The history of Armenia goes back thousands of years. Armenians were one of the first nations to adopt Christianity (around 301 AD) and since then, this nation has suffered much pain and losses because of its religious views. Yet it has never given up.
Believe it or not, even today, citizens of this nation would choose to die rather than adopt a religion other than Christianity. Many Armenian girls would never marry a non-Christian guy, no matter how deeply they loved him. It sounds strange I know, but that’s what I noticed during my six-day stay there and what proved to be correct. Nevertheless, this refers only to marriage, since Armenians make good friends with people representing any nation. Note that they are also a very hospitable people. Visit any Armenian home and you’ll be so warmly received, you just might forget a few seconds ago you were a foreigner.
As you now know, Armenia is a very religious country with lots of churches. There are many tour groups you can join to tour Armenia if you don’t want to tour on your own, but be aware that every other day you will be visiting at least one church. Those who love churches and love learning the history and stories that every piece of church stone tells, will definitely appreciate that. But if you are going to be that guy who starts complaining about the number of churches you are seeing a tour may not be your best option.
One of the most memorable churches is the Khor Virap which is an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery. Khor Virap is the monastery where Grigor Lusavorich, later known as Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was imprisoned for 13 years by pagan Armenian King Tiridates III for preaching Christianity. The Saint is believed to have been kept there without food. A legend says an old widow brought him bread for 13 years in a row. The monastery has been rebuilt many times but it still preserves the breath of all those centuries.
As you stand in the yard of the monastery and look in front of you, you will see a very beautiful mountain which is Mount Ararat. In case you don’t know, that is the holy mountain on which the remainders of Noah’s ark were found. Currently the mountain is considered to be in Turkish territory, but for Armenians, it’s still an Armenian mountain and every Armenian hopes, better to say is sure, the mountain will one day again be theirs. The mountain is said to look more beautiful from the Armenian side than from Turkey. I confirm it looks breathtaking.
Another very beautiful monastery is the Noravank Monastery, which is translated into English as “New Monastery.” This monastery was built in the 13th century and is one of the most unique monasteries I have ever visited. It features very narrow stone-made staircases and the entrance is a very small one, so you have to be very careful not to hit your head while entering and coming out. The monastery is presently a cultural center.
I also recommend a visit to the museum of one of the greatest and most loved Armenian poets, Paruyr Sevak. He died at an early age. It is claimed that he was murdered by the Soviet government (Armenia was part of the Soviet Union until establishing its independence in 1991). The museum was awesome, and if you are lucky to have an Armenian-English speaking person among you, he might translate one of the writer’s poems for you to have a broader idea of his works. His poems are simply beautiful.
Armenia is not a sea country, so you should not think of sunbathing at the seaside. Instead, it has the blue waters of Sevan, which Armenians wouldn’t exchange for two or even three seas. They love this lake. During cold weather, the beaches are not crowded and you will see people calmly walking along the beach or just sitting. Many people go there in the late hours and appear to be reconsidering their lives or making some very important decisions.
The picture is quite different during hot weather however. The noise, the music, and the loud and happy screams are annoying for a person who’s searching for some peace and isolation but seems a complete paradise for those who want to enjoy their time to the fullest. I enjoyed it to the fullest! There are both paid and free beaches. The paid beaches usually charge more when they see you’re a foreigner. The free beaches might be the noisiest but once you’re in a foreign country, you even start loving that.
I actually never thought Armenia would be of this much interest to me, but I turned out to be so wrong. As a historical country, it captures you with its storied past, full of interesting details like a snake charmer’s pipe captures the snake and makes it dance to the music played.
Although Armenia might not strike you as a particularly dangerous country to visit, it is still important to t ensure you are well covered before your visit. Travel insurance is required before any overseas travel, and Armenia is no different. You can find the right single or annual trip policies online through a variety of providers.
For more information about travel to Armenia listen to Travel to Armenia – Amateur Traveler Episode 169