May 052014


Since everything is so far from Yerevan and, like Georgia, there are no hotels outside of the big cities we did not return until very late last night. I had no idea yesterday was going to be as long a day as it was, so here we go with two days – I apologize if it runs long.

We began Monday with a visit to the Genocide Memorial and Museum.  Next year is the 100-year anniversary of the Genocide so the museum and most of the memorial is undergoing a complete restoration, but we still had the chance to visit the eternal flame. 
The memorial is within eye site of Mt. Ararat and is a lovely site.  I have no intention of getting into the politics of the Turkish/Armenian situation, but I agree it was genocide, and that the Kurds and the Ottoman Turks did the atrocities.  I also believe it is in Armenia’s best interest to look towards a thaw, as there economy is suffering from the closed border and boycott with Turkey.  However, I also believe that Turkey committed mindful and horrible atrocities and needs to admit that fact.
That is Mt. Ararat covered in clouds in the distance.
We had a quick stop at a food market, the market itself is inside of a new building, but inside is fun, just the same.  Dried fruit seems to be the staple of Armenia.




 They pickle anything and everything in Armenia
 A very friendly shop woman – Viva Armenia Viva San Francisco!
 Our next stop was unbelievable.  We drove miles and miles on horrible, bumpy, often dirt/gravel roads to the Geghard Monastery.  The heart of the monastery was carved out of a mountain and is just gorgeous.  We were treated to a concert by 5 beautiful women that were incredible.  The caves resonated with their amazing voices, it was a real thrill.




This is NOT the group we heard, but it gives you an idea of how fabulous the sound is in the monastery.

Khachkars, also known as the Armenian cross, are the carved stone crosses you see everywhere.  They act as a focal point for worship, as memorial stones and as relics to facilitate communication between the secular and the divine.




The Armenians never show the crucifixion because they believe that Christ lives.  The cross appears to be growing like a tree or flower, the symbol of eternal life.  Under the cross they cut a circle to celebrate the birth of life and they usually contain classic Armenian symbols of faith, an eagle, a lion, a bull and angels.  Keep in mind, however, that like most religious symbols, this is a great adaptation as Pagans used the crosses long before Christians adopted it in the 9th century.
 Just down the road was The Temple of Garni.  It was the summer palace of King Tradat I.  Temple Garni is Armenia’s only known Greco-Roman style building.  The temple was destroyed in 1679, but was restored between 1969 and 1975. They have done a proper restoration, in that the new stones contain no ornamentation, making it easy to distinguish between the old and the new.
Our day began at 8:30 and yet we did not return to the hotel until 7:30 in the evening. – That is how far apart these sites are.
*******DAY 2 ******
Tuesday – May 13 – The morning started off muggy and hot, so I put on a nice cool outfit.  By 11:30 it was pouring rain and cold.
We began our day at Zvartnots Cathedral.  In its day, 643-652 AD, it was the largest round church in the world.  It was sacked in the 10th century AD by Arab invaders.  There is no historical evidence to explain why the church collapsed, but it is in a geographically unstable area.





We then headed to Echmiadzin.  This is the Holy See of the Armenian Church, the seat of the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.   The complex is huge, but we were there, for a private tour to see the remains of a Zorastrian Fire Temple that they found under the altar when doing some renovations in the 1950’s.  (no pictures allowed of the Fire Temple)





We had a little side trip to the 7th century Hripsimeh Martyria Church.  The original church was built in 618. This is where Hripsime was slain after refusing to marry King Trdat III, choosing instead to remain true to her faith.  In a small chamber in the back of the church purportedly contains rocks used to stone her to death. Her stoning indirectly lead to the conversion of the King to Christianity.



We then stopped off at the Matenadaran Complex which is a glorious ancient manuscript library. It is one of the richest depositories in the world.  There are more than 17,000 Armenian manuscripts and 100,000 medieval ancient and modern documents.  The complex not only houses the library but a research institute as well.
The tiled entry arch was particularly interesting


 The Main Museum Room
 An ivory covered manuscript
I just really liked the design and colors on this particular one, they are all behind glass so photos were problematic.

Our last stop of the day was the Archaeological Museum, which was really spectacular, but sadly, no photographs are allowed.
Tomorrow we head for two days to Sisian.  I understand our accommodations will be sparse and last I looked, it was snowing.