Once upon a time, Noah embarked on a land that was sacred and divine… The land was called Armenia…
The name of the country always twinkles as “the land of mountains”, with the Noah’s Biblical Mount Ararat associated with Armenia forever and ever. In fact, Armenia is oftentimes called as a “Stone country” due to the abundance of mountains and hills spread over the landscape. But is it the only idea coming to one’s mind?
So what do you actually know about Armenia and what you should definitely know?
First of all, keep in mind not to confuse Armenia with Romania. Yes, they sound similar, but they are two completely different countries.
In essence, Armenia is older and here are five key points to know about Armenia:
Yes, yes. No talk about Armenia goes without mentioning Christianity… It is the first country to have adopted Christianity as a state religion. The spiritual awakening to this land was brought by Gregory the Illuminator or Grigor Lusavorich (in Armenian). More on this, in the following paragraph:
Khor Virap and Grigor Lusavorich
While talking about Christianity, did you ever dig deep into its history and how it entered into Armenia’s territory? One important place to mention in this regard is Khor Virap. Nestled on a hill overlooking the sacred Mount Ararat, Khor Virap is an ancient monastery that is closely-linked to Christianity and Grigor Lusavorich. This is where Grigor Lusavorich was imprisoned for thirteen years by the King Tiridates III. As the legend says, Grigor was the son of the nobleman Anag who killed the King Khosrov II- the father of the King Tiridates III. When Grigor grew up, he wanted to spread Christianity in Armenian land, but the King took revenge and imprisoned him instead. For over a decade, Grigor Lusavorich was unable to convince the King about the spiritual value the Christianity would bring to the Kingdom, but eventually, King Tiridates III was persuaded and declared Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD.
Do we have to be thankful to Grigor Lusavorich for the spiritual illumination? Anyways, the numbers prove 95% of Armenians to be Christians.
In essence, Khor Virap has two sides of the coin: the bright one and the dark one. The bright one is associated with spiritual awakening, as a place to celebrate weddings and other significant events in life. The dark side is linked to the imprisonment of Gregory the Illuminator. The two images below illustrate both patterns- the first one (dove sitting in front of the monastery), a dove symbolizing eternal love present in all Armenian wedding ceremonies; and the second one- the imprisonment site of Gregory the Illuminator.
2) Mount Ararat
An icon of Armenia, an inspiration for Armenians all over the world… Ararat is a purely legendary mountain that enforces one’s patriotic feelings. It is no surprise that many Armenian painters depict the beauty of Ararat in their artworks.
Linked to the Bible, Ararat is the famed mountain where Noah’s ark landed after the flood. Whenever someone visits Armenia, they want to see Ararat. Even though it is presently located on the border between Armenia and Turkey, with major part situated in present-day Turkey, Ararat can be seen from nearly any corner of Armenian capital Yerevan. The best place to capture the grace of the mountain is the Cascade Hills – the marble stairways in Yerevan. No visit to Yerevan is complete without watching the majesty of Ararat.
3) World-Famous Names Like Charles Aznavour
Along with its beautiful landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Armenia is a homeland of many world-famous people, like Charles Aznavour. Charles Aznavour, or Aznavourian was a great singer living in France, a poet, a writer and everything in between. He was indeed a Great man, a hero for Armenia and Armenians all over the world. He provided immense support to the country after the tragic earthquake in 1988, and donated all the proceeds from the world hit “Pour toi Arménie”. He supported many humanitarian causes. In 2009, he became the Ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland. Armenians all over the world are proud to call Aznavour as their heroic compatriot.
4) Sevan Lake and Akhtamar
Sevan is the biggest lake in Armenia and even called Armenia’s sea. When summer heat approaches, Armenians ran out of their flats and drive away to Sevan. Well, it’s actually not exactly like this, but very close to the truth. Formerly, a Kingdom from Sea to Sea, nowadays Armenia’s only “sea” is the Lake Sevan, the glowing azure blue, the perfectly loved one by all Armenians.
Many legends and important events of Armenian history are connected and mentioned in this lake’s area, as such is Akhtamar:
Once upon a time, there was a princess with a beautiful name Tamar. She lived he Historic Armenia, on the Island Akhtamar and was in love with a boy (commoner). He swam to the island every night and Tamar lighted up the dark on his way. When her father discovered this, he wanted to crash the light to disorientate the direction of the boy. So the boy was unable to find his way in the dark and died tragically. It is believed that the boy called “Akh, Tamar” (meaning- oh, Tamar), while dying. From here on, the legend and the island were named “Akhtamar”.
The legend tells the story happening near the Lake Van that is in present-day Turkey but was formerly part of Armenian Kingdom. However, Armenians have built a statue to Tamar, symbolizing this nice, but tragic legend. The statue is beautifully settled near the shores of Lake Sevan, to the North of Sevanavank.
5) Tatev Monastery and Tatev Ropeway
Once upon a time, there was a Prince Ashot of Syunik. He wished to give support to the region and financed the construction of a new monastery.
The jubilant Tatev Monastery stands on the hilltop with a magnificent view, in the region of Syunik in Armenia. The monastery complex has a university and library, kitchen, oil making room, rooms for monks and two churches. In the 14th-15th centuries, Tatev University was a very famous and important institution in Armenia.
Presently, Tatev Monastery is one the essential visit cards for Armenia. If one wishes to know more about Armenia, he/she would first be promoted by its monasteries, especially with Tatev Monastery.
In this very place is the longest reversible cableway in the world- Tatev ropeway, which is 5754 meters long. It will take you around 12 minutes to reach the monastery on a cable car, but the scenery is worth to be seen and captured. The depth of the bottom valley is 330 meters. When using the cable car, you can see the beautiful canyon of Halidzor, the Devil’s Bridge (Satani Kamurj in Armenian) and the monasteries.
Tatev Monastery seen from the ropeway:
These have been some of the essential highlights of Armenia. But when you visit this country by yourself, you will see: there are so much more than this; so many valuable experiences, precious moments and intangible things to be taken back with you. Nowadays, Armenia is blooming. With the Velvet Revolution taken place this spring, it has seen lots of positive changes and still continues to grow. Believe it or not: one day Armenia will become one of the most visited ancient countries in the world.
And last but not least, Armenian apricot is one of the most delicious ones in the world. If you travel to Armenia, you will be told unique stories on why it is so special.
Extra point: Armenians are big fans of feasts. They love to eat good food, drink fine wine, dance and have fun wholeheartedly. If you are ever in Armenia, come and join one of the grand Armenian weddings which will make you feel the bliss of the famous Armenian gatherings.