If I were to be asked where on the planet Earth one can see the most incredible wonders, I would first of all say – Armenia…”, said Rockwell Kent.
Being located on the crossroads of the north and south, as well as the west and east, Armenia has always been an important connecting link between east and west since prehistoric times. Many historians, writers and poets have written about this unique country, and some of them even tried to learn the ancient language of Armenians-one of the most complex and beautiful languages in the world. Famous English poet Lord George Gordon Byron, who was in love with Armenian culture and mastered Armenian language, said that “Armenian is the language to speak with God”. Maybe, because of this, it’s not in vain, that only in Armenian language the translation of the word “Bible” has a direct connection with God (“Astvatsashunch”-“God’s breath”). And the Armenian alphabet is one of the most perfectly structured alphabets in the world, inventor of which Mesrop Mashtots was also the inventor of the Georgian and Albanian (Aghvan) alphabets.
Speaking of Armenia, firstly, its spirituality should be emphasized, evidence of which is not only the fact that Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD, but also numerous churches, temples and crosstones (“khachqar”), that are seen on every step. Exactly this spirituality helped Armenians to cherish their culture, values, religion and language through ages.
It’s not by chance that Armenia is called “a museum under an open sky”; there are plenty of sights here-museums and galleries, cultural centers, architectural masterpieces, historical monuments, spectacular nature with various landscapes of mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers…one can never get bored here. But besides all this, there’s also the most important factor-people. Hardly you manage to say “hello” to them than they will invite you to their houses and become friends forever. Armenians are very friendly people. Enmity and isolation are alien to them. Basically, this feature is the reason that Armenia becomes a second home for many foreigners.
“It’s very hard to advise visitors what place to visit first”, says Dr. Hayk Vardanyan of araratour.com “as all the places are interesting and unique in their kind. The most famous sights are temples of Garni and Geghard, Sevan Lake, resort towns Tsaghkadzor, Aghveran, Dilidjan, Jermuk.”
One of the sights that must be seen is Sevan Lake. Because of the simple reason that it’s very big for a lake, and also is the biggest water resource of the country (as Armenia doesn’t have an access to sea), local people call the lake “sea”. The uniqueness of Sevan is not only its peculiar beauty but also the fact that its one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world-located on the height of 1900 m, which causes the cold weather of the lake and surroundings. With the quantity of water(among high located lakes) Sevan gives way only to famous Titikaka. Around the lake The National Park “Sevan” is located, which combines in it 4 reservations. Besides unreal beauty and fresh air, Sevan is also famous for its mineral springs, sanatoriums, health centers and also well-known monastery Sevanavank.
Another sight that tourists admire most, is Tatev monastery , located in the southern part of Armenia, in Syunik region. This absolutely wonderful monastery complex was a home to many musicians, writers, philosophers and artists during the Middle Ages. In the 14th century the biggest university in the Southern Caucasus was founded here, where, among many other subjects, mathematics, physics, calligraphy, history were taught. In the frames of “Tatev Revival” project, the construction of the cableway “Wings of Tatev” was completed, which became the longest cableway in the world with a length of 5.7 km.
One more fascinating places is the monastery of Armenian Apostolic Church Khor Virap, which is situated near the border with Turkey. The monastery is famous for its history, but some people find it an exciting place, as the best view to Mount Ararat opens exactly from here. The monastery symbolizes the Christianity, as Armenian king Trdat the 3rd had kept Gregory the Illuminator in the underground prison of the monastery for 13 years, before he adopted Christianity in 301 AD. The depth of the prison reaches 6 meters. The monastery and also the Virgin’s Church that is located next to it, are a favorite places for those who prefer extreme emotions, as not everyone dares to go down into the prison.
Very original temple Garni, which is located 28 km from Yerevan, is the only construction building nowadays that reminds of the previous religion of Armenia, as, before adopting Christianity, Armenians were pagans. Garni is a typical pagan temple that was built in the 1
st century AD. The temple was totally ruined by the earthquake in 1679, and then reconstructed again during Soviet times. The northern part of the temple territory occupies the famous bath of the temple, which was in the style of Roman baths. At present it is inside a covered structure. Historical-cultural complex “Garni” was awarded by UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize.
The capital city Yerevan itself is very rich in places of interest- Kaskad, Opera House, Sport and Cultural Complex “Hamalir”, the Matenadaran (institute of old manuscripts), the monument “Mother Armenia”, and many others.
A very interesting place, that can be seen exceptionally in Armenia, is research center Matenadaran after Mesrop Mashtots, which is unique in its repository of ancient manuscripts. More than 12.000 manuscripts about natural sciences, history and literature of Armenian nation, more than 100.000 archive documents are kept here, 2000 of which are in Persian, Arabic and other languages. Also, single manuscript copies of world literature are kept in the Matenadaran, so that the only way to get to know them is to see them here in Armenian translation. The Matenadaran is located in the center of Yerevan-on the very top of Mashtots Avenue, from where a wonderful panorama of the ancient capital city opens.
Another unique bulding is the Tsitsernakaberd (“swallow’s fortress”)-a memorial complex that is devoted to the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The memorial represents a 44 m pillar, which symbolizes Armenian people’s will of revival. The pillar is divided into 2 parts by an unseen split. The small part represents Armenians, who live in Armenia, and the big one-Armenians, living in diaspora. Near the pillar there is a postament, consisting of 12 stone slabs, in the center of which the eternal flame is burning. From the inside of the slabs sharakans (Armenian church songs) are heard. Next to the memorial the Museum of Armenian Genocide is situated. Which in 2014 was named by “Forbes” one of the 9 memorial museums in the world that should be visited by everyone.
In the left side of the Tsitsernakaberd, about 200 meters far, Sport and Cultural Complex “Hamalir” is located, which is one of the most extraordinary and special architectural buildings built during Soviet times. When looking at it from above, the complex resembles a big bird with open wings. There are 2 big halls in it for sport events and for concerts. Here the most important sport and musical events take place. In 2011 “Junior Eurovision” took place there.
There are plenty of places in Armenia, that cannot be described with words. One should see them with own eyes and feel the atmosphere of every corner of this wondrous country, about which so much has been spoken, and yet… not spoken at all.
For specialist itineraries, check out araratour.com/armenia-tours/
Images courtesy of araratour.com