9 things you didn’t know about Armenia
What are the top 3 things you’ve often heard or caught people saying about Armenia? With some minor differences, the standard and already clichéd list will include (but not be limited to) medieval churches, hiking-friendly mountains and hospitable people. (Well, apart from the fact that it’s ancestral homeland of American TV star Kim Kardashian who visited the country this time last year).
Indeed, the above- mentioned are attractive perks for any tourism destination. Just imagine: “church-to-church hiking”, a nice encounter with locals and Armenian cuisine and ascending a picturesque summit: sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
You’ll be even more inspired to learn that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. So, let’s start “peeling off” the deeper layers of this small but amazingly abundant country for more captivating discoveries and memorable experiences.
- Don’t be misguided by Armenia’s compact size. Landlocked within 40 000 square km (together with Artsakh), the country, however, boasts an amazing diversity of terrains and climate zones: within 3 hours of your trip in Armenia, you’ll be exposed to snow-capped mountains and deserts, lush alpine fields and stern-looking rocks. Besides, be ready to experience at least 7 climate zones- from dry continental to subtropical. (By the way, don’t forget to taste tangerines and persimmons once you’re on the southern border, in Meghri town, while travelling across Armenia).
- As the first country to have adopted Christianity in 301 A.C., Armenia is an excellent pilgrimage destination. Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, the religious center of the country, is not only awe-inspiring: it’s considered the oldest cathedral in the world!
- Did you know that khachkars – the Armenian cross-stones – and their symbolism and craftsmanship are included in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage? Nowhere else in the world can you see such medieval jewels! Thoroughly studying these symbols of victory against enemies or cataclysms, you’ll be amazed to notice that not a single khachkar resembles another- all the ornaments are unrepeated.
- Lavash – the Armenian flatbread- is yet another Armenian cultural asset included in a UNESCO list. By the way, it’ll be a 3 in 1 solution during your trip: savor it with a traditional Armenian delicacy, use it as a fork to grab food or “wrap up” your dinner with this slim yet enduring “cover”.
- “There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls…The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavour to certain palates…” This is an excerpt from Greek historian Xenophon’s evidence on Armenia’s ancient brewing traditions (dating as far back as at least 4th century B.C.!). It turns out that apart from being the oldest winemakers (yes, the oldest found winery in the world is in Armenia- it’s almost 6 thousand years old!), Armenians also have a centuries-long beer brewing culture.
- Armenia is mono-ethnic: 97.9% of population is ethnic Armenians. Minorities include Yazidis, Russians and Assyrians who generally live in peace with locals and each other.
- “Armenian is the language to speak with God”: this is so far unrivalled definition of Armenian by great English poet George Byron. Don’t be confused if you often hear Russian words and phrases (“shadows” of Soviet culture) ”sprinkled” in everyday Armenian speech: Armenian is an independent branch within Indo-European language family. And, of course, you’ll have difficulties reading in Armenian, too, as you’ll find the alphabet (created as far back as in the early 5th century) so different from Cyrillic or Latin (or any other) alphabets.
- Pulpulaks – drinkable water fountains- are another pleasant discovery for Armenia’s guests. Deeply rooted in the local culture, these manmade springs gracefully scattered all across Yerevan (and other cities) will feel like oases on a stuffy August afternoon, especially after a long stroll in the city. But they’re more than merely “water suppliers”. Pulpulak is also a unique memorial, homage to a passed-away friend or family member (whose names and images are engraved on the “fountains”). So, once you’re in Armenia, do as Armenians do: give a blessing to the perished while drinking water from a pulpulak and keep on exploring the country.
- And, finally, excellent news for extreme lovers. If you’re spending a winter in Armenia and want to experience something other than traditional cross-country skiing in Tsakhkadzor winter, be informed that Armenia has an untapped potential of ski touring and backcountry skiing. Of course, these newly popular sports are not for faint-hearted: be prepared for adventure and physical fatigue as you’re going to grab your ski equipment, ascend and descend with it and step on unmarked ski areas (in case of backcountry skiing). Tempted? You’ve got a lot on your plate: Geghama Mountains, Hatis, Ishkhanasar, Aragats, Vardenis mountain range – all are beautiful and alluring in winter!
Of course, it’s far from the full list of facts that we’re going to unveil about Armenia. Follow our weekly Armenia travel blog and learn more about this emerging tourism destination!
Images: Ayas Tour, Jack Kuzuian
Text: Sirvard Amatuni
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