I fell in love with Armenia.
One of the most ancient, complicated, delicious, beautiful, magical and tragic centers of the world.
When I was telling my friends about my trip, I jokingly said Devin and I were going to the “land all lovers go to: Armenia.” Now I think there’s some truth there.
Take a look at this picture from my first day in the upper left (Holding hands and walking through these rings are supposed to ensure a lifetime of happy love together.).
Armenia opened my heart.
It’s a land covered with the rusted skeletons of huge Soviet factories that closed suddenly in 1991, on the day the Soviet Union ceased to be. Suddenly Armenia was without jobs, without gas, without infrastructure. Thousands of houses in the mountainous northern region of Armenia were mere shacks. Scant protection against the 40 degrees minus winter weather. It was like going back in time to the 19th century and earlier. Functioning copper mines and factoriess have sat dormant for over 30 years, a total waste of resources. And the country has suffered economically, while sitting on top of all this untapped wealth.
At the same time, the landscape will take your breath away. As well as the food and music and art. And the people.
There’s wealth and abundance everywhere: ripe fruits and vegetables in every yard. Armenia has unbelievably rich history of paganism, Zoroatrianism, and Christianity (Armenia was the first country in the world to become a Christian Nation) in its hundreds of temples and churches and monasteries. And seeing the physical reality of the Ararat Mountains (of Noah’s Ark fame) was amazing.
At the same time Goddess folk songs, rituals, and traditions are still well and alive in this Orthodox Christian country…
My visit to the Armenian Genocide Museum opened my eyes and completely broke my heart. The parallels to Third Reich’s “Final Solution” hit me in the face–the mirror terms and techniques for brutally wiping out an entire population–shocked me. Given my family history with the Holocaust, I suddenly felt like an Armenian myself.Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan is gorgeous. It’s a city I wish I had more days to just walk around. Modern. Cosmopolitan. Beautiful architecture (old and new), art, and shopping… it’s a gorgeous city! Romantic.
And the biggest surprise: if you ever have medical trouble, especially eye related, I’d strongly recommend Yerevan as a “medical tourism” destination!
One of the members of my tour, “Bill,” had a medical emergency in Yerevan. He suddenly went blind in one eye. (I was speaking to him, took a walk to the pharmacy, came back 15 minutes later and he was already on his way to the hospital, built back in Soviet times.)
The hospital has a state-of-the-art eye clinic. With a nurse to patient ration of 1 to 1. (Try finding that in the States!) Bill was fully-examined, met with the doctors, got a CAT Scan and an MRI for his eye (MRIs for the eye is such new technology–the latest thing. Bill’s eye doctor back in America was blown away.) And on Day 2, Bill met with one of Moscow’s top eye surgeons, who determined the surgery was not necessary at this time. Bill’s eye sight was saved, and he’ll get follow up care with his doctor at home.
Total out of pocket expense for 2 days of top-of-the line medical care? $200.
I just love love love Armenia. Here are some of my favorite pictures.
Our hotel at the center of Yerevan:
The church at Sevan Lake
Garni Temple to Helios
Soviet style dining room in Dilijan
Armenian Earth Goddess Harvest/New Year songs, dances and rituals:
And silly photos of lunch with my beloved: