Barev dzez! Welcome to the Republic of Armenia – the home of sluvaki, the special kebab. She’s a tough cookie to write about, owing to the longer air time for infamous, not-so-young Hollywood, Armenian Kim Kardashian has than Armenia’s actual current affairs. Scratching the surface, there is indeed more to Armenia everybody should know as its ancient cultures 3 millenia hence that bred the start of the modern Armenian civilization. This is a place of inspiration, appreciation and tasty kebabs. They say, “Behind every great man is a woman,” and she better be Armenian, because Armenians are good at providing that essential inspiration. You would be surprised at how rich a culture is to be unveiled of this marvellous country. Cognac, anyone? This Armenian-style brandy or Ararat was behind Winston Churchill 400 times (or bottles) a year. Genats!
Or perhaps Da Vinci’s shows this great Armenian inspiration in his painting of the Last Supper more than the world cares to know or notice? From travel to or studies of Armenia, Da Vinci’s amazement can’t be directed to. After all, Armenia has pioneered more than a thing or two, for it is, 1,700 years ago, the first to declare herself as a Christian nation in 301 AD. And although they may have been ousted and slaughtered in the Armenian genocide of 1915, one of the first modern genocides, for possibly this reason or the theorized cause of preservation of Turkish national unity, Armenians remain to be as homogenous and united in their faith as ever. It is a fact that the Turks did destroy all Armenian bibles and manuscripts, Armenia’s most valuable cultural inheritance. Armenia was a former Soviet republic but now possesses its own identity and absolute independence.
Armenia (40 00 N, 45 00 E) is a landlocked nation in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, 29,743 km2-small, northeast of the Armenian Highlands. Highlands is definitely a suitable name as the region is, to a greater part, mountainous and volcanic. The lowest point in the country stands at an astounding 400 metres above sea level, the Debed River, which is way out of comparison to Maldives’ 2.4-metre summit. This little but no lesser nation however has BIG things to boast such the Sevana Lich, the largest lake in the mountain range, as well as the second largest in high-altitude lake in the world, and the colossal Mt. Aragats or Aragats Lerrnagagat, the tallest elevation of the range at 4,090 metres above sea level. There is significantly little forest cover but arable soil in the Aras River Valley. Some fast running rivers are crucial water sources, but as it is landlocked, to add to the high demands of water from the vital Sevana Lich for hydropower, insufficient drinking water source is problem on some occasions.
The climate in Armenia is a wonderful highland continental with the landscape and location offering a different kind of cool or heat whatever the guest prefers like tropical rain forests, snowy-white mountains, hot summers and things and places in between. Summers are warm and sunny and lw in humidity from June through September with temperatures of 22-36°C, while winters are extremely cold with almost intolerable cold temperatures between -10 and -5°C.
The Armenian population has boomed from last year to early 2010 with a high count of 3,215,800 early this year 2010. As one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world, 98% of the population are Armenians, and the remainder percentages are Yezidi or Kurds, Russian, and others are Assyrians, Belarusians, Georgians, Greeks, Kurds and Ukrainians. In relation to the homogenous demographic, ARMENIAN, an especially unique language, is the single official language with RUSSIAN also widely spoken conversationally by the vast majority (75.8%) and, thus, is the de facto second language. ENGLISH is acknowledged significantly as a global language and attempts are made to improve on the language but one thing is for certain and that is Yeravan, as a developed capital city, English is widely spoken.
It is of immense significance to say that the Armenians are beautiful people on the inside and out. As a people with big hearts, besides past tragedies and traumas, they are openly proud of their most prized trait- hospitality. They are ever since, and to this day a kind-hearted Christian nation with 94.7% as Armenian Apostolic Christians, and other forms of Christianity such as Baptists and Presbyterians form 4%, while around 1 % practice a certain monotheism with nature worship elements.
And as the world’s first Christian nation, rich culture and heritage retains evidence in the places of worship, the monasteries spotted on the countryside, that are, at present, neither svelte nor sinuous as whence it first stood. While most of the culture and legacy of among the first bibles, Armenian bibles, and Christian manuscripts are lost to the Armenian genocide, the traveller will be constantly reminded of Armenia’s role in Christianity with the hundreds or thousands of ancient monasteries and classic churches, a lot of which were torn down by USSR. This is called “monastery-hopping.” As one of the Burger King-free countries, Armenia retains immense exoticism, just as it is in Debed Canyon where history and culture is more packed than any other place here. This is one of the best places to start the traveller’s Armenian adventure, the feel and picturesque of the place best achieved at night- the only Saturday night fun in these parts. Most suggestive is the Sacred Stones of Armenia or Pietre Sacre d’Armenia, the epitome of Armenia’s ancient Christian architecture. Surely is one of the many places here where artists come and develop a new inspiration and appreciation for the world, like this one.
Sanahin and Haghpat are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but the trees are long gone, and the monasteries scarce and dilapidated. The history nonetheless remains and continues to tell the story. When all that silent and remorseful recollection is done, time has come to enjoy Armenia’s winter sports galore such as skiing down Tsakhkadzor Hills, 30 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of main man, Yerevan. Other fun activities include camping and hiking, rock climbing, and wind surfing, and among the best places to do these in are Lake Sevan, Mt. Ararat, Echmiadzin, Geghard, Garni, Hripsime, Sardarapat, Surp, Virab, Xor, and Zvartnoc. What a mouthful!
And shopping is best only at Vernissage, a weekend flea market near the Republic Square. As much of Armenia’s history and legacy has been deleted and gone forever, its story remains with the modern Armenians, the new generation who bears the trauma as well as the future. Here is where that adage holds true, that it’s not just the places you go, but the people you meet.
There’s only one venue where ties with new Armenian friends are iron-bound- the dinner table, of course! This is the place to enjoy endless and bottomless konjac, as well as the freshest and tastiest vegetables and grilled meat kebabs. Armenia is the home of a certain sluvaki, kebab, or khorovats-the most redeeming feature of Armenia. This is normally served with Armenian bread, tomatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers too. However it’s called, no place in the world makes a better kebab-licious barbecue. Khash, dolma or stuffed grape leaves, and borscht or beetroot soup are among the traditional Armenian dishes. Armenia soil gives off that special and unique fresh taste in their fruits and to die for are the peaches, grapes, apricot, and pomegranate.
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