Yesterday we left our comfy Haghpat hotel and were driven for about an hour to the next major town where we transferred to another car, which was driven by our driver’s son. We are not sure why but suspect the car wouldn’t have made it to Yerevan. The scenery was beautiful the whole way, with meadows and snow-capped peaks giving way to Lake Sevan and finally, we reached our hotel, which is a step up in standard compared to the previous 4 places, but we lose out on the view!
The afternoon was a sombre affair as we visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum. I personally knew of the genocide but that was the limit of my knowledge on this issue. The memorial was built in 1957 and on April 24th every year they have a service up at the memorial to commemorate the genocide. Last year being the 50th anniversary of the memorial, it apparently took up to 2 hrs to reach the memorial to place flowers. The genocide started in the late 1800s and continued till the end of WWI. To this day very few countries recognise the genocide, I think partly due to genocide not being clearly defined by the UN until after WWII.
While we were in the museum a thunderstorm came through, so good timing on our part and our taxi driver was waiting to collect us. The fare, however, had gone from 2000 AMD too much more. He said it was 2000 AMD for one way, so I gave him 4000 AMD. Then he said waiting time, his English amazingly better than before. I gave him another 1000 AMD. He still wasn’t happy, but then proceeded to offer us tours to places. Yeah, not if that’s the way he lures people into his taxi and jacks up the prices.
Our hotel had given us a list of 5 restaurants to try in Yerevan. Two of them had no tables free and the third one called “Karas” is a fastfood restaurant chain. It was mostly a cheaper style restaurant and inside was nice but not alluring like the other restaurants. Still, we had a delicious meal and headed out to catch the amazing water fountain show in Republic square. Fountains, lights and classical music are put together in an amazing series of performances from around dusk til 10pm. We had no idea this was a thing til we spotted it last night and we’ll be back to see it again.
Today we had a day tour planned with our guide Arman and his mother. We were picked up only a few minutes late and were off to Khor Virap. But first we stopped, so Arman could fill the car with gas and I took advantage of the el cheapo vending machine coffee. His mother also used the time to get her makeup finished and brush her hair a bit more.
We continued on until Arman’s mother wanted some fruit, so we stopped to buy fruit. Then we got back on track and arrived at Khor Virap. Unfortunately for us the scenic backdrop of Mt Ararat of Noah’s ark and bible fame was clouded over, but Khor Virap was an interesting place to visit. Claire climbed 6 metres down a dark hole to a dungeon, without snakes and scorpions in it.
There was a small hill overlooking Khor Virap. Claire asked to go up there and our guide said there was no reason the view wasn’t any better than down here. Of course, the photo above shows we got a good view of the entire Khor Virap complex, plus a 360-degree view of everything including the Turkish border between us and Mt Ararat. We got back into the van and we started driving towards the next stop.
The road climbed into the mountains and we stopped at a small water fountain, which is common around Armenia, to wash the fruit that was bought earlier in the day by Arman’s mother. Once that was done, we were off again. The next stop was wine tasting, but when said wine tasting was at a roadside stall selling homemade wine and not the lovely wine tasting cellar across the road we declined and requested lunch. Our guide suggested we go to Noravank Monastery first, but we insisted on eating, he just had to find a restaurant first. Luckily there was one just back down the road. We ordered a delicious lunch with delicious wine, with mine containing the delicious taste of raspberries in some way. We got the hint it was time to go when Arman and his mother came looking for us. We finished our wine and departed for Noravank Monastery.
The road into Noravank is along the bottom of a thin canyon, much like the Siq in Petra. then it opens out a little and the road climbs the hill a few hundred metres to where Noravank’s two churches sit. The place was crawling with tourists, who were making use of the onsite restaurant, which meant it was relatively quiet in the monastery. The Monastery was built in the 13th century and its the location in a red rock gorge that makes this one special.
We were getting the look from our guide that it was time to go, but not before he took a snapshot of his mother standing outside Noravank. The return trip was quiet and mostly non stop. We did get asked to pay early, but we suspect they just wanted to buy fish from the fish farm. We were asked again on the outskirts but said we’d have the money ready when we get out at the hotel. Armenians are lovely people but from a traveller’s perspective handing over the money earlier can only provide further issues and offers no benefits to the traveller.
Fortunately, we had made a reservation to Sherep Restaurant for dinner. It was a very nice restaurant and we both had a soup that was delicious. Mine was Siberian soup with veggies and tiny meat dumplings, while Claire had one full of plants that grow in the hills. My mains was fried Khinkali dumplings while Claire had a much more delicious stuffed pumpkin dish local to Armenia. I had a different beer, but lagers have been rather average in this part of the world. Claire had a wine that she said was delicious and thus ordered another glass. All up an enjoyable evening, even if we tried to Shazam a song we heard but got no result because as we left the restaurant we realised it was actually a live band playing.