I was definitely really excited about Armenia, but my hopes turned into reality before we even entered the country. Eight hours on a van has never been more fun, although the Irishman and the Australian sheila would likely disagree. We drank homemade Araki , rotated as tamada and experienced friendship as Georgians have taught us to. We ended up singing “America the Beautiful” and other American songs while the two others in the back were shivering cold and mad at life – it’s good to be us. We had no plans for the next day so a few of us stayed up for a while once we got to the hostel and talked. We definitely started the weekend right.
On Friday, we toured around the city and took it easy because our big, day-long tour was going to be on Saturday. We went to a giant transcript museum which was only mediocre until this really nice woman came and explained the things we were looking at. Basically, there are only a couple things you need to know about Armenia: It is the oldest Christian country in the world; there was this badass dude named Mashtots (or mashed potatoes as we call him) in the 12th century that invented their alphabet and perhaps multiple others (including Georgian, although any good Georgian would dispute that); the country went through the whole soviet thing and got pushed around by them and the Ottomans; they are super proud of Mt. Ararat, but Turkey devastatingly muscled it away from them (which really sucks because you can see the mountain from like everywhere in Armenia); and, finally, there was the Armenian genocide in the 1910’s that killed over 1.5 million Armenians and forced many more to flee the country, hence the large Armenian population in The States. It was cool to look at books and bibles that dated back to the 4th century. I don’t know if a single thing there was younger than the US.
After the cool transcript museum we made our way to “The Cascades” which is a giant staircase that was built to commemorate 50 years of soviet rule. Well, they didn’t finish it for obvious reasons, but it is still a really cool hangout nevertheless. It was cool to sit and overlook a city I never thought I would visit and to see where Noah’s ark landed on top of that! Yerevan, the capital where we stayed, was really cool and clean. It had a distinct European feeling, but that ambience also came with an increased price tag for things. Nevertheless, we all loved the place although it doesn’t have quite the character of Tbilisi – people followed traffic laws, there wasn’t trash in the streets, the women dressed too fashionably and a ton of people spoke excellent English.
Saturday’s tour took us to 4 different holy places in the country including their version of the Vatican. The churches were all between 700-1600 years old, and I will never get over how old these places are. The views were beautiful, and it was very different from the Georgian countryside we had become so accustomed to. I gotta tell this one story about a church though because I think it is hilarious, so just skip to the next paragraph if you don’t care about old churches and folk tales. So this one king’s daughter fell in love with a lowly architect, right? And the young architect, whose nickname was Candles, asked the king for permission to marry his daughter, and the king had a brilliant way to deter him while saving his relationship with his daughter. The king told the architect to go create some building worthy of his daughter and the king would fund everything. The catch was that the architect must do everything himself. So, Candles began making this super awesome church way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. After 3 years the king came to check and see if the guy had wisened up and quit or if he was still building the structure to win his daughter. Candles was like 40 feet up on this sweet, innovative church and one of the guards climbed up and pushed him off and killed him! The king told his daughter that the guards had been so jealous of Candles’ skill that they killed him, and that is the story the Armenian’s tell about this holy place which later became a seminary as well. In my opinion, the king told his guards to go kill the guy if he still had the balls to try to win over his daughter, so they did. Then he could tell his daughter his guards were just assholes and then have them punished or something. Smart king, sad story. All the stories in Armenia are sad ones, no joke.
Saturday night, 5 of us went to a club and danced. It wasn’t anything fancy, but we had a blast and met some cool Armenian dudes that I coaxed into buying our drinks. We didn’t get to sleep til 4 which was a bad idea because we needed to wake up early if we wanted to make a couple more museums in the morning. The groggy morning was worth it, however, and some food quickly got me back on track. We took a walk and ended up visiting the single mosque in the country. Initially, they were not going to let us in, but Jason knows a fair amount of Arabic, so the dude let us look around inside. I guess it’s really unique because it is a Shiite mosque, although I wouldn’t know because it’s the first one I have ever seen. It was interesting to see the huge open space where all the people simultaneous prostrate themselves facing Mecca and pray. I know it is probably really hard to be a Muslim in Armenia, so props to them for having such a beautiful place to do in.
The final thing we did was go to the Genocide memorial which was really depressing actually. I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know about it in the first place, and even more sad to learn it hasn’t even been acknowledged as an actual event that really occurred ‘til recently (and the Turks still claim it never actually happened). Basically it was like the holocaust, but on a smaller scale. When Hitler’s advisors asked him if killing the Jews was a better idea than relocating them to Madagascar or somewhere Hitler said “Does anyone remember the Armenians?” and used the world’s ignorance to the genocide to justify his own. Anyways, it was humbling and terrifying, and I am so sorry for Armenia.
Sorry to end on a sad note, but my overall experience in Armenia was incredibly fun and enlightening. We spent way more money than we thought we would, but $150 to see another country and spend 3 days there isn’t too bad. I will just live a little on the cheaper side for my last 2 weeks in Georgia. This was kind of my last huge trip/plan, but I am guessing I will manage some more good times while I am still here. Many things are lacking in Georgia but fun times are more than abundant. More on those soon.