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Stunning Armenia, a fascinating glimpse into Noah’s land

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#161 Yervant1


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 08:50 AM


GUM Market is a vast indoor space where different vendors sell dried fruits, sujukh, basturma, aromatic herbs, fresh fruits-vegetables, fresh meat, fish and ingredients for Armenian khash.

The GUM Market Armenia takes its name from the Russian abbreviation for ‘Main Universal Store’, the title given to the main department stores in former Soviet Union cities.

The store is broken down into different departments. The dried and candied goods, the butcher shop and fishmongers, the fruits and veggies, the spices, the clothing, and the oddities. The front part of the GUM Market Armenia is devoted to dried and candied fruits, nuts, spices and our all-time favorite Armenian snack, sujukh. They also love calling this ‘Armenian Snickers’. It’s a treat made of walnuts that have been dipped in grape jelly. They make for excellent edible Armenian souvenirs to bring home.


The National Gallery is the largest art gallery in Armenia, and one of the most outstanding among the countries of the former union. The collection of the National Gallery now has a total of about 26,000 items of fine and applied arts; it is represented in 56 exhibition halls. The museum’s collection includes canvases of Armenian, European, Russian artists, as well as works of decorative and applied art.

The collection of Armenian art includes masterpieces by Ivan Aivazovsky, Martiros Saryan, Arshile Gorky, and Jean Jansem. The European collection includes works by Rubens, Rodin, van Goyen, Jacob Jordan and Rousseau.



74666163_2468785626575780_32499955853101I would typically give you a few options for hotels, but it would do you a disservice. I’ve been to Armenia before and stayed at fine establishments, but nothing can compare to the Grand Hotel Yerevan.

It is an elegant and modern hotel for travelers, sightseers, and those who are ready for an unforgettable experience. The charm of the 1928 neoclassical building that houses the hotel is timeless. The luxury hotel is in the center of Yerevan. Due to its prime location, Grand Hotel represents the embodiment of modern and ancient Armenian history and culture. Despite being an exceptional hotel and ideally located in the heart of town, their rates are very reasonable.

Open-Air-Swimming-Pool-scaled.jpgGrand Hotel Yerevan is an elegant and refined hotel with a long and storied history. Its excellent location, within a short walking distance from Yerevan’s central Republic Square, makes it possible to fully enjoy the city and reach all the main attractions of the capital. The spacious and comfortable rooms, the inner yard bar, the rooftop pool with panoramic view, and the spa create a luxurious experience with relaxing accommodations.

Grand Hotel Yerevan is only a 15-minute drive (12 km) from the Zvartnots International Airport. It is within easy walking distance to the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, the National Gallery, the Republic Square, and Cascade, a monumental travertine stairway decorated with the sculptures of the most prominent contemporary artists. Northern Avenue, the famous pedestrian street replete with bars and elegant boutiques, is just nearby.

Senior-Suite-1-scaled.jpgThe “smorgasbord” breakfast in the Nairi by Grand Hotel Yerevan offers a wide range of sweet and salty dishes. Fine cocktails are accompanied by live music in the Winter Garden Bar, which is open 24/7. So, prepare yourself to enjoy their excellent service, high-quality food, and fresh design.

The hotel’s spa center offers you a wide range of beauty procedures and massages with carefully chosen Armenian products. In the open-air rooftop pool, fitness center, or sauna bath. The private open-air pool (seasonal), situated on the hotel’s roof, is a perfect place for relaxation. Here you can enjoy the sunny Yerevan while lounging in comfortable deckchairs, having a cocktail, and trying delectable hot and cold dishes from the bar. This magical place with a beautiful and picturesque view of Yerevan is ideally suited for romantic dinners, private events, and cocktail parties.

The hotel’s spa center offers you a wide range of beauty procedures and massages with carefully chosen Armenian products. In the open-air rooftop pool, fitness center, or sauna bath.

The luxurious rooms of Grand Hotel Yerevan, with their stylish furniture and attention to the smallest detail, provide you with all the services necessary to have an unforgettable trip. The staff is incredibly professional, friendly, and the service is top-notch. If you are planning a trip to Armenia, look no further than the Grand Hotel Yerevan.




Top 10 attractions in Yerevan barely scratches the surface of what this ancient city has to offer. There is a good reason why Armenia is major tourist destination for people interested in history, religion, archeology, adventure travel, a well as for foodies, wine connoisseurs, and music lovers.


#162 Yervant1


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Posted 15 December 2021 - 08:40 AM

January-February, 2022


“Armenian creativity, culture, and survival”

A museum reflects an ancient civilization and the modern global diaspora.




The impressive two-tiered modern interior of the Armenian Museum of America

Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America


IN 1207 an elderly scribe in the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia completed the Garabed Gospel. Although blinded by the 11-year undertaking, he completed the 250 inked, goat-skin pages, with decorative marginalia, at a monastery near what is now southern Turkey and gave it to a priest. For the next 700 years, the manuscript was passed down through that family lineage of priests, serving as a sacred object, according to the Armenian Museum of America, in Watertown, Massachusetts, where the volume is now on display. “If one became sick, one would ask the family for ‘the blessing of the book’ to cure their disease. A supplicant would rub a piece of bread or a rag on the Gospel Book,” a museum plaque explains. “If the bread was eaten by the afflicted, or the rag was worn against their body, it was thought to cure the disease.”

1207 Garabed Gospel
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

It is the museum’s oldest book, says executive director Jason Sohigian, A.L.M. ’11, and survived the looting and destruction of other texts, art, cultural objects, and whole villages by the invading Turks over the years. The museum’s collection of more than 25,000 objects elucidates some 3,000 years of Armenian history and culture, from the early days of Christianity (Armenians were the first to accept Christianity as a state religion) to the contemporary global diaspora. That includes 5,000 ancient and medieval coins and pre-Christian pottery and metalwork, along with liturgical manuscripts and objects, rugs, lacework, embroidery, and artifacts from the World War I-era genocide. More contemporary are the museum’s series of famous portraits by Yousuf Karsh, underground works from the Soviet era (donated by Norton Townshend Dodge, Ph.D. ’60) and, surprisingly, a handful of oil paintings by the American pathologist, and pioneering right-to-die with dignity proponent, Jack Kevorkian, whose mother escaped the genocide.

“Many of the objects in our collection and on display are survivors of history,” says Sohigian. “Armenians have inhabited those lands for thousands of years, and our cultural heritage has been under threat especially in recent centuries. Our museum is unique in that it preserves and displays many of these artifacts that tell the story of Armenian resilience, creativity, culture, and survival over millennia on the territory known as the Armenian Highland.”

Bronze belt with protective symbols
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

That mission, of bridging gaps between ancient and modern identities, “is not easy or unproblematic, as we know,” says Tufts professor of art and architecture, Christina Maranci, Dadian and Oztemel chair in Armenian art and architectural history, and an academic adviser to the museum. “It is best, in my view, to let the objects speak for themselves,” she says. “The Garabed Gospels…does this well: its colophon records its initial production by the scribe Garabed, successive owners and users over generations, indeed centuries, as well as its vandalization during the Genocide.”

The museum’s “extraordinary collection,” she adds, is both under-researched and under-studied, but is instrumental in chronicling and bearing witness to rich aspects of world history. She highlights the late fifteenth-century hymnal illuminated by Karapet of Berkri, a famous medieval artist and scribe from the Vaspurakan region (the cradle of Armenian civilization, now within the borders of Turkey and Iran), and an eighteenth-century altar curtain made from wooden block prints for a church of Saint George in Mardin as “testifying to circulation of objects across the Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire.” A priest’s cope (shurchar), made in Surabaya for a wealthy Armenian trading family, as one of her students discovered during a research seminar, “combines traditional Indonesian batik fabric with an Armenian inscription, speaking eloquently to the dynamics of cultural exchange in the early modern world, and the role of Armenians within it.”

The museum's Watertown Square façade
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

 Scholarly value aside, the museum is a powerful experience for visitors, no matter how familiar they are with Armenian culture and history. It’s a testament not only to the layered ancient world, but to a peoples’ resilient drive to survive and flourish despite historic genocide and other forms of destruction. The local effort to find and preserve elements of this heritage began in 1971 when a small group of Armenian Americans first gathered contributed items in the basement of the First Armenian Church in Belmont, Massachusetts.

The state has long been home to the nation’s second-largest Armenian American population, with about 30,000 residents of Armenian heritage living primarily in Boston, Worcester, and Watertown. Los Angeles is home to 205,000 residents of Armenian descent (Cherilyn Sarkisian, better known as Cher, and the Kardashian clan among them), but has no museum. The Watertown institution’s founders eventually bought a former bank building, a brutalist structure designed by Ben Thompson, of The Architects’ Collaborative, in Cambridge, stored valuable items in existing vaults, and began opening exhibits to the public in 1991, the same year Armenia declared independence from the Soviet Union.

 Preservation of materials connected to Armenia is a continuing effort, Sohigian notes. In September 2020, the museum took a stand against the “resumption of war” and the threats against Armenian culture in the Artsakh region, expressing “solidarity with colleagues in the scholarly and cultural heritage community around the world, who are calling attention to the threat of cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing in Artsakh.” The 44-day war in that region, also known by its Russian name Nagorno Karabakh, began on September 27, 2020, and was led by the Republic of Azerbaijan with Turkey’s military support and Syrian jihadist mercenaries. The war was halted by a trilateral agreement, and Russian peacekeeping troops currently occupy the region, although remaining Armenians face a precarious future.

Artfully painted NFL cleats on display bear iconic Armenian imagery.
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

Joining the effort to draw attention and aid to the political crisis, the museum spotlights, near the entrance, an artful pair of #PeaceForArmenians cleats. Donated for the NFL’s “My Cleats, My Cause” program by the New England Patriots’ director of football/head coach administration Berj Najarian, an Armenian American, the cleats are painted with Armenian iconic imagery by Massachusetts artist Joe Ventura, and were auctioned off to support the Armenia Fund. They were bought and donated by museum president Michele Kolligian and vice president Bob Khederian. Nearly all of the items have been gifts, notably from Paul and Vicki Bedoukian.

Clothing recovered from a genocide victim in the Syrian desert
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

Among the most stirring objects are in the exhibit about the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916. During this period, Armenians living in the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire were subjected to arrest and deportation, and otherwise systematically annihilated through massacres, starvation, exposure, and illness. Many were forced to walk to desert regions where they died along the way. The events were finally publicly recognized as genocide by President Joe Biden last year. “The global diaspora was the result of the Armenian Genocide, and the survivors of that generation went on to thrive and prosper,” Sohigian says. “This is a source of pride for us, and we are honored to tell this story to the world.”

Walls depict maps and photographs interspersed with an extensive chronology of both the historic context for the genocide, and the events themselves. But artifacts convey the human toll. “This is an outfit worn by a child victim of the 1915 genocide,” Sohigian says during a museum visit. “And this eighteenth-century Bible was found buried in the Syrian desert, Der Zor,” where deportees died. There are also human bone fragments, a metal collar used as an instrument of torture, handwritten letters, and a folk art crafted by survivors.

The first wave of Armenians to Massachusetts grew out of the spread of American Protestant missionary schools across Anatolia, according to the genocideeducation.org project, but then worsening economic conditions, violence, and forced conscription into the Ottoman army led to a second wave in the 1890s. “The most important destination…was Watertown, where the new Hood Rubber factory opened its doors in 1896. Coinciding with the exodus of Armenians from the 1890s massacres, a direct pipeline developed between the Armenian provinces and east Watertown.” Thousands more arrived in flight from the 1915 genocide such that by 1930 more than 3,500 Armenians lived in Watertown—nearly 10 percent of the population. The community still thrives today, with churches, grocers, a cutural center, and a school.

Atlazlama embroidered cover
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

The museum owns hundreds of beautifully hand-woven rugs, several of which are on display, along with traditional apparel and examples of fine needlework. Visitors will see a velvet wedding dress with gold-lace embellishments and a woven belt typical of the women’s clothing of Erzurum, a once-thriving Armenian city that’s now part of eastern Anatolia, Turkey. Embroidered textiles from Marash, in Cilicia, now southeastern Turkey, feature interlaced stitching depicting architectural and natural motifs. There’s also white lacework, liturgical clothing and objects, like the 1813 Hmayil, an illustrated scroll featuring prayers and quotes to help ward off dangers and sickness, and musical instruments. Among them is the indigenous Armenian duduk, an ancient double reed woodwind piece made from apricot wood. Striving to connect this rich past of ancient kingdoms and global migration to the present, the museum typically hosts art classes and year-round in-person activities featuring Armenian food, music, dance, and scholarly talks on its huge, skylighted third floor. Planning is under way for 2022 programs; check the website calendar at armenianmuseum.org for details.

Within that event space, look for the two galleries of striking contemporary art. Dissident Collection of Armenian Art features a painting by the well-regarded Sarkis Hamalbashian, and about 10 works produced in Soviet-era Armenia. They were donated by the foundation for the economist and collector Norton Townshend Dodge, who first traveled to the Soviet Union in 1955, ostensibly as part of his Harvard dissertation, and eventually, covertly, amassed one of the largest collections of Soviet art outside of the Soviet Union. (His activities are narrated in John McPhee’s 1994 The Ransom of Russian Art.)

Green Room (2005), by Sarkis Hamalbashian
Photograph courtesy of the Armenian Museum of America

Hanging in the adjacent gallery are the graphic, surrealist Kevorkian works. In addition to his active support of physician-assisted suicide (for which he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and served eight years in prison), Kevorkian was also a jazz musician, composer, linguist, and painter. Of the art displayed, most salient, and framed using human blood, is 1915 Genocide 1945. Kevorkian’s own explanatory label reads, in part: “No collective human action can match the depravity of race murder. To call it bestial would be unfairly lowering the beast…Any such attempt (including this painting) would never convey the real meaning of unlimited murder for the purposes of national extinction, beginning with the American Indians.”

This winter, the museum adds to these contemporary galleries a multimedia exhibit anchored by its recently acquired Armenian cross-stone, known as a khachkar. The object reflects a medieval art form unique to Armenia, and was carved in 2018 by sculptor Bogdan Hovhannisyan for the Smithsonian Institute’s Folklife Festival. “It’s a connection between a modern artist and a tradition; if you go to Armenia now, you will see artists carving these crosses in their workshops,” Sohigian says. “And all these things, the monuments, artifacts, relics, art, are actively being destroyed by Turkey and Azerbaijan now.”

The cross-stone, like the Garabed Gospel painstakingly created in the thirteenth century, stands to preserve cultural history and the collective experience of a displaced, dispersed people. Although the manuscript was seized by authorities when older members of the extended Der Garabedian family, which held the Holy Book for 39 generations, were killed during the genocide, a surviving relative paid a ransom for its return. In 1927, he gave it to a nephew who had emigrated to America, and his surviving daughter, Julia Der Garabedian, entrusted it to the museum. “If we agree that cultural heritage is a human right,” Christina Maranci says, “then we should respect, protect and learn from those communities whose cultures have faced destruction.”  


#163 Yervant1


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Posted 17 December 2021 - 09:13 AM

Public Radio of Armenia
Dec 16 2021
World Travel Awards: Armenia named World’s Leading Heritage Destination 2021
December 16, 2021, 15:39

Wings of Tatev was recognized as the winner of the 28th World Travel Awards in the “World’s Leading Cable Car Ride 2021” category, and Armenia is the winner in the “World’s Leading Heritage Destination 2021” category.

Given the gradual recovery in global tourism following the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, receiving the top tourism award this year is more important and valuable for Armenia than ever before.

Wings of Tatev is the longest (5752 m)reversible aerial cable car in the world, and has served more than 1 million visitors in 11 years. Thanks to this world-class award, Wings of Tatev can record new achievements, as well as successfully continue its work on raising awareness about Armenia and Tatev in the international tourism market.

“This achievement has once again proved the fact that Tatev Monastery and Wings of Tatev are one of the main and significant tourist destinations for Armenia and the region, and Wings of Tatev cable car meets the highest international standards,” said Vahe Baghdasaryan, Director of Wings of Tatev.

Halidzor, Armenia – July 02, 2017: The tram of “Wings of Tatev” cableway between Halidzor and Tatev monastery on blue sky background. Longest non-stop double track cable car in a world at this moment

World Travel Awards was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.

“The participation and victory of Armenia in such a world-class award ceremony in both nominations make the country more recognizable in international markets. It is necessary to use such opportunities and strengthen Armenia’s position as a world’s leading heritage destination and a leading cable car ride through continuous marketing campaigns,” said Gayane Ayvazyan, Public Relations Expert of the Tourism Committee of the RA Ministry of Economy.

The collaboration with World Travel Awards was launched by the Tourism and Urbanism (TUF) Charitable Foundation in June 2021. A cooperation agreement was signed to develop the capacity of specialists in the field of tourism and tourism infrastructure in Armenia.

As part of the cooperation, TUF Foundation organized a visit of Graham Cooke, the Founder and the Director of the World Travel Awards, to Armenia. In the course of the tour, Mr. Cooke visited the most spectacular and attractive touristic sites in Armenia. He got acquainted with Armenian culture, history, traditions, and national cuisine.

World Travel Awards announces 2021 World winners

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#164 Yervant1


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Posted 06 January 2022 - 09:31 AM

The Travel
Jan 5 2022
Traveling In Armenia? Consider These Awesome Backpacker Hostels

From the oldest hostel in the country to one that's award-winning, backpacking through Armenia just got a lot more exciting (and affordable).


Welcome to Armenia! добро пожаловать в армению! բարի գալուստ Հայաստան! Armenia is a stunning and welcoming little former Post-Soviet country in the Caucasus region neighbored by Georgia (the country), Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran. It is a great destination for backpackers looking for a road less traveled and there is much to see and explore in this stunning alpine country.

Many backpackers and other travelers fall in love with this charming country and its many impressive monasteries perched in the most impossible of places. Armenia's cuisine is in itself enough to make the country worth visiting.

What To Expect Backpacking In Armenia

Armenia traces its origins to ancient states and kingdoms that have existed for thousands of years. The first Armenian state of Urartu was established in 860 BC and the Kingdom of Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion (officially in 301 AD). The modern state of Armenia became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

  • Religion: Armenia is Majority Orthodox And Was the First To Convert To Christianity
  • Yerevan: Capital and Largest City
  • Visa: Not Required for Western Countries
  • An Ancient Country: Counting Precursor States, Armenia Is Older Than Rome

Today Armenia is an ancient land with many ancient sites (including old Roman sites) and delicious cuisine.

Armenia has several great hostels (and some not so great). Here are some of the best - these hostels can be much more than just accommodation. They can help the plan one's trip and give any advice one may need.

  • Alphabet: Armenia Has Their Own Unique Alphabet - "Welcome to Armenia" Goes Like բարի գալուստ Հայաստան!

Some of Armenia's (and neighboring Georgia's) top attractions are their ancient and beautiful monasteries. Some of the ones one should not miss out on are:

  • Tatev Monastery: A 9th-century Monastery Situated In an Eye-Watering Setting
  • Khor Virab Monastery: Also A Pilgrimage Site With Breath-taking Views Of Mount Ararat - where Noah's Ark Is Fabled To Rest
  • Sevanavank Monastery: A Stunning Monastery Over Looking The Massive Lake Sevan

The best time to come is in the summer months but other seasons have a charm of their own as well.

Kantar Hostel

Kantar Hostel is one of the oldest hostels in Yerevan and enjoys a prime location. It is a stone's through from Republic Square - the heart of the city. It is only a short walk from the Parliament of Armenia and the National Museum.

  • Oldest: Kantar Hostel is One of The First Hostels to Open In Yerevan

Kantar caters to a full range of backpackers as well as normal holidaymakers not backpacking. Kantar Hostel is a hybrid hostel having a hotel section and a hostel section. Travelers looking for private accommodation can get the best of both worlds - the hostel vibe and the privacy and comfort of a hotel.

Dorm rooms are available with the option of a 4-bed dorm or an 8-bed dorm (with balconies).

  • Hybrid: It Is A Hybrid Hostel and Hotel
  • 4 Bed Dorm: $17.00 - Low Season; $19.00 - High Season
  • 8 Bed Dorm: From $15.00 - Low Season; $17.00 - High Season
  • Bunk Beds: Equipped with Power Sockets and A Reading Light

The hostel is clean and modern and offers superb complimentary breakfasts - a breakfast quality that is virtually unheard of for hostels. Tea and coffee are available 24/7. The kitchen is open for use for any travelers wishing to prepare their own meals.

  • Included: Breakfast, Free Towels, Lockers, Linen, WiFi
  • Breakfast: Complimentary Breakfasts are Exceptional by Hostel Standards
  • Check Out: 12.00 pm (A Generously Lake Check out)

Kantar has received Hostelworld's HOSCAR award in 2017 and 2018 and has been named the best hostel in the country. They boast an exceptional rating of 9.5 on Booking.com as well

  • Awards: Kantar Has Won Awards From Both Hostelworld and Booking.com

Kantar has a 24-hour reception and staffing fully proficient in English. They can arrange any excursion or private tour anywhere in Armenia.

In addition, they have a common area that doubles up as a workspace - complete with computers for use. If one is traveling and working, then one can complete all the work in comfort one the bench seating or the comfy beanbags.

Hostel Envoy

Hostel Envoy is more of a typical hostel. It also enjoys a great location and is a little cheaper. One does get what one pays for and the breakfast is not of the same standard and is available for a one-hour window in the morning instead of a 3.5-hour window.

  • 4 Bed Dorm: $10.00 - Low Season
  • 8 Bed Dorm: From $11.00 - Low Season
  • Breakfast: Complimentary (of More Typical Hostel Standard)

Hostel Envoy can also arrange one's tours, excursions, and provide a full range of ideas for what to see and explore while in Armenia. The staff here are also very friendly and accommodating and can arrange airport pick etc.

  • Check Out: 11.00 am
  • Location: Great Location

The common area in Hostel Envoy is downstairs in a basement where they have a large TV for their guests to enjoy.


#165 Yervant1


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Posted 06 January 2022 - 09:33 AM

Atlas Obscura
Jan 4 2022
At This Armenian Restaurant, the Ovens Are Satellite Dishes The “Sunny Meals” are made with sunshine.
Machanents director, Narine Muradyan, unveils trout cooked by the solar oven. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAVID EGUI


THE MENU OF THE CHEERFUL restaurant located inside the Machanents Center lists samples of Armenian cuisine: nettle soup, ailazan (a vegetable dish that they serve fried with Ararat brandy), Marash (lentils, chicken, onions, and lavash).

But it’s the Sunny Meals section that has become a hit with diners. After they choose from options such as beef, chicken, eggplants, or trout—which comes from the famous Lake Sevan—the order goes to the kitchen. But the chefs don’t fire up a stove or heat an oven. Instead, they head to the satellite dishes in the backyard, where each dish will be cooked by sunlight.

The Machanents cultural center is in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Its mission is to help young people in situations of social vulnerability; it’s the staffs’ and youths’ interest in creativity, the arts, and innovation that brought the satellite dishes to the backyard. Of varying diameters, they’re covered by hundreds of small rectangle mirrors.


When customers order one of the “sunny meals,” the cooks use a pan made of glass (to allow the sunlight to pass through) and place walnuts on the bottom and, on top, the meat or vegetables.

Instead of going to the oven, they fit the pan into a cradle held by two rotating metal arms connected to the center of the satellite dish. They adjust the angle to point the pan at the sun, and they wait. In minutes, the food is ready. On mild sunny days, it cooks in 20 minutes or less. During the hot Armenian summer, the temperature in the pan can reach up to 700º Celsius, so the preparation time ranges from three minutes to less than seven. (But there’s no cooking with the satellites on cloudy days.)


The satellite dish in action on a sunny day.

Armenian scientists Gregor Mnatsakanyan and Vahan Hamazaspyan originally created the satellite dishes with dreams of distributing them around the country. Hamazaspyan, a pioneer in the study of solar energy use, began developing the first prototypes in the 1980s, after the devastating Spitak earthquake. Satellite solar ovens, he hoped, would feed his countrymen affordably during hard times.

Hamazaspyan resumed his project in the following decade, amidst conflicts in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim the border region, but due to the failure of mediation efforts, the region continues to see increased militarization and frequent cease-fire violations.

The conflict led to an economic blockade: Turkey closed its eastern border with Armenia, and on the other side of the country, Azerbaijan closed its border, imposing restrictions and blocking Russian gas pipelines. This spurred a severe crisis of supplies and, of course, energy.

Despite the shortages, Hamazaspyan failed to win government support for distributing the satellite dishes. “From the elderly to children, it can be adjusted for a variety of uses and is very easy to handle,” he says. It’s both simple and affordable, he adds. Still, the government would need to invest in mass production to bring down the price tag from its current $200-600, and convince families to adapt to an oven that doesn’t work at nights or during cloudy days.

image.jpgThe entrance of Machanents House, in Ejmiatsin, Armenia.


That’s how the three satellite dishes arrived at the Machanents Center. The founder, Grigor Babakhanyan, thought it would highlight the work of the Armenian scientists and give the project a chance. And Armenia is known for its 2,700 sun hours of light a year.

“The main difference of using the satellite-reflection technique is that, in a regular oven, the heat comes from the outer surface to the middle,” explains director Narine Muradyan. “With the satellites, because the mirrors are designed to redirect the heat to the middle of the pan, the heat emanates from the center.”

The trout I ordered during my visit to Macchanents came to the table perfectly cooked: tender and juicy. “We have to make sure it’s as fresh as possible, from the catch of the day, so we can get all this juiciness,” Muradyan adds. She says that they once did a blind test with some customers. They cooked the same cut of beef in a gas oven and in the satellites. “Everyone preferred the second version,” she says. The layer of walnuts, restaurant cooks explain, add smoky notes to the food while also filtering the sun’s rays to aid in even cooking.

They cooked the same cut of beef in a gas oven and in the satellites. Everyone preferred the second version.

Using the sun for cooking is not unprecedented. Similar projects can be found from Nepal to Africa. In the Chilean village of Villaseca, the restaurant Entre Cordillera Restobar Solar serves its dishes using only the sun’s rays (no gas, electricity, or firewood). Their transparent boxes heat food like the inside of parked cars on hot days. In Oaxaca, Mexico, engineer Gregor Schäpersis is experimenting with solar cooking using solar reflectors in mezcal distilleries and tortilla bakeries.

But Hamazaspyan says it is solar cooking at home that could make a real difference in people’s lives. “Most governments around the world show little interest in using these clean and sustainable technologies and free energy properly,” he says with frustration.

image.jpgA cook supervise the cooking of trout in the satellite dish.


It means that projects like his have to be done as small initiatives, such as in the Machanents Center, and nonprofits try to distribute or fund solar ovens to poor families in developing countries, especially in poorly ventilated homes where cooking fires cause illness and poor health.

“The ultimate aim should be focused on helping people eat better, not just on companies and business,” he adds. The technology, Hamazaspyan says, is easy, safe, and affordable. And, after all, the sun shines for everyone.

#166 Yervant1


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Posted 10 January 2022 - 08:57 AM


My family visited Yerevan, Armenia on our latest trip and while I had my own suppositions about the city before I encountered it, I was so terribly wrong. Don’t sleep on Yerevan, Armenia. 


Lack of Expectation

For a travel writer, I failed my first objective before I even stepped off the plane in Armenia – I did nearly no research. I looked up the map for the capital city, but this was mostly just to find my hotel in Yerevan. Admittedly, I knew little to nothing of what to expect prior to my arrival.

What a wonderful surprise.

There was a state of growth, energy, and excitement, but a reflection on what came before as well. As a former state in the USSR, Russian elements remain in places, but Armenia is an altogether different place with its own identity. Lending some flavor from its northern neighbor, Georgia, a celebration of middle eastern neighbors Iran, Iraq, Syria, and to the west Turkey, all contribute to the aroma, style, and personality of the city and her people.

If I’m honest, I may have punted on the research of the city because I was there for work. My marketing agency opened an office there to support employees in the region. It was also at the end of a long trip filled with stops in Barcelona (we canceled this segment), Manchester (our former home for three years), and Athens (a place we hadn’t visited in more than a decade and a first for our seven-year-old daughter.)

But my lack of research made every delicious meal a delight.

The Caucuses

This was my first visit to – where again? Is it Europe? No. Is it Asia? I mean, not really. Can we say Eurasia? Sure, but that’s not really it either. The caucuses are such an interesting mix and Armenia is right in the middle of them. It’s a culture all its own.

The food was interesting and tasty. It borrows traditions from other regions and makes it something new, something original. Dumplings in the region have a feel of xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and a similar approach but it would be news to Armenians that this dish might have been copied from China. The region has beautiful, stringy, salty cheese that sometimes graces the dumplings as well showing that rather than simply borrowing from China, they (dare I say?) improved the dish. Turkish pide gets its own alteration as Kachipuri which is more like a cracker pizza but with seasoned meat and often without cheese.




Streets and sidewalks harken modern European design with slabs of stone rather than concrete. Building construction appears soviet, as do the police uniforms. Across the Caspian sea, Khazakstan is going through turmoil. Turkey and Syria continue to face their own trouble and Iran is ever a point of contention as is Iraq to the south. After a recent war with neighboring Azerbaijan, a contested territory in the hills and mountains (Nagorno-Karabakh) is still contested to this day with Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in the area. Yet despite what others might consider potential cause for concern, we felt safe and comfortable in the city throughout our stay.

The Armenian people are proud of their culture and their city and for good reason. It was a wonderful introduction to the Caucuses for myself and my family.


Armenia, Colombia?

Recently, Spirit Airlines began flying to Armenia, Colombia – the coffee home of one of the most prolific coffee producers in the world. One could be forgiven for confusing Armenia, Colombia, with Armenia the country, if based solely on the number of coffee shops. It’s said that there is a coffee shop or kiosk every 100 meters in the city and that somehow seems like an underestimate. There are coffee shops next to coffee shops across from coffee shops and, thankfully, almost every one of them is amazing. I haven’t seen coffee kiosks out in public – break rooms, yes, sidewalks, no – in years. The ones we found around the city (though I did not opt to try them) were busy as well.

Matthew has reviewed great coffee in cities around the world, just search this blog. Despite discussing this destination in advance, he never mentioned this aspect and I am starting to wonder if there is a deeper reason why. Maybe my days on LiveAndLetsFly are coming to an end, much to the chagrin of a select group of commenters. Then again, maybe he was just busy.

Nevertheless, I have had great coffee all over the world. This might be the best city globally for coffee shops and if you’re an enthusiast, add it to your list.


Remnants of the Old, Signs of the New

Vestiges of rule under the Soviet Union remain but there is something different, new, and exciting developing in Armenia. A busy pedestrian mall (both above ground and underground) on Tashir Plaza reflect the past with a beautiful opera house at the end of the plaza. Friends of ours celebrated the opera and ballet which was showcasing the Nutcracker at the time; it seemed to be that classic view of a Russian state.



#167 Yervant1


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Posted 10 January 2022 - 09:05 AM


We happened to be in Yerevan for Armenian Christmas (different than Orthodox or Catholic/protestant dates) and this allowed us the opportunity to visit the oldest church in the city, in the oldest Christian country in the world.


The city show signs of new growth everywhere. We were based at Republic Square, a huge, traditional circle monolith filled with people and traffic and a reflection of the past. The History Museum of Armenia is at the center. But just blocks away we found modern restaurants and smart urban planning that mixes new construction with refurbishments.


The Armenian Genocide museum sits atop a hill over the city with beautiful views of Mount Aragats (Ararat), reflecting on a dark part of Armenia’s history but demonstrating progress (the US just recognized this genocide by the Turkish committed in 1915.) The Cafesjian Center for the Arts at the Cascade offers a mix of traditional Armenian artistry with new takes both indoors and outdoors. A towering statue of Alexander Tamanyan, the modern architect of Yerevan, leans over a drafting table at the Cascade’s base.


The Republic of Armenia and Yerevan state, in particular, are focused on the future without abandoning the past, creating an incredible medley for those who visit.


Yerevan was a wonderful surprise for myself and my family. Remnants of Armenia’s past remain, while progress forward is shaping the city for its residents. Our (read: my) lack of preparation for the trip added to the joy we found there and we look forward to many trips in the future. Reception from friends and family with news of our trip was frosty but that comes from the same ignorance I had prior to my visit – don’t sleep on Yerevan, Armenia; but if you do, there will be coffee waiting for you in the morning.

What do you think? Have you been to Yerevan, Armenia? How was your experience? What were your expectations? 


#168 Yervant1


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Posted 24 March 2022 - 08:44 AM

Sharjah Institute for Heritage chairman: Seeing masterfully done work, we say this must be Armenian’s handiwork (PHOTOS)
15:54, 23.03.2022

Armenia has been chosen as a guest of honor of the 19th Sharjah Heritage Days cultural festival in the United Arab Emirates, not only because of the long-standing and close ties between the Armenian and Arab peoples, but also because of its quality products. The organizer of the festival, chairman Abdulaziz Almusallam of the Sharjah Institute For Heritage, said this in an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am.


"Especially seeing the work done skillfully in the field of crafts, we always say that this must be the handiwork of an Armenian. Armenians are well versed in work and quality products. Besides, human contacts are important, which I think will develop more and will be lasting," said the chairman of the aforesaid institute, who had visited the Armenian pavilion at the Sharjah Heritage Days.


In 12 halls of the spacious pavilion of Armenia, the cultural heritage of our country is presented: miniature painting, carpet weaving, needlework, embroidery, woodworking, cross-stone making, puppetry, and Armenian costumes.

Armenia is participating in this prestigious festival for the first time as an honorary guest. Chairman Abdulaziz Almusallam of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage hopes that cooperation with Armenia will increase in the near future. The institute is already implementing some programs in Armenia.

"We have many ties with Armenia, which are regulated by agreements—for example, in the field of translation. In order to exchange experience, we cooperate with the National Gallery of Armenia, we also have close cooperation with the Matenadaran. We are full of hope that the cooperation in other spheres will also deepen," said Abdulaziz Almusallam, noting that Arab culture days may be held in Armenia in the near future.

The Sharjah Heritage Days festival is held in the center of Sharjah and in the eastern regions of the city. During the first week, the festival had more than 102 thousand visitors—both from the United Arab Emirates and around the world. Chairman Abdulaziz Almusallam of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage considers this year's festival a success.



"This year the festival is special, there is a great involvement of people, the number of visitors is increasing day by day. The event was spread also among social media users. I think the impact of the festival this year is obviously great," said the chairman of the aforesaid institute.


The annual Sharjah Heritage Days festival kicked off this year on March 10 and will continue until March 28. The festival has been held since 2003. It is considered one of the most famous cultural events and is organized within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Days.

To note, in order to strengthen the Armenian-Arab friendly relations, the Haghartsin Monastery of Armenia was renovated in 2013 by the benevolence of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, United Arab Emirates Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.


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#169 Yervant1


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Posted 15 June 2022 - 07:59 AM


Scottish football fans impressed with Yerevan

1085927.jpg 13:21, 14 June 2022

YEREVAN, JUNE 14, ARMENPRESS. Scottish football fans arrived in Yerevan to watch the UEFA Nations League B league Group 1 match between Armenia and Scotland on June 14.



Speaking to ARMENPRESS, they said they are very impressed with the Armenian capital, called Armenia a very beautiful country, and its people – friendly and hospitable.

“Our expectations on Armenians are exceeded. We didn’t believe that the locals would be so hospitable and warm to us. Everyone shows positive attitude to us”, football fan Alan Mckillop said.


The Scottish tourists said they haven’t managed to see a lot in Armenia, but plan to visit some beautiful sites before the start of the match.


“We are going to tour around Yerevan’s Opera Theater. As we do not have enough time to see all the beautiful sites, we decided to visit the interesting structures and institutions that we will meet along the way”, Paul Doherty said.


The Scottish football fans believe that their national team will win this match. They say if their team wins, they will celebrate the victory with an Armenian beer.




#170 Yervant1


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Posted 08 July 2022 - 07:31 AM

Khachkars, Khach means Cross and Kars means Stones. The article reversed it and got it in the wrong order!


July 7 2022

French volunteers join Armenian Christians to revive the Cross
Young French volunteers are helping restore Armenian crosses, called khachkars (literally " khah- stone and kar cross"), the beautiful, elaborately carved stones that once dotted the countryside and are now an endangered species.

“In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross.”

The quote by Thomas A Kempis illustrates the power of the Cross, the most honored symbol of Christianity.

 For the people of Armenia, the Cross is a source of national pride. 

Armenia is a small country, the first country in the world to adopt Christianity. Today 97% of the population are Christian followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenian crosses, called khachkars (literally khah, “stone,” and kar, “cross”), are beautiful, elaborately carved stones that once dotted the countryside. They are the foundation of Armenian identity uniting the country, the Church, and God.


But khachkars, present in the country since the first century, are an endangered species. 


UNESCO recognized these crosses in 2010 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Armenia, true works of art that are disappearing fast.

SOS Calvaires, the French Catholic project involved in restoring ancient crosses throughout the countryside, understand the dilemma and the challenge of nurturing faith and culture. The young adults, all volunteers have been rescuing  ancient crosses and crucifixes, restoring them and putting them back once again to beautify the French countryside. Driven by faith and love of their heritage their hard work continues to grow and be recognized throughout France.


Young volunteers offered their moral and spiritual support in a recent project helping Armenian Christians construct and erect a khachkar in a remote village in Armenia.

SOS Calvaires feels strongly about the Armenian cause. 

They say:

“For several years, the situation in Armenia has been critical. Christians are persecuted, and places of worship are destroyed. This is why SOS Calvaires wanted to support Armenia, the cradle of Christianity, by erecting a khachkar on top of a mountain.”

The project, also supported by SOS Chrétien d’ Orient, started some months ago and ended with the joyful ceremony of erecting the khachkar in the presence of four volunteers from France on Pentecost Sunday.


They raised 2500 euros, the amount necessary to finance the project. This sum mainly paid for the work of the stonemason but also covered the transport and laying of the khachkar. 

Making a khachkar is not a simple affair. It begins with choosing the right stone maker for the job—master artisans who will combine tradition and art. 

These craftsmen work in their ateliers on massive blocks of stone, first outlining the shape of the Cross and then concentrating on the artistic part, the intricate and delicate carvings on the stone’s surface.

For the people of Armenia, a nation that has suffered many hardships over the years– witnesses to the the mass murder of humanity, and victims of the  Armenian Genocide during World War I — the visit of the four French volunteers brought comfort, motivation, and joy. 

SOS Calvaires chose to bring a new khachkar to Khosnav, a remote village where the church was destroyedTransporting and installing the massive cross took place with extreme care. Once the base foundation was set in place, the stele, the main component supporting the cross, was lowered and fixed.

The volunteers described the village as one marked, like many others in Armenia, by great poverty and significant instability due to the proximity to the Azeri border.

Marguerite Le Page, one of the four volunteers who made the trip over to Armenia, said;

“We enjoyed sharing a moment of joy with Armenian Christians. The benediction ceremony was moving; the village was there to watch the cross erected.” 

Marguerite said the khachkar is about two and a half meters (8 ft) tall and weighs around 500 kilograms(1102 pounds).   

The inscription perfectly visible on the base foundation carries the motto of SOS Calvaires: Stat crum dum volvitur orbis. This powerful Latin phrase translates as The cross is steady while the world is turning. 

SOS Calvaires plans to have the motto engraved in Armenian later.




Edited by Yervant1, 12 July 2022 - 07:14 AM.

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#171 Yervant1


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Posted 24 July 2022 - 07:21 AM

July 23 2022
Want to beat the crowds in Europe? Go off track in beautiful Armenia
Armenia is encouraging people to explore its rural and mountainous areas.
By Damon Embling  •  Updated: 23/07/2022 - 08:01

For many of us, Armenia is unlikely to leap to mind when planning a holiday abroad.

The former Soviet country, sitting between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, is a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to tourism.

Now, in our post-pandemic era of travel, it is positioning itself as an off the beaten track destination. Visitors are being encouraged to look beyond the capital Yerevan and to explore its rural and mountainous areas.


“We have a new tagline, ‘Armenia: The Hidden Track,’” Sisian Bighossian, head of Armenia’s Tourism Committee, tells Euronews Travel.

We have many hidden gems. We have amazing scenery, we have great pristine landscapes for hiking, nature and adventure tourism.

“We have many hidden gems. We have amazing scenery, we have great pristine landscapes for hiking, nature and adventure tourism.

“But we want to make sure we’ll be able to preserve those as well. If we have overtourism, that’s something that’s going to potentially jeopardise that.”

Head for the mountains and live like a local
808x454_cmsv2_4e0664a5-3d7e-57d0-8a65-5bTegher Gastro Yard, just an hour's drive from the capital of Yerevan.Damon Embling

Part of Armenia’s ‘hidden track’ approach is enticing visitors to stay in one of its many remote villages, sampling the hospitality of locals.


“When I was young, I went to big hotels, all inclusive, laid by the pool. But today I don’t like it. I like being in nature, where there’s something to see, to go walking a little bit,” says Bianka Blom, a German tourist on a road trip in Armenia with her family.

The Bloms have opted to stay at the Tegher Gastro Yard and Pottery Centre, around an hour’s drive from the capital Yerevan, in the village of Tegher in the Aragatsotn region.

It is part of a network of Gastro Yards, run by villagers, which aim to immerse visitors in local culture, heritage and gastronomy.

808x454_cmsv2_74ea93b1-1237-5b11-889f-e3The Blom family found what they were looking for in Tegher village, away from Europe's big all-inclusive resorts.Damon Embling

At Tegher, you can try your hand at pottery and creating stained glass, with the help of the friendly, and talented, Shushan family.

They also provide accommodation, including a hand-crafted treehouse, and a restaurant, nestled in gardens which are full of all sorts of creations and curiosities.

“It’s a special place, it’s very interesting inside. They make lots of little pieces that are very cute and nice,” says Bianka. “A hotel is not the same. Here is more authentic. We like it.”

Helping rural communities through tourism

Armenia’s ‘hidden track’ tourism seeks to satisfy increasing desires for slow and authentic experiences post-pandemic.

But it’s also seen as key to unlocking the development of rural areas and communities in this small country of three million people.

“It’s an opportunity for the families and local people who are working or can work in the tourism sector. It’s an excellent opportunity to create new jobs,” says Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), who recently visited Armenia.

“The government itself is investing a lot in infrastructure, mainly in roads, to create accessibility to the new destinations. There are lots of opportunities to develop the regional areas of the country.”

Sample wine and brandy from Armenia’s ‘sacred’ fruit
There are ample opportunities to sample brandy - one of Armenia's iconic drinks

Armenia’s wine heritage can also be found beyond the bright lights of Yerevan. Natives believe that Noah planted a grape vine at the foot of Mount Ararat after the Flood, so it is something that is sacred to them.

Head to the village of Arenia, in Vayots Dzor province, and you can visit the remains of what Armenians proudly say is the world’s oldest winery. Other countries in the region dispute this claim.

The Areni-1 winery was discovered in a cave complex in 2007 by Armenian and Irish archaeologists and is understood to date back to 4100 BC.

A wine press, fermentation and storage vessels, withered grape vines and seeds were among the many items found.

Grapes grown in Armenia nowadays are not only used for wine, but also to produce brandy. Twelve varieties, from the rural fields of Ararat, go into making it.

Brandy is the signature drink of Armenia, Nina Azizyan, lead guide at the Yerevan Ararat Brandy Wine Vodka Factory, tells Euronews Travel.

The historic factory, in the capital, produces 22 million bottles of brandy every year and is famous for its Noy brand.

“It’s very soft, it’s natural and during the blending, we only use spring water. Maybe the unique taste of this brandy is that.”

Take a tour and you can sample a selection of brandies. You will also hear about how former British prime minister Winston Churchill apparently fell in love with them.

Make a religious and spiritual connection
The stunning Geghard Monastery

Going off the ‘hidden track’ in Armenia is about discovering more of the country’s rich religious and spiritual heritage too.

Armenia is one of the earliest Christian civilisations, with its first churches said to have been founded in the fourth century.

“We have thousands of churches and monasteries across Armenia. A lot of them are out in the regions as well, which encourages people to leave the capital city,” says Bighossian.

One of the country’s most important and unique religious sites is the fascinating Geghard Monastery.

One of the country’s most important and unique religious sites is the fascinating Geghard Monastery, which has UNESCO World Heritage status.

Located in the Upper Azat Valley, in Kotayk Province, it is partially surrounded by cliffs and partially carved out of the adjacent mountain. It contains several churches and tombs, dating back from the fourth to 13th century.

Getting to and around Armenia

There are direct flights to Armenia from a handful of European countries, including France, Germany and Poland. You can also travel via hubs like Doha.

Road infrastructure is still developing in Armenia, so you need to plan your journeys and routes carefully if you have a car. It is also quite challenging to find places off the beaten track.

Other options include organised tours and hiring a driver via your accommodation.



#172 MosJan


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Posted 27 July 2022 - 03:56 PM

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#173 Yervant1


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Posted 16 October 2022 - 05:07 AM

Oct 15 2022
Lydia Kasparian
OCTOBER 15, 2022

Beauties of Armenia



At a time when Armenia is fighting desperately to try to keep its territory. As thousands of young soldiers perished in a disproportionate war in 2020 between Armenia and Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey, financed by gas from Baku, I made a large number of images , with my father Roger Kasparian, renowned photographer, and my son Norvan Kasparian, between 2020 and 2022.

We want to document Christian Armenia by showing the ancestral presence of this peaceful and repeatedly martyred people on their lands, and to use the words of Mr Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, he wants to “drive them out like dogs ”.

My images show that the Armenians are neither dogs nor barbarians: they are builders of monasteries, they are great artists, painters, musicians, poets, craftsmen, shepherds, traders… genocidated and expelled several times from their country.

As a second genocide looms, I wish to show Armenia in all its splendor, its dignity, its fervor. Armenia has no gas to offer: it has its humanity.

I wish to publish and exhibit these photos in order to make this dramatic situation known.

My grandfather, a survivor of the 1915 Genocide, was a photographer, my mother too, and my son, 12-year-old Norvan, will be a photographer.

I wanted to go to Armenia for the first time in November 2020: in the middle of winter, in the middle of Covid and in the middle of the war. We made this trip at 3, father, daughter and grandson, cameras in hand and did everything we could to capture the emotions of this people martyred for the nth time. Then we returned 4 times, appalled by the eternal repetition of this dramatic story, this determination to want to destroy Christian Armenia.

Armenia is reduced to a skin of grief which dwindles over the years, relentlessly nibbled away by its insatiable neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The high mountainous plateau that is Armenia testifies to a thousand-year-old history. Our photos are intended to reflect this history.



#174 Yervant1


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Posted 05 November 2022 - 08:26 AM


Armenia Through the Eyes of Foreigners


1096443.jpg 10:00, 4 November 2022

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. There are decisions in everyone’s life which lead to turning changes – change in place of residence, job, personal life. Many cannot even imagine that years later they could find themselves beyond the seas, oceans and continents. Our heroes as well have not ever imagined that one day they would come to Armenia from India, fall in love and decide to stay and work here.


Santosh Kumari from India lives in Armenia since 1987. She moved to Armenia with her husband and two children in 1987 after graduating the St. Petersburg State University.



“We moved to Armenia because my husband was an Armenian. I loved this country very much and adapted easily”, Santosh Kumari said speaking to ARMENPRESS.


She says she never met bad attitude in Armenia towards Indians.



Our next hero, Rahul Anil Sethi, came to Armenia for the first time for getting doctor’s profession. After graduating the Yerevan State Medical University, he returned to India, but came back again to Armenia already for a longer period of time.


“When I first visited Armenia, I was very surprised because when we were walking in the Republic Square, unknown Armenians were inviting us to their homes only because we were Indians because they have been impressed by Indian films”, Rahul Anil Sethi said.

As for the difficulties in Armenia, he mentioned only the problem with the language, but stated that he has learnt it very quickly. He also said that he is now working at the Yerevan State Medical University as the head of the department of international students’ affairs and an assistant lecturer at the department of surgery.


Not only his Armenian wife, but also Armenia itself has brought Rahul Anil Sethi to Armenia. He says he likes everything in Armenia.




#175 Yervant1


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Posted 11 November 2022 - 09:30 AM


Armenia is part of me: Italian photographer’s project to present Genocide and its consequences under new light


1096875.jpg 10:18, 10 November 2022

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 10, ARMENPRESS. Sometimes photos can tell more than ordinary words. Sometimes such depths and previously unknown layers are revealed in the reality presented through photos which people living in that reality often find it difficult to notice.


Italian photographer Jacopo Santini has spent most of his life with a camera in his hand, trying to document people’s stories and show the invisible side of life.

The visit to Lebanon years ago was a turning point for a photographer living and working in Florence, to start a project, which would later become an integral part of his life and daily routine.


Jacopo Santini gave an interview to ARMENPRESS, telling about his project which relates to the impact of the memory of the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the elimination of that memory on the formation of Armenian and Turkish societies. Filled with infinite love towards Armenia, the photographer shares his impressions and memories from the days he spent in our country, tells about the story of the project’s origin and presents interesting episodes from the project’s implementation process.



How the project started


The official version, the one I most often tell because it is the only one that has survived oblivion, is that something was born in my disordered mind in Beirut, in 2012, where I was for a then failed project on the gradual disappearance of Christian minorities in the Middle East. I was in the old Armenian quarter, Bourj Hammoud, looking at a building with still bullet holes from the very long and bloody war that turned the city into a huge battlefield from 1975 to 1991. Someone - I don't remember who, perhaps Georges, my host - told me that that same building, or another one not far from there, had been one of the orphanages (which later became a shelter) founded by the Near East Relief, an American aid organisation set up with the aim of bringing relief to the survivors and victims (Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians) of persecution or, as in the case I am dealing with, of the genocide planned and carried out under the Ottoman Empire by the Young Turks during (and after) the First World War. In that orphanage, my anonymous interlocutor added, had died some time before my arrival the last of the blind children, orphans contaminated by an eye infection during one of the endless marches to death or salvation they had faced.

I imagined that centenarian survivor spending nearly a century condemned to be unable to dim the terrible memories, the last of a visual nature, that had preceded blindness.

I do not know how to relate this memory to certain events or decisions, but I do know that from then on I began to read as much as I could and to study the history of Metz Yegern, about which I had learned something (very little) at school and (much more) from my father. I re-read “The Forty Days of the MussaDagh” by Franz Werfel, Yves Ternon, Benny Morris, Taner Ackam and many others. I discovered the strange coincidence in the number 301 of the year in which Armenia became, according to tradition, the first Christian nation and of the article in the Turkish Penal Code that still today sanctions with imprisonment anyone who offends Turkish identity or its institutional representatives, an article often used to discourage those who wish to address this removed and deeply identity-based part of Turkish history. I found myself with a ready-made title and thematic direction when in the summer of 2018 I sent in my application for a lecturer's fellowship announced by SACI, a US art academy I was teaching for at the time. I got it and it all began.

Armenia and Turkey are the focus of the project

It has taken me a bit everywhere. The base has always been Yerevan, which is in itself the mirror of many aspects of present-day Armenia, of a tormented past of a lively present in search of a difficult balance between dependence (political, military and economic) on the Russian Federation and attraction towards a Europe that has betrayed Armenian trust and hopes many times.

It must be premised that the project concerns both Armenia and Turkey, since the aim is to recount how the memory of the genocide and its removal determined the identity of the two countries. One of the first choices - consistent, I think, with the sense of the project - was to explore the borders, however unapproachable, between Armenia and its hostile neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Gyümri - and its twin city Kars in Turkish territory, with Ani, the ancient Bagratid capital condemned to exile in a land that denies its Armenian origin (no panel in Ani reminds us, despite historical and architectural evidence, that this once powerful city was once the capital of an Armenian kingdom) were among the first destinations. I attempted to observe that border from opposite points of view by stitching together the ontologically fragmented images with text in the final version of the project. Gyümri, formerly Alexandrapol, is known as the city of orphans. There I visited with the help of Antonio Montalto, honorary consul of Italy and a person of great generosity, and the former director of the Genocide Museum, the Kazachi post, once used as a reception centre and orphanage for children who survived the death marches and Islamization.


Thanks to the support of COAF, an NGO very active in the field of education in disadvantaged areas of Armenia, I photographed several times in the Lori region, going as far as Aragats where I felt it was consistent with the theme to tell the story of the Yezida community, testifying to how the Armenians, a people suffering persecution, were able to learn from history and offer refuge to a minority at risk of genocide in Syria and Iraq. In Syunik, based in Goris and with the logistical support of the Fond Armenien de France, I travelled along the insecure and flexible border lines with Azerbaijan, documenting some villages along the border and talking to their inhabitants, activists and volunteers, young people and veterans. I have always been, above all, a photographer of people. Nothing is as inescapable and rich as observing the face of a human being.

I always seek refuge in etymology when something is unclear to me and I remember that the term 'face', 'face' in English, comes from the Latin 'facies' among whose meanings survives that of the façade or page of a book. The face is also the page on which life is written, and I will never forget that of Surik, a former volunteer in the first Nagorno Karabakh war, who in a gorge just below the current border with Azerbaijan, a few kilometres from Goris, has created a sort of strange paradise, surrounded by high mountain walls, the centre of which is a small pond made available to the boys of the nearby village and the border soldiers, which is apparently cut exactly in half by the border line. Armenia is truly a land of surreal beauty and offers hope in places that would seem to lack it most.

In 2019, I was in Artsakh. A few days, very intense, also thanks to the help of a guide who became a friend, Emma, who was very young at the time. I think with sorrow that parts of that land, which for me is Armenian, seen and photographed, are now lost and perhaps irretrievable.  With even greater sadness I think of the victims, of those who believed in the solidarity of Europe and were betrayed by it, of the very fragile truce that cannot illude those who have decided to stay. I fear the future. I have tried to return, but in vain. Apparently, it is not even enough to be Armenian to have access.

I do not forget the Tavush, the tortuous border with Azerbaijan that exposes its inhabitants to shelling, to sniper fire from the hills. I remember and will return to Koti, to Aygheropit where I photographed in an autumn of unimaginable colours, the sadness of a primary school with its windows bricked up to protect the children and teachers from Azerbaijani fire.

Implementation of Turkish part of the project was not easy

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had to suspend my travels and work on the editing of the images, the text, which is still a chaotic work in progress, seeking support and ideas, especially for the 'Turkish' part of the project. As you can easily imagine, photographing, with a purpose like mine, in Turkey and particularly in the regions (Western Armenia or Anatolia) where the genocide took place, is not easy. It is not possible to feel comfortable dealing with a subject whose mention in that very land is forbidden and sanctioned by an article in the penal code, Article 301, which gives my project its title. Yet, even in Turkey, in Turkish Kurdistan as in Istanbul, I found people - and not all of them of Armenian origin - willing to collaborate.


Exhibitions in Italy

The project was exhibited four times in Italy. In Venice, Florence and in Lombardy. It was presented at the University of Venice, Ca' Foscari, and I talked about it (and will talk about it) at a lecture at the University of Florence. Many people attended and I realized, talking about it, that the subject was new or at least partially obscure to many. While many know and can date the genocide, most are unaware of Armenia's current situation in all its complexity. I have noticed a lot of curiosity about the country's current culture and fate, its ties to the European ecumene. I would like such curiosity - which once you have visited the country, often becomes passion - to be mirrored by a different, less cynical political attitude.

When I will finalize the project is difficult to answer. I wish I had no deadlines, but I have set myself a deadline of 2023. At least two trips to Turkey await me, in the spring and summer of 2023, and - I hope - another to Armenia, where in any case and regardless of a project that is destined never to end, I will return. This country is part of me, deeply. And I feel part of it. When I know it is in trouble my first thought is 'to be there'.

Indelible memories from Armenia and Artsakh

I have been to Armenia six times, the penultimate time I stayed for a month. I should write a book, just to give a partial answer to this question. Armenia is ancient and has a history of very high culture, deep roots and, in its people, a resilience over the centuries to geographical, political and strategic obstacles that is hard to find elsewhere. You are not spoiled, that is for sure, because you have to deal, on a daily basis, with real dilemmas, capable of immediate consequences. What has always struck me, at least in my interlocutors of different backgrounds and origins, is the ability to hope despite everything, the never complaining industriousness, the ability to put aside the very human inclination to complain in order to build something. There is so much beauty here and as rarely elsewhere. Here I have perceived the relationship between beauty and fragility. I sometimes think of how Cesare Brandi, the great Italian art historian, spoke of Armenian churches, 'the crystal churches'. It is a metaphor that could fit the condition of this country.

I experienced unforgettable moments: I remember one day in Artsakh, a long ride along a road not far from the border. We stopped in a small village (Nor Maragha, I think) and spent most of the day in a tiny roadside grocery with some women; I listened in amazement as one of them sang to me in an adolescent voice, accepted the invitation of another for lunch, Svetlana, and listened to her story with my fingers black with mulberry jam and on my lips the deep red wine of the area. I remember Surik papik in his enchanted gorge outside Goris, Aram the volunteer from the Fond Armenien de France of whom I know nothing more, Misha from Yezida village looking at Aragats and smiling under his moustache, and above all the Soldier's Home in Yerevan, the director, a surgeon, and her steady gaze, her words devoid of the slightest rhetoric, her patients, very young boys returning from the October 2020 conflict, often with very serious injuries. I still well remember Leon, nineteen years old, a passion for writing and sculpture. He had come in with his body full of shrapnel. He would come out of the clinic a few days after our meeting.

I remember Anna, the widow of a young doctor who left as a volunteer in October 2021, her grace and tenderness with her two small children and her truly regal ability not to impose her pain on them. I will not forget her. I will not forget anything. I will not forget anyone. I think that's why I photograph.


Araks Kasyan




#176 Yervant1


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Posted 18 November 2022 - 10:27 AM

Nov 16 2022
Will Travel For Food: 11 Can’t Miss Culinary Experiences In Armenia
Breanna Wilson
Travel writer obsessed with remote destinations and finding the world's most badass adventures.

A cuisine that’s remarkably diverse from its north to south, Armenian food isn’t just rich in flavors – it’s rich in history, as well. Presented with modest simplicity, the dishes and wine traditions here, some of the first in the world, can only be understood once you step foot in the country, making Armenia a destination that should no longer be overlooked, especially by gastronomes and oenophiles.


But what is it about Armenian food that’s worthy of a discerning traveler’s attention? And why now? Maybe it’s the explosive flavors that come with every bite. Or the traditions and stories behind even the simplest of dishes, from khash to horats panir. Or this excerpt from cookbook author Lena Tachdjian in Vegan Armenian Kitchen that answers those questions perfectly, “it’s the robust flavor of the local produce – whether it be eggplants, mushrooms, tomatoes, or even just fresh greens and herbs. Armenian cuisine allows for simple meals that highlight these ingredients to shine and speak for themselves.”


While checking out the local restaurants and cafes in Yerevan gives visitors a surface-level introduction to Armenian food, there are far better ways to explore the cuisine – and to do a deep dive into its traditions, techniques, and the people keeping this part of their heritage alive. And that means getting out, getting your hands dirty, and exploring by way of these 11 different culinary experiences in Armenia.

Go on a Wild Food Adventure with 2492


Journey to a land untouched with 2492’s Wild Food Adventures, an interactive culinary experience set in Armenia’s great outdoors where local hosts sit down and share a 3-course meal made with traditional recipes and locally sourced ingredients with interested guests. Here, you won’t just learn about Armenia’s rich culinary traditions and history – you’ll become a part of them. Choose between three adventures: the Areni Cliffs, an Areni vineyard, or the Yeranos Mountains. The Areni Cliffs give you the chance to see endangered bezoar goats with a bird’s-eye view of the 13th-century Noravank Monastery while the Areni vineyard experience gives you the chance to sip local wine in a golden-hued field as the sun sets behind you. Or, lastly, go for the 2492 adventure in the Yeranos Mountains where you’ll be transported to a Martian-like terrain before settling down to a traditional meal among the mountaintops.

Go Foraging at Sona Guesthouse

Dsegh village is one of Armenia's most sought after escapes and Sona Guesthouse is the perfect stop for hungry travelers passing through. Run by Ashot and Anahit Bezhanyan, the guesthouse is named after one of their grandchildren. With a handful of culinary experiences to pick from, each of them requires putting in some work before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Depending on the season, forage for mushrooms, local herbs (such as hornbeam and malva), berries (including blackberries, rosehip, and cornel), or other plants in the green mountains and forests of Lori. Once you’ve rounded up your haul, Ashot and Anahit will teach you how to make soups, salads, preserves, or juice, the traditional Armenian way.


Owner Anahit standing in front of Sona Guesthouse, Armenia.


Make Sasna Klulik at Noosh Guesthouse

In Aragatsotn province, the tiny village of Ashnak is home to Noosh, a guesthouse and restaurant run by local Ani Hovhannisyan and her friend, Gayane Malishenko. The Armenian word for almond, the guesthouse's name represents the 23 almond trees located on the guesthouse grounds. Noosh offers a deep dive into Sasun culture and cooking, a culture that remains strong today after they were forced to relocate here more than a century ago. Guests are given the chance to try their hand at making sasna klulik, a savory dish made from pickled cabbage, wheat, and spices. If you plan your trip at the right time, you may even have the opportunity to watch performances of yarkhushta, kochari, and other traditional dances while enjoying a meal with your new Sasun friends.

Bury Horats Panir at Old Martiros Guesthouse

Hamlet Yeghiadzaryan and Gohar Babayan are the husband-wife team that runs Old Martiros Guesthouse in one of the oldest villages in Armenia. Created to cater to adventurers looking to take advantage of the new hiking trails developed in the region, the guesthouse not only offers a comfortable place to stay for the night but guests are also greeted with a variety of culinary experiences, such as learning how to make 'horats panir' cheese, a buried cheese that originates in Yeghegnadzor, Vayk, and nearby villages. Gohar will show you how to press the cheese into clay pots and add local, hand-picked mountain herbs in between layers to enrich its flavor. You'll then head to the cellar to store it, where it will remain for 3-5 months before it’s ready to be enjoyed.

Eat the Best of Meghri at Khachats Toun

More of a DIY experience, heading to Armenia’s far south offers the opportunity to experience an entire new world of flavors, fruits, and hospitality. Located on the Iranian border, Meghri’s archaeological finds date back to the 7th-century BC, and the city boasts a food culture all its own. The city is particularly known for its pomegranates, which also happen to be one of the national symbols of Armenia. Travelers will also find olives, quince, persimmons, medlar, kiwi, and more growing in the region.

To really experience the hospitality and food of Meghri, stop into Khachats Toun Heritage Hotel. Founded by local Shahane Khachikyan in her family’s historic home, Khachats Toun hosts guests from all over the globe looking to put their taste buds to the test with some of the finest ingredients from Southern Syunik, including the region’s finest fruit-infused vodkas.

Visit an Armenian Gastro Yard at Yeganyans

A place where guests can really experience the local culture, Armenia’s new ‘gastro yards’ give travelers the chance to taste their way through local dishes, and even take a culinary masterclass while they’re at it. Today, you can find them dotted across various parts of the country, with one in particular in Ashtarak worth seeking out – Yeganyans' Guest House and Wine Yard. Run by locals Nelly and Sedrak, Sedrak has his own vineyard nearby where he grows more than ten varieties of grapes that he uses to make his own wine. Guests are invited to learn more about this process and will even have the chance to bottle wine to take home with them. While travelers spend time with Sedrak learning about Armenian wine, it’s Nelly’s homemade meals that round out this gastro yard visit.

Taste Armenian Cheese at the Mikayelyan Family Farm

In the small village of Artsvakar in Armenia's Gegharkunik region, gastronomes will be delighted to find Mikayelyan Family Farm, a family-owned cheesemaking farm that has gained national recognition across Armenia in recent years. The modern facility is a place where you can learn more about caseiculture (the art of making cheese), tour the cheese cellar, and pair the experience with an assorted platter of cheese and local wines. What’s most unique about this experience are the Armenian-centric ingredients highlighted in the cheesemaking process – sample everything from a surprisingly delicious sea buckthorn spread to cheese rinds prominent with cognac, wine, or mint and pick your favorite cheeses to take with you on the road.

Sit Among the Vineyards at Momik Wines

Wine experiences in Armenia are a dime a dozen but Momik Wines offers an experience like no other. The Armenian winery has been in Nver Ghazaryan’s family for nearly half a century, and they focus on growing endemic Areni grapes from the region, which also happens to be where the world's oldest winery is found. Today, Nver and his wife Narine aren’t just famous for their grapes – the vineyard is a prime example of OneArmenia's Farm-to-Bottle initiative, a program that encouraged local grape farmers to keep their yield and create their own wines instead of selling to larger manufacturers. For the best experience at Momik Wines, book a wine tasting paired with a small selection of food and sit among some of the world's oldest vines while sipping on wine made from these extraordinary Areni and Kharji grapes.

Take a Culinary Masterclass at Hotel Mirhav

Located in the heart of Goris, Hotel Mirhav is one of the first hotels built in post-Soviet Armenia. While the feeling here is luxurious without the pretentiousness, it’s the gastronomic experiences the hotel offers that really set it apart from others in the region. Hotel director Gayane Martirosyan teaches eager (and hungry) guests how to make everything from tolma to Armenian plov to zhengyalov hats in the comforts of Mirhav's spacious kitchen and dining room. Hotel Mirhav can also set up guests with local families to learn how to distill vodka with home-grown mulberries, wild pears, rosehips, and more.

Make Chanakh and Pokhind at Chalet Gyumri

Gyumri is Armenia's second-largest city and easily one of the most underrated places in the region. A city renowned for its humor, Gyumri also has some uniquely Armenian dishes to show off to visitors, and at Chalet Gyumri guests are given the chance to check them out. Under the guidance of owner Karine Tumasyan hungry guests are given the chance to make her family recipe for chanakh, a Gyumri comfort food made in a clay pot. While the chanakh cooks, Tumasyan continues the lesson, showing guests one more family recipe – this time in the form of the dessert pokhind.

Learn to Make Gata with Legends Guesthouse

Close to Yeghegis in the village Artabuynk, Legends Guesthouse is a family-owned business that combines a masterclass where visitors learn how to make one of Armenia's favorite sweets, gata, with a trip to the nearby Smbataberd Fortress. While Gata can be found across the country (like in Artabuynk), but with different regional variations, it’s the version from the Upper Azat Valley's Geghard and Garni that is most famous. Here, visitors will learn how to make gata in a tonir (a stone oven buried in the ground) with the guesthouse’s owner Tamara before taking a short hike with Vardan and Karen to Smbataberd.


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#177 Yervant1


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Posted 07 December 2022 - 07:23 AM

Dec 6 2022
This new trail reveals the wonders of Armenia—a country at the crossroads of the world

A 500-plus mile hiking path shows off the tiny nation’s stunning mountains and top-notch hospitality.






This Armenian section is the first country-wide through-hike of the greater Transcaucasian Trail (TCT), which will one day link Armenia with Georgia and Azerbaijan via an 1,800-mile network going west-east from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and north-south from the Greater to the Lesser Caucasus.

The TCT’s Armenian portion offers a glimpse of what’s to come. Hiking it, past green mountains and ancient Christian monuments (including the clifftop Tatev Monastery), also gives a taste of this storied land.

A trail is born

The TCT first broke ground in 2017, when a team of volunteer trail builders began carving paths in the dense oak and hornbeam forests above Dilijan, a resort town a 90-minute drive north of the Armenian capital, Yerevan

Visitors can now follow red-and-white TCT trail markers across the nation to witness the volcanic domes of the Gegham Mountains and the emerald depths of Vorotan Canyon. The trail also passes three UNESCO-listed monasteries, which speak to Armenia’s history as the first country to establish Christianity as the state religion.

(See how these traditional herders still cross the perilous trails of the Caucasus.)

Still, the TCT remains a work in progress. “The trail isn’t completely marked, signposted, maintained, and beautifully groomed [yet],” says Allen. He says there are abundant resources on the TCT website—including topo maps, recommended apps, and both KML and GPX route downloads—to navigate less developed areas like the vast steppe near Lake Sevan.

Wildlife and warm hospitality

The possibility of encounters with Syrian brown bears and gray wolves adds to the appeal of hiking the TCT, as do tales of the recent return of the Caucasian leopard (which locals view, auspiciously, as a revival of the Armenian spirit). Some stretches of the TCT recall the rugged red rocks of Sedona; others the forested hills of Shenandoah.

“There is a huge diversity of landscapes for such a small country,” says Jakub Babij, a through-hiker from Poland. “You have areas that are like a desert, and then parts that are similar to the Alps.”

(See wildly underrated wild places on our Best of the World list.)

Babij set aside 40 days to do the trail from Meghri, in the south, to Lake Arpi, near the Georgian border. He camped most nights, but occasionally slept in one of the guesthouses that have started springing up along the trail “to get a real sense of the local culture.” The hospitality of Armenians, he says, left the biggest impression.

Cultural experiences, like meeting a local sheep farmer, have sprung up along the Transcaucasian Trail in Armenia.

Many hosts prepare sprawling khorovats (feasts) for overnight guests, with grilled meats, lavash flatbreads, soft cheeses, and vegetable and bulgur wheat salads. Shots of oghi (homemade fruit vodka) often lead to rounds of kenadz, a poetic Armenian toasting custom.

An ecotourism boom

Recent campaigns to promote Armenia and to fund improvements to its tourism offerings have inspired a travel boom, with visitation increasing by 15 percent each year from 2010 to 2020. Ardag Kosian, executive director of HIKE Armenia, says cash flowing into communities beyond Yerevan (where one-third of Armenians live) makes the TCT key for rural development. “When you have a village that doesn’t have a lot of resources, and you have villagers opting to leave rather than stay, there needs to be a way for them to make a living,” he says. “Ecotourism is a surefire way to do that.”

In 2018, Garnik Gevorgyan built a campsite along the TCT with hot showers, covered picnic tables, and a restaurant serving locally grown food. He was inspired by tourists who had started showing up in his tiny village, Artavan, seeking lodgings and meals.

(Discover Mayan history on Mexico’s first through-hike.)

“I don’t see it as a business; it’s showing my way of life,” he says. “Before the TCT, nobody knew the name of my village—not even Armenians. Now it’s like Artavan finally exists.”

HIKEArmenia has been instrumental in disseminating trekking intelligence through its website, app, and information center in downtown Yerevan. It’s also funded much of the infrastructure-building (though NGO Trails for Change builds most routes). Assisting rural communities remains HIKEArmenia’s main focus.

Armenia, the first country to decree Christianity its state religion, is home to ancient holy sites such as the Kobayr Monastery, a 12th-century complex built at the brink of a gorge.

The idea is that hikers can do loop trails or day paths and stay in one place for a few nights. Take Old Martiros, for example. This ancient village now lures tourists with trails out to lakes, traditional Armenian cross-stones, and a rock-hewn church carved into the mountainside. While in town, travelers can buy local products such as dried stone fruits, gata pastries, and wine. “The longer they’re there, the more impact,” says Kosian.

Hiking along ancient thoroughfares from village to village, “you see things that are thousands of years old,” Kosian adds. “You meet families who have lived in the same place for generations. They tell you stories about how they used the trail you’re walking on to go to school. And all of this adds age and depth. It becomes more than just hiking; it becomes walking through an open-air museum.”

A boost to hiking across the Caucasus

Armenia was once merely the realm of intrepid hikers who connected the dots on their own. The TCT, which is expected to draw a hundred through-hikers this year (and thousands more day hikers), gives the country a way to draw “soft adventure” travel as well. All the while, the trail has fostered a burgeoning outdoors movement within Armenia, with local trail clubs helping maintain the route.

A similar buzz now exists across the border in Georgia, which has 84 miles of its TCT complete, and in Azerbaijan, where $10,000 in government funding is jumpstarting trail development. “This came as a surprise,” says Allen, “because Azerbaijan’s government was funding a shared project with Armenia.” The neighbors have fought two wars over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Tensions remain high and borders are closed (the TCT will enter Azerbaijan via Georgia).

“If nothing else, [the TCT] will show that it’s possible for there to be a shared project that has little to do with geopolitics and a lot to do with what all of these countries have in common,” says Allen. “I’d like to think that, one day soon, the TCT will become a hopeful, symbolic thing for the region.” In a way, it already is.

Mark Johanson is a travel writer based in Chile. Follow him on Instagram.

See photos at  https://www.national...churches-hiking 

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#178 MosJan


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Posted 07 December 2022 - 01:25 PM

good find. nice article  :thumbsup:  

#179 Yervant1


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Posted 23 December 2022 - 10:19 AM

Dec 18 2022
Armenian Alphabet is Catalyst for Cultural Endurance Updated on December 18, 2022 by Meg

The Armenian alphabet is crucial to the identity of its people and the country’s longevity as one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

Armenia may be most well-known by the rest of the world for its great diaspora, the result of genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks that claimed the lives of about 1.2 million Armenians from 1915 to 1922. There are almost four times as many Armenians living outside their homeland than in it—the country has a population of three million and the diaspora numbers 11 million.

Yet despite waves of onslaughts over the millennia by aggressors, this tiny landlocked nation lays claim to being one of the ten oldest countries in the world, along with better-known ancient civilizations like China, Egypt and Greece. In fact, in 2018 Armenia celebrated its 2800th anniversary. How did Armenia manage to maintain its identity for more than two millennia, while scores of countless other countries have disappeared from history?

Well, just like the oldest story ever told, in the beginning, was the word. Or, more specifically, the alphabet. Join me for a journey through Armenia’s cultural landscape and a glimpse at how its writing system has been possibly the single biggest force behind the endurance of Armenian identity.

Ararat, The Resting Place of Noah's Ark

The best place to start is always the beginning. The fortress of Erebuni is the predecessor site to Armenia’s capital of Yerevan. Today, the ruins of Erebuni sit high above the modern-day metropolis; the site is an evocative and peaceful place to contemplate the history of the country...and it's future at this pivotal time, so full of hope.


The Erebuni Fortress sits atop a 213-foot hill that overlooks modern Yerevan. Numerous cuneiform inscriptions carved in basalt have been found around the complex. Photos: Meg pier

Erebuni was founded in 782 B.C. by the Urartians, the earliest known ancestors of the Armenian people. In the 1950s, an archaeological survey of Erebuni uncovered tablets with cuneiform inscriptions that suggest linguistic evidence of a link between the Urartu and Armenian languages dating to the 3rd - 2nd millennium B.C.
Urartu can be translated as “Ararat” and indeed the iconic peaks of this dormant volcano are visible throughout Yerevan and are a powerful ever-present reminder for Armenians of their identity—and oppression. Ararat is known around the world as the resting place of Noah’s Ark— which, according to Armenian tradition, is the vehicle that brought the first Armenians to this mountainous region between Europe and Asia. Legend says Armenian lineage goes back to Noah; they are “people of the Ark.”

Historian Razmik Panossian says Mt. Ararat “connects Armenians to the biblical narrative of human development.” To the anguish of Armenians, this majestic mountain they consider sacred came under Turkish control in the 1920 Turkish-Armenian War.

Millenniums Later, and the Armenian People Are Still Fighting

The name Yerevan evolved from Erebuni and according to one interpretation of an ancient inscription found nearby, the word means “victory.” It seems a fitting moniker for the home of a civilization that refuses to be defeated despite great adversity. In the past, the threats came from outsiders; in the spring of 2018, Armenia overthrew its own government, widely believed to be corrupt.

In what became known as the “Velvet Revolution”, the Armenian people took charge of their destiny in a remarkable series of peaceful and highly effective protests led by activist Nikol Pashinyan. While young people were the driving force behind the protests, the movement soon spanned generations and resulted in the resignation of the prime minister, with Pashinyan being sworn in to lead the process of change.

Cafesjian Center for the Arts

After my visit to Erebuni, the next stop on my quest to understand the significance of the Armenian alphabet was the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. In this massive complex of stairs, waterfalls and galleries known as the “Cascade,” I met Education Director Astghik Marabyan, who introduced me to a vivid manifestation of the Armenian alphabet’s history.

Astghik showed me to the Khanjyan Gallery off the lobby on the first floor; the room is dominated by a monumental mural created by its namesake, the well-known Armenian painter Grigor Khanjyan. The piece’s three scenes illustrate important events in Armenia’s history: the creation of the Armenian Alphabet; Vardanank; and a "Resurrected Armenia".

People Are Culture's interviews and stories offer a free valuable resource to teachers looking for meaningful material for their culture lesson plans.

"The mural is one of the important works of Armenian culture, which presents the seminal cultural-political episodes essential for preservation and longevity of Armenian identity and the nation," Astghik said. "The creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD, one hundred years after Armenians adopted Christianity as a state religion, was a political and cultural necessity given that Armenia at that time was divided between Byzantine and Persia. The invention of the Alphabet led to unification and the rise of an Armenian identity, and also brought a new era of cultural awakening, which is considered as the Golden Age of Armenian culture."

"The second part of the mural Vardanank depicts a 5th-century historical event, the famous battle against Persians in 451 AD, and symbolizes Armenians’ struggle for the preservation of their Christian identity, which had been solidified 150 years prior by the invention of the Alphabet," she continued. "The third part of the mural, Resurrected Armenia, symbolically depicts 20th century Armenia through a “constellation” of Armenian intellectual elite, and reflects the perpetual fight and cultural victory through centuries."

Fostering a Love of the Armenian Alphabet

Astghik also explained that the Cafesjian Center for the Arts plays a part in transmitting to the next generation a love for the alphabet. In 2011, the Center launched an educational program called My Armenian Alphabet, designed for schoolchildren of 1-4th grades and based on the Khanjyan mural. The program is one of the permanent educational initiatives of the Cafesjian Center and has engaged 600 schoolchildren to date.

"The main goal of the program is to discuss the importance of the invention of the Armenian alphabet; to introduce the artist Grigor Khajnyan and the first part of the mural’s triptych depicting the Creation of Armenian Alphabet," Astghik explained. "We want to foster children’s creative thinking by revealing the magical world of letters through a workshop of drawing bird letters, usually depicting the letters of their names."

"Armenian Bird letters are distinctive expressions of Armenian calligraphy and the rich tradition of Armenian illuminated manuscripts,” Astghik explained. “The first bird letter in Armenian manuscripts appeared in the middle ages in the 10th century and mainly were used as initial letters of the texts. Their iconography is mostly connected with Christian imagery, but researchers also reveal an implicit trace of pagan culture."

Mesrop Mashtots’ Legacy and Magic Gospels of Matenadaran

"People are surprised to learn Yerevan is older than Rome because we don't have the ancient architecture," said Tatev Muradyan, manager of the Silk Road Hotel, my base during my visit to Yerevan. "Armenians save books, not buildings."

Later that day, I learned this was not just rhetoric when visiting the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, known locally as Matenadaran and revered by most Armenians.

Housed in an imposing grey stone building at the top of a steep hill, the museum is considered one of the world's richest depositories of medieval manuscripts, spanning theology, philosophy, history, medicine, literature, art history, and cosmography. Its collection contains a total of some 23,000 manuscripts and scrolls, as well as over 500,000 other documents such as imperial decrees.

A massive statue of the museum's namesake welcomes visitors with open arms, a pupil at his feet. Over the next ten days, I would come to learn just how significant Mesrop Mashtots has been to the endurance of Armenian culture for almost two millennia, despite onslaughts of oppression from its neighbors for centuries.

Keep the Faith Alive, and the People United

Over coffee, Dr. Erna Shirinian, chair of the Department of Ancient Armenian Literature at Matenadaran, gave me an introduction to Mashtots and his legacy.

She explained that in 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to officially adopt Christianity. Long the battle-ground of Romans and Persians, Armenia lost its independence in 387 and was divided between the Byzantine Empire and Persia. The early church understood this upheaval meant its existence was at stake and Mashtots was tasked by the king with creating an Armenian alphabet that could be used to keep the faith alive and the people united.

According to folklore, in 404 the Saint was meditating in a cave when he had a vision of the hand of God writing an alphabet in letters of fire on the cave wall, each letter corresponding to the unique sounds of the Armenian language. He made the first letter A, which was the first letter in the word Astvats, or God, and the last letter K’, which began the word K’ristos, Christ.

Whatever his inspiration, the far-reaching impact of Mashtot’s vision is indisputable.

According to Antoine Meillet, a French 19th century pioneer in the field of Armenian studies, "To Mesrop we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia; but for his work, the people would have been absorbed by the Persians and Syrians, and would have disappeared like so many nations of the East."

Read More: Learn more about People of Armenia!

The astuteness of this observation was borne out as Erna showed me around the museum; our tour began with a look at the Homily from the Mush, a massive manuscript of 603 calf-skin parchments weighing about 60 pounds. Written from 1200-1202 A.D. in the Armenian Avak Monastery now in modern-day Turkey, it is legendary because of its more recent history.


Dr-Erna-Shirinian.jpgDr.-Erna-Shirinian, Photo: Meg Pier


Erna explained the book was said to be found by two Armenian women in the deserted monastery during the Armenian genocide by the Turks from 1915-1917. Too heavy to be carried by one person, they split it into two, risking their lives to preserve the manuscript under their skirts as they made their escape. Eventually, the two halves were finally reunited and are now a star attraction of Matenadaran.

Erna then brought me to the so-called magic gospels, books believed to have healing powers that are called ‘Nareks,' worshipped as divine objects and often they were treated as if a person. She pointed out a manuscript donated by a village to the Matenadaran with the con­dition that its inhabitants could visit it to share the local news; to this day, villagers come monthly to speak with the gospel as if visiting an elderly relative, telling it who died, who was born, who married and so on.



The Matenadaran's collection of manuscripts documents Armenian's devotion to their alphabet and language. Photos: Meg Pier

This deeply personal connection with manuscripts and the alphabet in which they are written dates back to the 5th century when Armenian philosopher David the Invincible presented a series of riddles featuring each of the alphabet’s letters as distinct and living beings, a view that was widely embraced. Erna said that aggressors seeking to conquer Armenia exploited this view.

"Enemies realized they could kidnap not only people and hold them for ransom but also manuscripts," Erna said.

Book of Narek, A Dictionary for Both Past and Future

Vasken Brudian credits his deep affinity for a book of prayers by medieval Armenian writer Gregory of Narek as the inspiration behind his return to Armenia and founding of Ardean Gallery.

A member of the diaspora who departed the country at 14 years old for America, five years ago, he left a successful L.A. architecture practice to come home to Armenia and open a design center and visual arts boutique located on Yerevan’s leafy Apovian Street, lined with outdoor cafes, elegant retail shops, book stores and restaurants, many situated in 19th century stone tufa buildings.

Vasken, whose grandparents were survivors of the Genocide, explained the Book of Narek is his muse.

"The prayers of Narek are used for protection and healing,” he said. “One of the traditions is when a child is born, we put a Book of Narek under the pillow. Often when we are in a stressful situation, we hold the Book of Narek as a source of comfort. St. Gregory is known for his energy—his work was intended to be read aloud and the effect was to enrich your positive energy."

From Tradition to Contemporary Language

Vasken explained that Ardean’s first exhibition commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. He and his team photographed different motifs from the Classical Armenian text of the Narek’s Book of Lamentations, creating a ‘dictionary’ of design elements to talk about the past, the present and the future.

"The gallery features designs inspired by Armenian architecture, cross-stones, illuminated manuscripts, lace-making and other artifacts from our rich cultural heritage,” Vasken said. “The word Ardean means ‘modern’ in classical Armenian—everything we are designing is based on tradition, but we take that history and try to present it in a contemporary language."

"My intention has always been the economic growth of Armenia, and to take the Armenian culture and create a world-class center of design and creative industries,” Vasken said. “I wanted to create a vocabulary that is both very Armenian and very modern, layering our rich history with the language of the 21st century, which I felt wasn’t being done."

Memorializing the Armenian Alphabet
Ayp ou Pen Park is the creation of another architect, designed and built near the final resting place of Mashtots on the eastern slope of Aragats mountain, in the village of Artashavan, about 45 minutes outside Yerevan. In 2005, Soviet-Armenian Jim Torosyan created this monument to the Armenian alphabet to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of its invention. Against a backdrop of dramatic vistas, 39 huge statues of each letter are scattered across a verdant hillside. The reverence and affection of Armenians for their language was poignantly played out during my visit, as scores of children romped on the letters and a father proudly held his infant son high atop one of the stone symbols.
Citizens Proud of The Armenian Alphabet

One morning over breakfast at the Silk Road Hotel, I watched weaver Rose Nazaryan at her loom; while seated erect on a low bench, her hands moved at such a lightning-fast speed my eyes couldn’t keep up with her motions.

Not daring to break her concentration with a question, I waited until she paused to ask about her art.

She told me she has been weaving for 20 years and began studying carpet-making at a cultural school when she was 13 years old. She creates largely traditional designs; the piece she was working on was a pattern of the letters of the Armenian alphabet.

"My cousin lives in Moscow and this is a gift for her children, so they can learn the alphabet," she explained. "I don't like it when they speak in Russian; I want them to know their roots."

Indeed, most Armenian homes around the world proudly display a work of art featuring the Armenian alphabet.

"My parents displayed the Armenian alphabet in a prominent place in our home and following in their footsteps, I recently acquired an abstract image of the alphabet designed by a young artist,” said Judy Saryan, a fellow guest at the hotel and member of the diaspora from Boston.

"Armenians revere invention and creativity,’ she said. “The creation of the alphabet by Mesrob Mashtots ushered in a golden age of literature and biblical translation which ensured that the Armenian language and culture would survive. The written word continues to hold a mythical place in the Armenian imagination as we see in a variety of contemporary arts."

Saint Mesrop Mashtot's Cathedral

I paid my respects to the creator of the Armenian alphabet by visiting Saint Mesrop Mashtots Cathedral, the 19th-century church in the Oshaka village where he is buried. A small park at the entrance is decorated with 36 khachkars, or cross-stones, that depict the letters. As I admired them, three small boys raced onto the scene and made a beeline for the monument that depicted the first letter of their name, gleefully hugging it.


One of the youngsters sported a baseball cap emblazoned with the word “dukhov” which means “with spirit” and has become a rallying cry for the "Velvet Revolution".

Calligraphy, The First Response to the Velvet Revolution

With the May 8 election of opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, who called for peaceful civil disobedience by the people to topple the country’s oligarchy, Armenia today is enjoying a rebirth.

One evening I attended the opening of an exhibit "Armenian Revolution Posters" by Ruben Malayan, in which he melds the ancient Armenian art form of calligraphy with current events. Ruben wears many hats—award-winning art director, lecturer, graphic designer, visual effects supervisor...and calligrapher extraordinaire. He told me that he believes his exhibit was the first in response to the Velvet Revolution that had occurred here just weeks earlier.

Ever since the creation of the Armenian alphabet, Armenians have been actively engaged in the practice of writing. As the writing culture-expanded among the Armenians so did the art of calligraphy. Ruben is ensuring this art form is not just revered but relevant.

"For Armenians writing was never an alien practice," he said. "In the shadow of Noah's Peak, remnants of 5000-year old culture stand witness to one of the oldest known human settlements on this planet. From millennia-old archaic signs to the medieval Christian manuscripts written with use of a sophisticated alphabet – Armenian letters are a mystery." 

Shnorhakalut'yun Means Thank You

Despite my love of travel, pronunciation of languages other than my native tongue is a mystery to me. Although linguistically challenged, I always make it a practice to learn to say at least two important words in the language of the places I visit: thank you.

In Armenian, that's shnorhakalut’yun, which was admittedly a mouthful for me but one I valiantly wrangled within an attempt to be polite. People often weren't clear what I was saying, but when they realized my intention, they were delighted--and always gave me pointers on how to improve my pronunciation.

At the end of my trip, I spent time at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, an innovative after-school digital learning center that provides 10,000 students with free curriculum in animation, game development, web development, and digital media.

While there, Nareg Mikayelyan took me off the hook for my mangled delivery of shnorhakalut’yun. The 17-year old high school student, who was studying film-making at TUMO, pointed out that the English language, like many others, doesn’t have certain sounds that are part and parcel of the Armenian lexicon.

"The Armenian alphabet has sounds from every alphabet, so people can easily learn other languages," he told me.

I found this poignant, given that centuries of oppression had created an Armenian diaspora that was almost four times the size of the country’s population. I wondered if Mesrop Mashtots’ vision had foreseen the need for his people to leave their Motherland and become part of other societies around the world.

Then I had a vision of my own. I felt a conviction that the perception of Armenia was changing from the inside out.

Most Armenians would acknowledge that global awareness of the country has largely been limited to the genocide, its status as a former Soviet satellite and a devastating earthquake in 1988. But there was a palpable aura of empowerment and optimism for Armenia’s future among the people I met, and I had a strong sense that positive energy would soon attract vastly more visitors.

What I experienced of Armenia’s rich and vibrant culture had clearly evolved from its linguistic legacy. In preserving their own alphabet and language, Armenians have retained both the letter and the spirit of their heritage, and the world is better for it.

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#180 Yervant1


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Posted 11 January 2023 - 09:13 AM

Yerevan ranked 20th safest city in the world in Numbeo index
1101428.jpg 14:04, 11 January 2023

YEREVAN, JANUARY 11, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian capital city Yerevan is the 20th safest city among 417 cities around the world studied by Numbeo database.


Yerevan is ranked 20th with a safety index of 78.1, in between Ljubljana, Slovenia and the Dutch city of Groningen.

According to the index, Abu Dhabi is the safest city with a score of 88,7.


The Georgian capital Tbilisi is 43rd, the Azeri capital Baku is 84th, Turkey’s Ankara is 159th and Iran’s Tehran is 312th.





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