Change Yourself…Change The World.

Armenia… I am Here!
May 5, 2009, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Armenia, Pictures Post

Armenia- Prepare yourself!

Welcome to Armenia! This is the Armenian flag billowing
proudly in the breeze in Yerevan. So surreal that I am actually

Who knew I would actually make it here? I suspected one of the planes I was on would end in a fiery crash, but surprisingly, I am alive and kicking and IN YEREVAN! I first spent about six hours sleeping fitfully on a chair in Moscow, waking up with a start every half hour or so and panicking because I thought I had missed my flight. It’s one of those things about traveling that you hate… you know, when you’re in transit and in another country and you don’t have their currency- and then the currency converter won’t work and you’re dying of thirst but you have no money, and it’s 5 in the morning and you’ve gotten two hours of sleep… the jet lag makes you want to punch something. But fortunately I chatted with a nice Russian girl who was also going to Yerevan. I pointed out to her I was also a bit Russian. So yes, I visited TWO cultural heritage sites in one day, friends (but according to most travelers, sitting in an airport in transit doesn’t mean that you’ve actually been to the country. That is debatable in my opinion. Technically I HAVE been to Russia, have I not?).

The first glimpse of Armenia from the airplane.

Yerevan, Armenia right before we landed.

Welcome sign in the airport- I am actually here!

Yerevan is amazing. For some reason, it reminds me of the 70’s in the U.S. Obviously I haven’t been alive during that time, but in my mind’s eye this is what the 70’s looked like. There are old cars, ancient cabs, leafy city streets, and a bit of a laid-back attitude around the city- if you could even constitute Yerevan as a city! From the look on the map it’s incredibly small. I spent the afternoon wandering around in a daze and there weren’t many people out. The strangest realization for me was that everyone walking down the street was Armenian. It was bizarre to conceptualize that I was actually in Armenia! But the Armenian flags waved at me proudly from the sky, stout buildings with their signs in blatant Armenian language grinned at me from every turn- I am truly here.

The beginning of Yerevan- cab drive from the airport

As you can see things are a bit old-fashioned here. I love it.

Yerevan, Armenia

The cars are way old school here.

I’m not so sure about this culture yet- it’s quite interesting for me because I am an Armenian Diaspora and I’ve grown up with little to no Armenian culture. I don’t speak the language, know the customs, wear the traditional clothes, and I can only rattle off three or four different kinds of foods. I didn’t know what to expect when I came here. But upon further inspection, I’ve come to the realization that Armenia is probably something of a mix between Turkish culture (Turkish and Armenian culture are actually very similar in food and customs) and Russian (Armenia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991). I’m not sure where the Turkish culture ends and the Russian begins and where Armenian fits into that, but this has been my first impression. It’s also hard to judge because I’ve never been to Russia (besides my six hour stint in the airport today).

But I WILL tell you something about Armenian culture. THE FOOD! The food is SO GOOD! All day today I’ve wandered around bazaars while strangers popped sticky dried peaches and apricots and other delicacies into my mouth. By suggestion from the hostel I’m staying at, I ate at the ‘Yerevan Tavern,’ and tried Borsch (which turns out to be a Ukranian food rather than Armenian), and some kind of chicken julienne. Just looking at both of them made my mouth water. Even checking out the vendors on the street and seeing all of the different kinds of breads and cheese points to the fact that Armenia is a FOOD culture! And I love trying new things, so I can’t complain, only grin happily as I let the nice Armenian lady named Susan rip me off and charge 500 dram for one dried peach (Hey, it’s going into the Armenian economy, so I will not complain).

Armenian breads stuffed with cheese, olives, spices, and other
yummy good stuff.

Dried peaches, apricots, and other delicious goodies. The long
ropes are called Sujukh, an Armenian delicacy- they’re walnuts
dipped in some kind of liquefied fruit, then they’re laid out to dry.
I am eating some right now- tastes like caramel. Mmmmm.

Armenian spices.

Armenian figs, apricots, and dried fruits in a floral display.

Chicken Julienne at ‘Yerevan Tavern’

Yerevan Tavern.

I think this is pretty generic Armenian food- very similar to
Turkish food. Lots of meat, bread, and cheese.

The outside view of the fruit/vegetables bazaar in Yerevan.

Pastries and desserts inside of a market.

Dried peach. It was so sticky and sweet… and so delicious.

The one frustrating thing about being in Armenia is being Armenian and not speaking the language. I want to run down the street screaming ‘WE ARE ALL ARMENIAN! LET’S HAVE A CONVERSATION!’ Well, no one speaks English. I feel a bit ashamed being an Armenian and not understanding this country. I’ve gotten people’s attention by pointing at random people and asking ‘Armenian?’ They nod. Then I point back at myself and say proudly ‘I AM ARMENIAN!’ They nod kind of blandly, a bit disturbed. I suppose being Armenian is only a BIT of a novelty here. I’ve also heard that being an Armenian Diaspora is even more of a novelty, as we constitute most of the tourism here. But I refuse to be deterred.

Proudly showing off my Armenian visa.

Armenian currency. I have no idea who these people are. It’s
also a bit weird that 1 US dollar= 361 dram. For example, my
lunch was 1,000 dram. That seems so expensive it’s ridiculous.
Actually Brittany, it’s three dollars.

Beautiful Armenian language. Someday I hope to know what
this means… actually I do now because there was another sign in
English. ‘Cafe.’ I’m so smart.

The only people that have welcomed me with open arms has been the staff of Envoy Hostel (…probably because they’re the only ones who speak English). They are all excited that I am an Armenian Diaspora visiting the motherland, and they’ve given me all kinds of tips. Tomorrow I am going on an all day tour with them to see some sights- St. Echmiadzin, Khor Virap, and Noravank (plus a delicious home-cooked lunch with a local artist and his family, and a trip to a winery for some pomegranate and cherry wine). In a few days time, I am planning a trip up to Vanadzor to meet a Peace Corps Volunteer and hear about his adventures. Meanwhile, I’m happy to stay in the city and continue my wondrous adventures.

My first day here has been intoxicating. I am in love with this place. Nine more days to soak in as much culture as I can.

Hope you are all as happy and healthy and lucky as I am friends,
Much love,

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Brittany,
Reading and looking the pictures, made me to cry again and again. I was born in Armenia and lived there for 15 years. Now I live in US. I really missed Armenia, Yerevan. I saw some pictures taht I have been there when I was in Yerevan. I hope one day I will go there.

Comment by Nelli

Dear Brittany,

I just recently read your blog from 2009 regarding your visit to Harput. My grandparents from both sides came from that village. My paternal grandparents came to America c. 1917 and settled in Middleboro, MA. My maternal grandparents settled near Providence, RI and became successful truck farmers. As a history major in college, I was fascinated by Harput’s history going back to the kingdom of Urartu c. 2000 BCE …I’ve always felt we Armenians have such a proud heritage and our bloodlines are rich with those of the Hittites, the Assyrians, and the Scythians, among others. Many thanks for your enlightening, informative, and, nostalgic visit to the roots of my family.

Comment by Dave Kayajan

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