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My Taste Of Armenia (Parts 3 & 4)

Armenia travel story by Maria Lapuk.

Maria Lapuk is the spokeswoman for the Russian “Odnoklassniki” social network. It turned out that Masha liked our country so much that she agreed to make a special project for us and tell people who have never been here about Armenia.

To make Masha’s stories more vivid we have chosen the pictures of Alexander Tyagny-Ryadno, a Russian photographer who visited Armenia on Mediamax’s invitation in 2006.

Project by Mediamax.am
Story: Maria Lapuk – Specially for Mediamax
Photos: Alexander Tyagny-Ryadno (b/w), EnjoyArmenia.com & Wikipedia

Part 3: Ropeway – a thread with beads on the neck of huge mountains

Sevan

Besides the fact that Sevan is the second largest high-mountain lake in the world, it is also a very beautiful sight. You drive up the road, your ears are stuffed up and you think – why on earth do I need it? Then you slip the clouds, if they are low on that day. And you see a huge mountain lake! I haven’t been to Lake Titicaca yet as it’s very far away, but Sevan is stunningly beautiful on 1900 meters above sea level. And you really want to dive in its crystal clear waters but the temperature is 14 degrees. The season in Sevan begins in August, when the water warms up to 20 degrees.

But there are always a lot of things to do here besides swimming. For example, you can climb to Sevanavank, a IX century monastery, light a candle, enjoy the lake view, have a crayfish kebab or Sevan trout for dinner at a beach restaurant, feed the Armenian seagulls with bread (by the way you will be served so much bread for dinner that the seagulls won’t fly hungry), stay overnight in a hotel on the beach, sit on the pier in the evening and drink Armenian wine with fruits.

The ropeway

The world’s longest 5.7-kilometer ropeway called “Wings of Tatev” is in Armenia. It was built for getting to one of the world’s unique medieval monuments – Tatev Monastery. You can have a 15-minutes ride to the Monastery, 360 meters above the canyon. It’s rather scary.

The ropeway is situated far from Yerevan. We drove about 4 hours on the road, which wound up in serpentines along the mountains, always turned sharply and passed along beautiful gorges and bush vines. But the trip was worth making. The ropeway seems to be a thread with beads on the neck of huge mountains. But before enjoying a ropeway tour to the Monastery we decided to eat something.

And here I have to tell a few things about Armenian dinners! This is something! It usually lasts about 2 hours and you can hardly move after it. The dinner begins with 2-3 salads and a matsoni- they failed to explain to me what it is, but it is something like a thick yogurt, which can be eaten with almost everything. Then they serve the soups: khash, lobakhash, dzavara. It’s impossible to innumerate all the Armenian soups, but you should necessarily taste them. The most amazing thing is that they want to serve you everything at once. And of course the second dish – Sevan trout, lamb, pork, and often everything is served all at once. Although it’s almost impossible to look at meals after all this, dessert comes next. Oh, and certainly a bottle of Armenian wine, which always tastes great. It lacks the tartness of Georgian wines, but there is saturation given by the sun in the mountains.

Well, after such a wonderful dinner we decided to take a ropeway ride. During 4 hours I was telling my friend that I wanted the cable car to stop somewhere to feel the wind shaking the cabin. My friends laughed at me and said I will be the first to call for help. All our wishes come true sooner or later. And this was the time when mine came true. Our cabin stopped (360 meters above the canyon) 10 minutes after we entered it. One must be careful in his desires. But I had time to see the place described as the Satan’s Bridge. It is located in Vorotan gorge, the deepest canyon in Armenia (500 m). It is a natural, not man-made bridge, hanging over the rapid river. There are many places in Armenia with poetic names associated with Satan. For example, obsidian is called “Satan’s nail” for its black color (this is where the largest obsidian deposits are).

After a few minutes, our cabin moved again and we happily went “ashore” on one of the most beautiful places – Tatev Monastery. It used to be a religious and cultural center of Syunik princedom, and until now the architectural ensemble is just striking. This is a place you should definitely visit.

After our unexpected stop, not all of us decided to return the same way – they decided to return via a mountain road, and we drove back and met guys from New York who were traveling across Armenia.

Part 4: Vardavar or an absolutely crazy day

Cascade

I am not a modern art lover. As it’s been said in one movie, “You see a yellow triangle in a modern art gallery, read the title “Yellow triangle” and there is no mystery at all”. But the Cascade or the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, featuring a large collection of art glass, is really worth visiting. The room with big chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals in string bags is something that one should necessarily see. But to enjoy the beautiful art, it’s not even necessary to enter the museum as a wonderful collection of modern sculptors’ works is waiting for the visitors in front of the museum- Columbian Fernando Botero’s “Fat Cat”,  the elephant and the rabbits of the “Alice in wonderland”. People choose the one they like most, take a photo in front of it and then place it on Facebook.

Yerevan Republic Square

After visiting the Cascade, go to one of the cafés and drink a mineral water, which is just amazing. I can’t understand why they sell various BonAqua in Armenia when they have their “Jermuk”! If you only knew how much I miss the delicious Armenian water in Moscow.

There are many museums and art galleries featuring contemporary Armenian artists in Yerevan. I haven’t had enough time to visit all of them, so I’ll leave them for my future stories about Armenia.

What else can you do in Armenia?

Besides many attractions you will always find something to do in  Armenia. For example, if you want to sleep, taste homemade bread or see how it is baked, you must definitely go to Aghveran. There are a lot of comfortable hotels and resorts there. The area is interesting because you drive very long among almost “bald”, sun-burned mountains and then appear in a green paradise with the cleanest air. This is really amazing.

You can always listen to wonderful jazz in Yerevan. I love going to “Malkhas” café on Pushkin Street with my friends. You have to go there at midnight, take a cocktail and wait for maestro Malkhasyan. And then you close your eyes and listen to great music. You can do it every night and never get tired.

The lovers of more unexpected entertainments can visit Armenia in late July during Vardavar. This is an absolutely crazy day when you can get wet from top to toe several times a day. Unknown people will be pouring buckets of water on you because it’s a holiday. Oh, I wanted to go to the Republic Square on Vardavar: it was amazing – not a single dry person. And the most important thing is that no one is offended, and tourists are told about what’s going on only after they get totally wet. It’s a very funny holiday! I received a portion of cold water on that hot day at the restaurant, to be more exact – when I was leaving it.

You can wake up early in the morning in Yerevan and go to Vernisazh – a fair in the center of the city, buy nice jewelry and presents for all your friends, find beautiful vases of early century, a coffee Turk with an inscription from 50s, buy beautiful jewelry made of leather and many, many unnecessary but enormously nice things.

Then you can go to the market (unfortunately my favorite Closed Market is under reconstruction) and buy a basket of fruits.  And then you can just roam the streets and loiter in parks. In the evening you can go to the fountains and sit at a nice café with a glass of wine. You can also go to a restaurant for 2000 people, where you will dine quickly and taste delicious things. You will be surprised to see how people can have fun.

It’s always sad leaving Armenia after such wonderful trips. I always feel sad but I find the strength. I buy Armenian cognac, candies, wine and tea in Duty Free and fly back to Moscow to return to Yerevan in a couple of months!

Story by Maria Lapuk – Specially for Mediamax

Armenia travel story by Maria Lapuk – Part 1 and 2 >