My Sojourn in Armenia

TravellingDreams

My Sojourn in Armenia

I was stuck in between two choices- Armenia and Georgia. With some fancy browsing,researching and genuine opinions from my super enthusiastic fourth graders I was at last able to tick the box.Being in the teaching profession allows me the luxury of frequent travels in a year not only during the long summer and winter breaks but also national and public holidays.This was during the 5 day session break this year in March.Unexpectedly Armenia served as a healing balm as I sat at the Dubai Airport receiving the news of my University application being turned down for a research program in the US. Though I had tears of dejection on one hand I looked forward to this Caucasian land tucked between Europe and Asia.FB_IMG_1541765357226

The moment I arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia I felt my heart was light again.I was greeted at the airport…

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My Sojourn in Armenia

My Sojourn in Armenia

I was stuck in between two choices- Armenia and Georgia. With some fancy browsing,researching and genuine opinions from my super enthusiastic fourth graders I was at last able to tick the box.Being in the teaching profession allows me the luxury of frequent travels in a year not only during the long summer and winter breaks but also national and public holidays.This was during the 5 day session break this year in March.Unexpectedly Armenia served as a healing balm as I sat at the Dubai Airport receiving the news of my University application being turned down for a research program in the US. Though I had tears of dejection on one hand I looked forward to this Caucasian land tucked between Europe and Asia.FB_IMG_1541765357226

The moment I arrived in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia I felt my heart was light again.I was greeted at the airport by my hotel driver who drove me through the utterly serene landscapes dotted by tulips, maples,oaks and pines and many ancient buildings which rendered it an old, medieval charm.Upon reaching the Best Western Congress Hotel located in the heart of Yerevan I felt quite at home by the warmth and hospitality offered by the staff. This humble,friendly nature was a common attribute of the Armenians. Though I spent only three days in Yerevan I was able to discern the country’s fascinating culture and resilient spirit to a great measure if not entirely.

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A local florist
Sevanavank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery on the shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik province of Armenia.

My first excursion out in the city left me quite perturbed as I had eagerly entered a nearby restaurant to satisfy my appetite after a long travel but ended up walking out as I faced some serious language barriers and had limited Armenian drams the local currency. However, this should not be a cause of concern for travellers because English is spoken by most city dwellers if not fluently, at least for trade and if one knows Russian matters become easier.

In my case I happened to enter a restaurant where unfortunately there was no English speaking staff on duty then and I missed exchanging some extra currency at the Airport. Nevertheless I soon discovered a local currency exchange in the old town area and mastered few local greetings and gestures to bridge further communication gaps. Barev which means hello, lav meaning good and the French Merci for thank you was a great way to start and often made me feel more confident and well accepted.

My affair with the city started with the endless strolls through the Republic Square Park and the adjacent leafy road exhibiting colourful canvases and landscape paintings of all sorts. This was a place where people young and old gathered for walks,fun,frolic, coffee,intimate conversations or simply   played the accordian and filled the air with music, art and romance. The dancing fountain in the centre of the boulevard added that special flavour to the already existing city charm.

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Republic Square

The nearby Vernissage Market thronged by stylishly dressed locals and travellers was another must visit for all with its plethora of traditional knick knacks,handcrafted artifacts, traditional Armenian folk music CDs and budget friendly souvenirs for all age groups.I frequented this open air flea market all three days and only got better with my bargaining skills with the local vendors.

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The evenings were often followed by tasting some authentic Armenian cuisine like the Kashlama, Khoravat and  Lavash, a traditional flat bread that came complementary with most dishes.Homemade jams, fresh fruits straight from the trees and handcrafted wines were a common spread on the tables of the locals. The rich taste and flavour of Armenian cuisine gave me a glimpse of the rich culture of the land.

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Paintings by the Vernissage Market in Yerevan

 

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Republic Square Park

FB_IMG_1541740573505The surrounding areas with monumental historical buildings and museums with their notable medieval architecture were a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage and Soviet modernism. The History Museum, National Art Gallery,the building of Ministry of Foreign affairs, the Government building, the building of post office and the Opera House were major landmarks around the city which kept me busy throughout.

The Great Cascade was another spectacular sight with a flight of huge staircases connecting the downtown areas on the surrounding hills.Climbing all those stairs to reach the top of the cascade gave me a sense of accomplishment and a splendid view of the city of Yerevan, the gorgeous Mount Ararat in the distance and the victorious statue of Mother of Armenia.

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The Great Cascade on Tamanyan Street, Yerevan

 

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Statue of Alexander Tamanyan, the architect who designed the Great Cascade
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Modern Sculpture Park in front of the Cascade

A one way trip to Garni,Geghard Monastery,Tsaghkadzor,Sevanavank Monastery overviewing Lake Sevan-the Pearl of Armenia was the best way to fuse with the lush green nature and turquoise waters of the Armenian highland and delve deep into its ancient kingdom.

My journey wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex.In fact one cannot feel the invincible spirit of the country without visiting this place which is dedicated to the memory of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the 1915 holocaust. The Eternal Flame and the surrounding burial grounds are symbols of remembrance of the martyrs.The museum inside depicts through several historical records, information and photographs the many invasions the nation has suffered and survived time and again.

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The Eternal Flame,Genocide Memorial Complex
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Genocide Memorial Complex

Deeply stirred by the country’s eventful historical past and mesmerized by its strikingly rich cultural heritage, I was absolutely convinced of having chosen Yerevan as my travel destination.The cozy cafe culture, long winding back alleys, quirky murals,architecture,breathtaking landscapes and the soulful music of the duduk have all found a place in my heart which I wish to revisit soon. Armenia can be an unmistakable choice for those looking out for an offbeat budget travel unspoilt by mass tourism!