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Armenia Trip Pictures from April 20 to 30, 2010

To read the Armenia Journal.

Our Route through ARMENIA. Covered approx. 1850km on the motorcycles.

April 30, 2010. We enter Armenia through Georgia. The Border Post is located at 2184m (as per GPS) close to Bavra.

In Gyumri we visited the huge MOTHER ARMENIA STATUE and...

...the Sev Ghul or black sentry Fort.

A small detour into the village of Aruch, takes us to the ARUCHAVANK Church.

The dome is missing, but otherwise...

...the 7th century church is intact.

The cemetery is doted with khatchkars.

In search for accommodations we travel along the top of the KASAGH GORGE north of Ashtarak.

Instead of finding a hotel we find the HOVHANNAVANK Monastery.

The crane looks like it has been there for a decade.

After a few minutes the caretaker appears and opens the doors for us.

The 7th century monastery is perched on the edge of the gorge.

The interior of Armenian Churches are always quite simple.

Armenian Inscriptions, Khatchkars and other reliefs...

...odorn the doorways.

After another hour of asking for directions we do find the Ashtaraki Dzor hotel, located at the bottom of the gorge.

Our room overlooks the canyon and stream...

...which after a couple of days of rain turned into a major river.

A huge frog pond is across the river.

Our balcony is the pink one. We are in the off season and get the room...

...for 10000AMD/night ($25.00/night). It was the nicest room we would have for a long time.

April 21, 2010. We base ourselves out of Ashtarak and our first day trip is to ECHMIADZIN. The entrance gate, depicting the Pope John Paul II 2001 visit.

Holy Echmiadzin or Holy See of Echmiadzin is the Vatican of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The courtyard displays several beautifully carved khatchkars (medieval carved headstones).

The main cathedral, Mayr Tachar.

The entrance to the cathedral is below the three-tiered bell tower.

19th century building surround the the Mayr Tachar.

Inside we are able to visit the treasury, which houses 1700 years of treasure collected by the church.

The richly carved dome.

The courtyard that surrounds the cathedral.

In attempting to find the entrance to the Zvartnots Church, 4km east of Echmiadzin, we stumble upon this cemetery.

Similar to the unique cemetery in Romania and its wooden headstones depicting how the person died or what his profession in life had been, ...

...the granite headstones in Armenia depict the actual person in full size carved into the stone.

A large empty parking lot in front of the ZVARTNOTS CATHEDRAL.

Our GPS coordinates come in handy most of the time, as signage is limited. All the research before the trip pays off.

The Church of Surp Grigor Lusavorich dates from 641 to 661 and has a great view of Mt. Ararat in the background.

The ruins of this church are different from any other site found in Armenia.

An eagle is depicted on the top of this pillar.

In 930 a earthquake crumbled the cathedral.

Sitting under the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral...

...with a perfect view of Mt. Ararat and...

...its little brother we have breakfast.

The SURP HRIPSIME, surrounded by a sturdy wall... located on the outskirts of Echmiadzin.

It was built originally in AD 618.

An old carved door leans against the wall.

A crypt lays below the altar.

Approx. 20km west of Echmiadzin is the METSAMOR MUSEUM. Outside the museum entrance are several Phallus Stones.

The museum displays artifacts from a civilation dating back to the early iron age.

The excavation site.

Items found during the excavation.

The site of an ancient dwelling.

In the distance the nuclear power plant, still operating past its expiry date.

The fields around the excavation site are littered with strange items. Mainly bodies of old cars.

April 22, 2010. We spend the day in Yerevan, the Armenian Capital. Our first visit is the TSITSERNAKABERD...

...the ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL & MUSEUM. Amazingly we arrive just in time for a tree planting ceremony.

The first tree is planted by the representative of the church.

The tree planting is in memory of the 1915 to 1925 Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians.

A very humbling experience watching the younger generation take part in remembering the past.

The entire grounds are covered with trees planted by world famous fiqures, like John Paul II in recognization of the genocide.

The actual genocide memorial. A 40m high spire.

Every year on April 24 Armenia remembers the Genocide by visiting the monument and bringing flowers.

A circle of 12 basalt slabs leaning over the eternal flame.

Afterwards we tour the outstanding museum depicting the events that unfolded during that period.

A picture of all the children that were orphaned.

The Canadian Government past a bill in recognition of the events that enfolded during that period.

These yellow buses are everywhere. Most of them are gas powered and have the propane bottles on the roof.

Our next stop is the YEREVAN BRANDY COMPANY.

Tours are normally only by appointment, but as luck has it, we arrive just in time to join a French family on a tour.

The tour is 3500AMD/person and includes a fluent English/French/Russian/Armenian speaking guide explaining the history of the Ararat Brandy Company.

We start at the museum.

A box full of award metals.

The museum tour is followed by a generous tasting of three (3) type of brandy and ...

... then a walk through the aging workshop.

Another great idea the Ararat Brandy Company came up with is the "Barrel of Peace". It was set for aging in 2001 in the honor of the visit of the Minsk Group of OSCE and will be opened only when the conflict between Karabakh and Azerbaijan will be resolved.

Leader of several countries have a barrel in their name. Like this one is the current Russian Prime Minister.

These bottles date back to 1902, when it was still allowed to be called Cognac. In 1908 the French outlawed the use of the name outside of France.

Barrels and barrels of brandy, aged from 3 to 20 years.

The glass tubes are used to transfer the brandy from a newer barrel to an older.

The Hanrapetutyan Hraparak (Republic Square), where we park the motorcycle.

We start our walking tour of the city at the National Art Gallery.

The 12th century Katoghike (a small chapel).

The usual decay of ex-Russian housing development.

The Zoravar Parish Church.

Ruby takes a peek inside the tiny church.

Weddings are a big deal in Armenia. This carriage is actually a popular item for weddings.

At the foot of the Casade.

Mike counted over 500 steps to the top. (We found out later that there was an elevator).

A view of the opera house.

April 24, 2010. During a brief clearing in the sky, we attempt another day trip ...


Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it...

...consists of mainly cave churches.

Inside the main church, Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), Ruby lights a couple of candles.

There is only natural lighting...

...and we reframe from using the flash.

Not sure if it was the rain and fog that had engulfed the Monastery,...

...but it was somewhat spooky inside the caves.

Mike had a field day taking pictures...

...especially to catch the candle light as it reflects on the floor ...

...and the light as it peeks through the tiny windows.

A basin that contains spring water.

Steps lead to another cave church...

...a 10m passage covered in inscriptions opens up... this amazing room.

This entire church was carved out of the rock.

The pillars are massive.

A opening through the floor in the right corner of the church allows a look into the church below.

On the south door of the Holy Mother of God church is a coat of arms of the family of the Zakarian Prince.

Another set of steps lead... more monastic cells and khatchkars.

The scenery around the monastery.

We visit another site that is located high above the Avan Gorge...

...called the GARNI TEMPLE.

The temple has been reconstructed and dates back to the 1st century.

It was built originally by King Trdat I.

The bathhouse has a mosaic that depicts the goddess of the ocean.

In Asgtarak, we pick up some supper at this restaurant (take away). The writing on the store walls clearly indicate restaurant.

This hotel was our home for the last 5 days...

...and this the gang that took care of the hotel.

New friends, through she spoke no English, we communicated quite well.

April 25, 2010. We had hoped for a blue sky, as this is the picture to get with the KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY and Mt. Ararat in the background...

...but it was not meant to be. We left Yerevan heading south.

Approx. 30km south of Yerevan lies this monastery.

Inside this church...

...the legend goes that King Trdat III was imprisoned for 12 years...

...60m below the church in a well.

The main Surp Astvatsatsin Church dates from th 17th century.

The weather turns nasty as we climb over the 1800m mountain pass from Yeraskh to Areni.

The Noravank Monastery lies 6kms off the main highway. It is a pretty drive through a narrow canyon and a few switch-backs to the church complex.

The NORAVANK Church Complex.

The survival of these churches are mainly due to their remoteness.

Climbing the narrow outside steps of the Church of Surp Astvatsatsin without any railing to the second level is tricky.

Descending was the scary part.

The view through the upper level entrance doorway.

The adjacent St Karapet Church...

...has the entire floor covered in tombstones.

More khatchkars.

A massive stone gate greets us on top of the Vorotan Pass (2344m).

There were signs indicating that we were on the ancient Armenian Silk Route.

The only traffic we encounter on the potholed road are truckers from Iran.

Late afternoon we descend from the high plateau into Goris, our home for three (3) nights.

We chose the Lyova Mezhlumyan B&B as it had wireless internet. The only gas heater in the house.

This breakfast is included in the 14000AMD ($35.00)/night homestay accommodations.

April 26, 2010. A day trip to the village of Tatev.

We did not realize how remote this place was until we were half way there.

We descend into the village below.

In the distance we can make out our destination the Tatev Fortified Church...

...located at the edge of the Vorotan Canyon. The road was really muddy and we were in running shoes.


The only entrance to the fortified monastery is through this gate.

Outside the gate is a cave dwelling containg a grinding rock.

Khatchkars are displayed around the courtyard.

A small chapel is located above the entrance gate.

The main church of Surp Poghos-Petros, with a beautiful ancient crane (seems to be permanent fixture).

The church original bell tower no longer exists.

Inside the main church...

...the marble flooring.

Beside it is the 11th century Surp Grigor Church. The smaller building is the tomb of St Grigor Tatevatsi.

The kitchen. In its prime approx. 400 monks used to live at the monastery.

The 8m octagonal pillar topped by a khatchkar.

Another beautiful spot, overlooking the Vorotan Canyon.

In the distance, our return road can be seen.

At the bottom of the canyon the Satan's Bridge (a bridge naturally formed).

This is a picnic spot that has seen better days, as it is now overgrown and full of garbage.

A typical Armenian truck, left over from the ex-Soviet time and now used by the locals, parked beside our motorcycles at the homestay.

The old part of town in Goris has stone house line the streets.

Another vehicle we see on the road, reminding us of another time.

It is very depressing to see the decay of all the ex-Russian housing,...

...parks and general infrastructure. There seems to be no desire to keep anything in good working order.

Another street in Goris...

...and another day in peoples lives.

Trucks that look like they should be in a museum from the Second World War, but are actually still used today.

Here we are having Lavash, a thin bread. There are five (5) of those huge pieces.

April 28, 2010. We leave Goris behind and retrace our route back to Getap.

Approx. 50km from Goris, close to the village of Sisan are the ZORAT KARER. The site is dotted with over 200 upright basalt stones dating to 3000BC.

The weather forecast had indicated rain, but as we got over 1900m it started to snow.

This was the Vorotan Pass (2344m) three (3) days earlier...

...and this is looking the same direction now.



At Getap we turned north, we had no idea it would get even worse.

Temperatures dropped to below 0Degree Celsius, the snow was coming down heavy...

...and the road turned to complete ice. As we struggled along, the blizzard hit and visibility went to only a few meters.

After hitting the top of the Selim Pass at 2322m, we hoped that there would be a quick descent toward no snow. But we continued at over 2200m elevation until dropping to 1950m at Lake Sevan.

Beautiful LAKE SEVAN, a holiday spot where tourists and Armenians travel to enjoy there summer holidays. It was winter for us.

As the conditions deteriorated rapidly. It was bitterly cold. We pulled over and decided to look for a room in Sevan.

We found a hotel located along the northern Peninsula of Lake Sevan. It had central heating and a big double bed for 15000AMD ($37.50/night).

It kept on snowing on and off during the night.

April 29, 2010. We woke up to another bitter cold day.

Only 4km from our hotel located on Lake Sevan, the wind is hauling and the ground frozen with snow...

...the surrounding mountains covered in fresh snow, the direction we were heading in an hour,...

...lies the SEVANAVANK (Sevan Monastery).

Not sure if these pictures can actually convey how cold it was.

The caretaker of the Monastery points us toward the gas heater as we enter the Church of Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God Church).

It is cozy in the church. A few candles are burning and we add a couple.

The courtyard in front of the Church is dotted with khatchkars covered in snow.

The guide book had indicated that spring (April and May) was the best time to come to Armenia and Georgia...

...later we found out that it had been an unusal cold spring.

Gas lines are run everywhere above ground... every intersection, they do go overhead. It seems strange to us that there is no protection for anyone running into them.

Armenian Vehicles. From the town of Sevan we make it just over the Sevan Pass at 2114m. The snow is coming down heavy and...

...we only make it to approx. 12km north of Vanadozor. Our room. We huddle around the wood stove.

When acquiring about the room price, we were asked if we wanted it for 3 - 4 hours. Not sure what that was to imply.

We have dinner in our room,...

...consisted of the usual Armenian dish of kebab, salad and bread. That night we got really sick.

The next morning the owner of the place shows us his homemade trike...

...made from an old BMW motorcycle. He now hauls wood with it.

We felt miserable. Mike had come down with the flu and I with severe stomach upset. But we pushed on.

Our first completely blue sky in Armenia. Heading through the Debed Canyon...

...we visited the HAGHPAT MONASTERY.

Another UNESCO World Heritage site.

We really did not feel like sightseeing, but we are this close to these amazing places and one never knows when and if we will be back.

This monastery is approx 6km from the bottom of the Debed Canyon, perched on the mountain.

It was founded by Queen Khosrvanuch in 976.

The walled complex consists of several churches,...

...bell tower, library and refectory.

The premises is dotted with unique khatchars.

The entire floor is covered... tombstones.

From the Haghpat Monastery it is back down the mountain and...

...up another to the SANAHIN MONASTERY.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is older than its counterpart the Haghpat Monastery.

Ancient graves cover the floor.

Pillars are decorated with inscriptions.

At the monastery we are greeted by an very old lady and her big key chain,...

...slowly she moves to each locked door.

This part dates back to 928.

Artifacts that were found and kept in a separate room.

Each pillar seems to be ...

...decorated differently.

Our last site in Armenia. From here we head north to Sadakhlo Border Crossing, back to Georgia.