October 20th: We splurged and took a tour to transport us from Tbilisi, Georgia to Yerevan, Armenia. It included stopping at three monasteries, a BBQ lunch spread, and a stop at an Armenian bakery. The tour was well worth the cost (70 CAD per person)! It was a really enjoyable way to travel.
The first stop was at the Akhtala Monastery. The church was built in the 13th century and has many of its original frescoes preserved.
Our second stop as at the Haghpat Monastery. It is in a beautiful location overlooking the Debed River and Canyon. We somehow managed to leave without any nice pictures. The pictures we did get were of Les crawling across a wall with a bunch of teenagers. Apparently if you can shuffle across this ledge, using only your fingers for support, your wish will come true. I only made it about a meter. Les made it and everyone clapped 🙂
Next stop was a BBQ lunch! It was a huge spread of BBQ’d pork, grilled veggies, homemade yogurt, salads, potatoes, fruit, baked goods, and more. It was prepared and hosted by a woman who works at the monastery. She had a beautiful property, with chickens, geese, cats, and a healthy looking garden.
From there we carried on the Sanahin Monastery. It’s oldest structure dates back to the 10th century and in its prime it was renowned for its school of calligraphers and its medical school.
From Sanahin, we drove to Yerevan with a stop at a bakery along the way. The tour dropped us off at Envoy Hostel, where we had reservations. It was so easy!
October 21st: Turns out, our timing in Yerevan was perfect: Sunday, October 21st was the 2800th anniversary celebration for the city! We met up with Jan, a Belgium we met on the tour the previous day. He also quit his job to go traveling for a chunk of time, so we had stuff in common straight off the bat.
We walked up to the Armenian Genocide Memorial complex. The museum was closed due to the celebrations but the monument, eternal flame, and tree garden were still accessible.
From there, we made our way downtown to meet up with a local Couch Surfer, Davit. He showed us around downtown and to various stages that were set up for the celebrations. We saw traditional dances, jazz music, rock/pop music, a DJ, and fireworks. Davit showed us how to dance like an Armenian but Jan, Les, and I are clumsy dancers so it didn’t take.
October 22nd: We met up with Jan and Davit at Davit’s university. He wanted to play basketball. The three of us were hesitant at first. I don’t remember the last time I’ve played basketball, elementary school? Plus it was warm in the gym. But it was instantly fun. For me at least 🙂
Davit took us around Yerevan and showed us Saint Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral, Vernissage (an open-air market), and Republic Square. He had to leave us then to do homework 😦
October 23rd: Les was very sick. He’d started to feel sickly the night before and then woke up leaking from every hole in his face. We were planning to check out other parts of Armenia but decided to extend our stay in Yerevan so that he could get better. Instead of hanging out in our Air BnB with Les all day, I opted to check out two historic sites just outside of Yerevan with Jan.
Our first stop was the Temple of Garni, a Greco-Roman colonnaded temple, overlooking the ravine of the Azat River and the Gegham Mountains. It was probably built in the 1st century!
Our next stop was 20 minutes down the road at the Geghard Monastery. To be honest, I had thought I might have been monastery-ied out at this point but this one was super cool! Many of the churches and tombs have been cut out of the rock face. It is crazy to think of how much work was involved in “negative-space” construction.
After this, Jan and I headed back to Yerevan. I stopped and picked up food for Les and found him on the couch with Kleenex stuffed up his nose like a walrus.
October 24th and 25th: We took it easy to let Les rest. We did internet-y things, went out to find some Neo-citron for him, went out for pizza, and watched The Simpsons. This allowed us time to do some research on our next plan. We had originally planned to explore the southern portion of Armenia but after checking weather conditions in Mestia (NW Georgia), we decided to book it to the mountains to catch the last of the nice weather!