Astonishing Armenia.

Shangri-La I’ll be honest – I wasn’t very excited when Heifer International suggested I visit Armenia last year in one of my trips visiting its projects working to end poverty and hunger around the world. I’d never known anybody who’d been to Armenia, and had barely heard the name Yerevan, the country’s capital. And so, it came as a big surprise to me that I didn’t just like Armenia – I fell madly in love with it.Prayer CrossesFor one thing, the land itself is beautiful. From Mt. Ararat towering just over the treacherous border with Turkey…

Even Armenia's beloved Mt. Ararat, where Noah's Ark supposedly landed, is now part of Turkey.

….to the dun northern hills that made me think of Afghanistan…landscape…to the lush green pastures that support gorgeous orchards of fruit and nuts…Apples…to the rocky outcroppings where Christian churches were tucked in the crevasses, hidden from marauding invaders. rock churchThis is an ancient land with a totally unique history.buggy Armenia is the first Christian country in the world, and is ardently religious still.crossIt was the first country to experience heartbreaking genocide after World War I,

The Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan

The haunting Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan

A country in near-constant conflict with its neighbors: Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey.

Across the lake and in gunsight: the Azerbaijan Border Station

Across the lake and within gun range: the Azerbaijan Border Station

And then, of course, there is the food.fruit pyramid

 Armenians dearly love to welcome you. And wine you. And dine you. And bread you. And fruit you. And cheese you. And coffee you.

Lahvosh & cheese You better come hungry when you visit Armenia, because you’re going to eat.PicklesAnd despite the severe challenges of moving beyond a Soviet mentality to establish an economy that can sustain the young people growing up here (which Heifer is working so tirelessly and creatively to support), there is a tenacity of spirit and national pride that is simply not to be denied.

Look at these beautiful faces!One of 44 members of Tsaghkavan CARMAC committee

Tamara Sargsyan

Naira Gyulnazaryan

The I am enI am Hope of Armenia

rabbitsBarev, Armenia – I’ll never forget our time together!cute boy

Categories: Armenia, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Astonishing Armenia.

  1. Beautiful photographs, Betty! I especially love your people photos!

  2. What an incredibly gorgeous country. I would have loved the attempts to bread me, cheese me, etc. Yummy! And those faces—–WOW!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Betty!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  3. Mary Yee

    Wonderful photos and a great post, Betty. Despite not being excited to go in the first place, you were open to the possibility of becoming enchanted!

    • Thanks so much, Mary — it was pretty amazing to fall so much in love with Armenia, but isn’t that the incredible thing about travel? It opens your eyes to all the beauty that is around you, that you never really expect to see. SO happy to hear from you!

  4. Anonymous

    Gorgeous all round…the food, people, and your open spirit! XO

  5. Deb Morrow Palmer

    Thanks Betty!! If you ever go back ask me to be a travel companion I will be there!!!!

  6. Jeff

    So enjoy your “second take” blogs on the places you visited for Heifer last year. Your optimism and ability to see the beauty in every place and person is inspiring! Love all the photos too.

    • Jeff –So great to hear from you! Been thinking of you & Andrew so much lately…. really delighted to hear that my remixes aren’t getting on your nerves. I’m not faking it, I really DID fall in love with every place I went — but Armenia was definitely one of the most surprising!!

  7. craigprophet

    thanks so much, Betty for your photos and comments!!
    I just wanted to clear one thing up. Yes, Armenia has conflicts with Turkey and Azerbaijan (both conflicts deal with those countries’ desire to erradicate the world of its Armenian population), however Armenia has very good relations with Iran, and to the contrary, both countries are deepening their relationship on many levels over recent years. In general, Armenia and Georgia have normal relations also. Thanks again!!!

    • Thanks for making that point clear, Craig! I did know (but unfortunately did not express) that Armenia does have good relationships with Iran … and also with Georgia. I also have been worried about Armenia being flooded with refugees in the event that the Syrian situation gets any worse, so would love to hear what you think about that!!

  8. Mike Schultz Paintings

    Beautiful photos!

    • Thanks so much, Mike! I really appreciate your comment and I’m glad you like my photos — it’s SO fun for me to be able to look back on them and think, “I can’t believe I got to be there!”

  9. Betty, what a wonderful post. The faces you captured are astounding! I’m fascinated by the “prayer crosses” in the second photo. Can you tell me about them? Thanks so much for taking me to a country I have yet to visit. And thanks to you, it’s now on the list. All the best, Terri

    • Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply — your comment was buried in an avalanche of others (weird facebook threads) — anyhow, these prayer crosses are everywhere in Armenia and I think they were meant to take the place of actual churches, giving people a place to pray, in a surreptitious way when Christianity was just beginning in Armenia. Aren’t they beautiful??

      • craig

        Khatchkars are a ceremonial stones meant to celebrate something important, from something as grand and important as a battle to something less significant yet special that happened at a specific site. Or a dedication to someone or something. Many times they are also merely burial stones marking a grave. they come in many forms. They are the equivalent of what Western European countries like Spain would have, called “ex-votos” or “ex-vots” in Catalunya, where people would pay to dedicate a religious offering for whatever personal reason.

      • Thanks for the clarification, Craig — I am so happy someone really knows and would share that knowledge! Aren’t they beautiful???

      • craig

        yes! I have always been in awe of them, Betty!

  10. proud to be 50 % Armenian ) … great journey !

    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE Armenia — and it’s always so striking to me how many Armenians are incredibly proud of their heritage, and they should be! What a beautiful country (and the food is incredible!!)

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