1.5 million deaths, over 100 years ago – the Great Crime happened, probably one of the most horrific genocides in world history. In present time, the cool Spring breeze surround Tsitsernakaberd hill, where there was comfortable peace afront an eternal flame centered in twelve slabs, representing twelve lost provinces to present-day Turkey. Just few minutes ago, we walked through memorial trees planted by world dignitaries to commemorate the genocide victims, silently noting the majestic snow-capped Mt. Ararat and 44-meter distinct stele. It was our last day in Yerevan, few hours away from our boarding time – already gallivanted for the past four days, celebrated my sister’s birthday, and paraglided. But tangible reflection of one nation’s history always fascinates me – oh yes, you are right. Genocide Memorial Complex was on top of the list.
Moving past their vitriolic, harrowing history comes plethora of UNESCO heritage sites, I managed jaunting to one – the Geghard monastic complex. Small roadside vendors of freshly baked gata (traditional pastry made of flour, butter and sugar), fruit lavash (sheets of dried fruits), natural honey jars, and other sweets were lined at the entrance. Free taste was a delectable detour, I must say. But traversing through the whole complex that was founded in 4th century succeeding adoption of Christianity as their state religion, I personally liked the rock-cut chambers, probably partly influenced by my obsession to intricately designed doors. Besides that, it depicts medieval architecture in rock outcroppings and carved khachkars (stone crosses) while high cliffs surrounding the complex increases its antiquity level.
Meanwhile, our travel dates were deliberate – it was the first moments of Spring. Creams and pinks blossom from barren branches of thawed trees, luscious green grass grows beneath my shoes, and smooth wind still exhibiting blatant remnants of the past season. Imagine this beauty lining the pathway towards Garni temple. Quite a spectacle, right?
Much more of its beauty lies in the 24 Ionic-columned facade dated as early as 1st century. To visit Armenia without visiting this ancient only standing Greco-Roman colonnade would be like exploring Cebu without Sr. Sto Niño Church and Garni temple is as reminiscent to Armenia as this notable fixture is to Cebu City.
Touring a landlocked country – with borders to Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran, it definitely entailed long drives. Our third day’s highlight was Jermuk Falls, coined as ‘Mermaid’s Hair’, 2-hour drive from Yerevan, city capital. A legend was told about a gorgeous princess falling for someone who her father didn’t approve of, and eventually cursing her to be mermaid. Like any other tales, love prevailed; she threw her hair into gorge of Arpa River and became waterfall; nothing but a classic legend. Prior to reaching the farthest destination, there were stops along the way.
A multilingual pleasant lady greeted us inside Areni Wine Factory – graciously giving us taste samples of their locally produced wines, dried plums and apricots, cheese, and local bread bits. A little confident in my drinking ability, mainly due to my old ‘drinking water – alcohol is diuretic’ elucidations; mind you, I have been using this tactic since college, so I drank all samples from various wine bottles. I didn’t count. You just simply don’t count.
However, quite unsurprisingly, this nation does not fall shortage of historical monasteries and temples juxtaposed with stunning views. There is also a 17th-century Khor Virap monastery and pilgrimage site, located about 2 miles away from Yerevan and 300 ft away from closed Turkey border. Prior to becoming the first Christian nation led by Saint Gregory The Illuminator, he was imprisoned in a cell at this hillock for 13 years. I remember it was Palm Sunday, my sister’s birthday also, wearing the first piece in my Ethereal Collection and previously bought crown made of willow branches before scaling steep, rough steps; there, we met Armenian teens who would then become social media acquaintances.
Following our buoyant yet fortuitous encounter, it became certain that tourists not only flock because of their culturally rich sites but also undoubtedly fall for Armenian warmth and hospitality.
English Guided Tours:
TOURS IN ARMENIA
+374 96 020402
CLASY AND COZY HOSTEL
Kond Street 8, Yerevan, Armenia
+374 96 020402
Photographs with time stamps: