Waking up early for our twelve-hour tour through Western and Northern Armenia, we stumbled groggily towards the waiting van. Luckily, our hostel, Envoy Hostel, the best hostel I have ever stayed at, seriously, organized an amazing tour and even dropped us off at the border on the way back. It was nice to interact with new people as well. We met a great guy from Colorado, another from Brazil. At precisely 9am we were off and running. As I have become accustomed to the Turkish tradition, showing up on-time to things is now a foreign concept to me. This is definitely a problem in countries where on time means five minutes early.
If you look at the map, we started in Yerevan and drove straight north. We traveled along that straight line North and then curved down towards the west where we explored and ended on the border with Georgia- the end where the peach color touches the border of Armenia. We visited so many places that day like Kuchak, Aparan, Sanahim, St. Ameriaprkich Church, Haghpat Monastery, Ohanavan (adorable city where a little church sits on a hill) to name a few.
|Armenian letters of the alphabet in the snow|
|Our tour group!|
|the mountains of Armenia|
We left the city of Yerevan and drove past dozens of small villages, passing ghost towns, abandoned Soviet chemical factories and strip clubs/casinos. It was a random assortment of things to pass within a mile. My favorite stop was our last strip at a church with the most magnificent view, something that would be in a fantasy movie. But that time we’d all bonded and lunch was full of festivities and merriment. When we finally stopped for lunch, I was positive we had stopped in the wrong place. This was not a restaurant. Two trailer homes were nestled into a little semi-circle, complete with dogs playing in the front yard, a smoker releasing fluffy plumes into the air and a "wash bin" i.e. a host next to a feeding trough to wash your hands. I asked our tour guide where the restroom was and she, ever so sweetly, informed me that there was only a village toilet. A village toilet? A village toilet consists of a wooden box with a hole in it down a flight of wooden, splintering crickety stairs that you are sure are going to collapse when you put the weight of anything more than your toe on them. It reminded me of that scene in Slumdog Millionaire when the kid has to jump in the outhouse dump... gross. The only difference was that the river was a mere two meters away from the village toilet. And funny story? Our dear friend John dropped his camera into the village toilet opening in the floor!!! And he had to, and did, fish it out! When we sat down for lunch, the brought in a wide variety of local foods I was now terrified to taste, fearing they'd been rinsed close to the village toilet. We gobbled down BBQ pork (you have no idea how much you love pork until you live in a country where there is no pork!) and fresh village breads and cheeses. Shortly afterward, the tour company dropped us off at the border and we said our fair wells. Goodbye Armenia.
From one traveler to another- Armenia and Georgia are highly recommended on my list of places to go to. They are surprisingly unique and have some of the oldest architecture and monuments in the region. No one thinks about it, but I guarantee you, you wouldn't regret it!
Interesting facts I learned about Armenia on the tour:
- Armenia was the FIRST country to adopt Christianity as the national religion in 301 AD.
- The difference between the Orthodox Church and the Apostolic Church of Armenia is that Jesus is the holy spirit and man, in one. This is different than Orthodox, who believe there is a separation of man (Jesus), God and spirit.
- To this day Armenian's can't go to Azerbaijan because, as our tour guide says, "it is dangerous for our lives."
- Cher and the Kardashians are famous Armenians!
- In Armenian cemeteries there is a "resting stone" (which I almost sat on!!!) where they lay each dead body before being placed in their graves. Also, laser engravings of the deceased persons face, or even a bust, rests above the tomb.