Read Armenia: Part 1 here. Many apologies for the long delay in posting Part 2, I know you’ve all been waiting breathlessly…
On Saturday we headed out to Etchmiadzin, which is a small town not too far from Yerevan and boasts the distinction of being the spiritual center of Armenia since it is home to the head church.
The Etchmiadzin Cathedral was built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century. The legend goes that Christ beamed a light down to Earth to show Saint Gregory where he should build the church. Although this isn’t the original structure, parts of it date from the 7th century.
One of the most interesting things about the Cathedral is that it hosts in its treasury what is allegedly the lance that pierced Christ’s side during the crucifixion to see if he was still alive. The treasury also claims to host relics from Noah’s Ark. While later doing some internet research, I found out that there are quite a few lances claiming to be the true Holy Lance (shocking) and in fact National Geographic had an entire show about it if you’re interested in learning more.
Regardless of authenticity, there were a lot of impressive relics in the Treasury, and the cathedral is probably one of the most interesting I’ve visited.
Once we returned to Yerevan, we took a bus over to the Erebuni Fortress, which I was pretty excited to check out. We were met with another huge flights of stairs to get up to the top.
The ruins are in a beautiful location offering sweeping views of the city, but unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot of information, so I wasn’t sure what I was really looking at.
The most exciting part, however, was when I was peering south looking for Mount Ararat – and I finally saw it! One of the things I was most excited to see coming to Armenia was Mt Ararat. Allegedly you’re supposed to be able to see it from pretty much everywhere in the city, but I was unable to spot it at all thanks to bright sun and plenty of smog haze. I had to squint a LOT though. Unfortunately it was so bright and hazy that the picture didn’t turn out at all, but maybe if you squint into the picture you can see it too? Apparently if you just drive a little bit south of the city you can see it really well. Maybe I’ll make it back!
On Sunday we got off to an early start and headed north to Lake Sevan. The lake is a little less than an hour’s drive from Yerevan, and we made the trip easily in a marshrutka. We arrived in the town of Sevan and hired a taxi to take us over to the Sevanavank cathedrals. The cathedrals are located on a peninsula, which used to be an island until waters receded in the 20th century. Of course we encountered another flight of stairs up the hill to the cathedrals and even though this was probably my 5th flight of stairs in the last few days, and small compared to the other flights, for some reason, it was a total killer; I felt like my lungs were burning! Maybe it was a change in altitude?
Anyway, I made it to the top and was rewarded with beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
At the far end of the peninsula, jetting out into the lake, you’ll find a fence – beyond the fence is the President’s summer home – must be nice!
From there we negotiated with our taxi driver to drive us to the 9th century Hayravank Monastery. It was pretty far, so it was definitely a splurge (no public transportation unfortunately), but it turned out to be well worth it. It was probably one of my most favorite churches I’ve seen so far.
The cathedral sits on the edge of the lake, amongst centuries-old ruins, near some inconspicuous farmland. We were the only people there for quite a while, until a family pulled up and lit some candles. I particularly admired the carvings all over both the interior and exterior walls. I couldn’t help but think that if you were going to be a monk in the 11th century that this would be a nice place to be!
We spent our last evening in Yerevan enjoying traditional Armenian food at an overly traditional (kitschy?) restaurant. My kebab was completely delicious though!
We headed back to the hostel for the evening, since we were a little tired of smoky clothing, and played a few crazy rounds of Go Fish, and I taught Kevin how to play cribbage. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Yerevan and Armenia!
Want more pictures? Check out my photo album on Facebook for more from my trip to Armenia!