building which looks like a palace. It was such an eye-opener because the country is so small yet has so many beautiful buildings and delicious local restaurants. Unfortunately, English is not widely spoken and it is a bit of a problem to explore the country without the knowledge of the local language. However, I armed myself with a notebook, pens, a travel guide and expressive, body language which worked like a charm.
The next day, I hired a taxi which took me to the ancient Hellenistic temple of Garni. The drive itself was very smooth without light traffic and I got a nice view of Mount Ararat along the way. I found the Garni temple itself surprisingly quite small. The temple is facing a couple of deep gorges and has some amazing views of the surrounding area. The air was clear, clean and really refreshing and cleared my mind to observe the surroundings.
From there, we continued the drive to Geghard Monastery which dates back to 10th-13th centuries. I was in sheer awe of its location and the temple itself, it was simply magnificent with the rock formations and wonderful carvings outside and inside the buildings. The snow still thickly covered the Caucasus mountain ranges and littered the monastery floor, which added to its beauty. I felt like I was in wonderland and wished I could stay overnight .
The next day, we visited the Echmiadzin Cathedral, with the main cathedral called Mayr Tachar, which was built in the 4th century (301-303). It is surrounded by 19th century buildings with a beautiful manicured garden. This cathedral is famous as “Surp Grigor Lusavorich” which means “ see a beam of light fall to the earth, in a divine vision.”
Finally, the largest lake in Armenia is called Lake Seven and it called on me to visit. The lake has a stunning landscape shaped by millions of years of volcanic eruptions. There is a medieval monastery perched on top the hill facing the lake. Here, one has a beautiful view of the surrounding areas.
The one negative thing I remember fully is that the weather was still cold…..,windy……and parts of the lake and river was still frozen. More than once, when the cold, wet wind blew on my bones, I shuddered and wondered “Oh boy… what I get myself into…???? “ But, every single view was worth gold. And, a bonus for me, was that the local food was amazing… it tasted like nothing I had ever eaten before. There are still plenty of beautiful churches around the area that are worth a visit. I cross my fingers and I know I will come back to this country again.