ARMENIA: The Heaven Here On Earth

ARMENIA: The Heaven Here On Earth

“I have been in beautiful places in the Land of Noah that I just have to leave. That’s an interesting trouble for me as a traveler. To be surrounded by amazing beauty that is compelling to the eyes.” -Bea C. Pilotin

When staring off the surface, it means only one thing- from the deep well of happiness, I’m wishing to make one happy story, but, NO. I will not try to write about happiness this time. Not even a pretentious fancy, huh!

I want to experience it!

Well, how does one describe the beauty of an amazing place? Word by word. Detail by detail. Sense by sense.

ARMENIA: was a Soviet country for around 70 years. That was a period when the love and respect towards the rulers used to gain different forms of expression. A nation, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s defined by religious sites including the Greco-Roman Temple of Garni and 4th-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral headquarters of the Armenian Church. Bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east and Iran and Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan to the south. One of the oldest wine producing countries in the world. Did you know that chess is a compulsory subject in schools? Quite interesting, huh! It was in Yerevan where many huge international chess tournaments have been held. It’s the Armenia which was the first country to have adopted Christianity as its state religion and one of the only mono-ethnic countries in the world. The first church in the world  was built in this country. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were massacred during the Genocide. Armenians bake their lavash underground in a tonir. The entire country worship Mt. Ararat which is also a national symbol of Armenia. The apricot is one of the symbols of the country. The Yerevan is also called as, The Pink City. There’s a stork village here in Armenia. And there is no discrimination between tourists and locals in the country.

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The sight of HOPE was dazzling and intoxicating. Such beauty! I was alive to feel it- to see it. The intoxicating scents of the City were caressing me- pine needles, wood smoke, crisp cold smell and chestnuts in the fire. Oh, the snow was so beautiful! How wonderful not to have died before this. To have been allowed, breathed and felt the happiness. Heaven is here on earth.

It was an early December. A soft blast of wind threw a snow into my face. The cold comfort charms and the sweetness of winter invited me out. I woke up sticking my head out between the sliding door to the terrace and stared at the statue of Mother of Armenia. It’s truly magnificent, victoriously and jubilantly rises in Victory Park. Sometimes you’ve got the feeling that this statue was seen from any angle and any high building in Yerevan. It’s one of the tallest statues in Yerevan. It was 22 meters (approximately 72 feet) high. Overall, the monument together with the statue is 51 meters (approximately 167 feet) high. The statue and the pedestal were made of different materials. It’s made of hammered copper and the pedestal – of basalt. But now, it’s gone- all covered or wrapped with snow. The beautiful colors of the leaves were all gone. The place was totally white. I was so impressed! I went out to the terrace and inhaled the scent of the snow. It was so good- so lovely. I felt like I was in heaven, then returning back on my table, taking sips of Georgian tea, the warmth radiated through my body. It’s always the first sip or two that stirs to the soul. Why is that? Ah, I didn’t struggle to describe the word, “happiness” at all. “Oh God, this place is heaven as they said and it’s true! A wonderland whose beauty is beyond almost anything I have ever seen. How about finding out?

Putting on a pair of navy blue jeans and jonquil-purple wool blouse with a contrasting navy blue coat. I walked over to the mirror to brush my hair- and I started to feel an excitement. I couldn’t help it. The more I have to think about snow, the eager I was to see it. I went outside while the snow was fresh and smooth, no remark of footprints. As I walked through a strangely quiet City, every sound muffled, under a slate-grey sky that promised more snow. I looked around me- the cafés were full of people who came in to escape the snow. Inside, every seat was taken and people stood deep at the bar. There was musty smell. Windows were steamed up.

The walk continued straight to the Opera House, the Southern quadrant of France Square merges with its surroundings recreational area. Designed by renowned architect Alexander Tamanian and it stood as one of the best and most real examples of Soviet architecture. Obviously, Tamanian combined two auditoria in one building with one roof over two stages. The Opera House was opened in 1933 and three years later, Alexander Tamanian was awarded a gold medal at the International exhibition held in Paris. The theater was named after the Armenian composer, Alexander Spendirian. He was the first one to perform at the Opera House. From this place, I walked down Northern Avenue to return to the heart of Yerevan, Republic Square completing the Eastern part of the walk around Yerevan. I looked around the place, it’s built with a beautiful pinkish tuff which they called it an Armenian traditional stone that has an awesome beautiful combination especially when the sun is ready to set in the afternoon. It’s so widely beautiful. What took me by surprise were those little fountains that were seen everywhere. They said it’s a spring with pure transparent water if you’re in the mountains, or the famous “pulpulaks” which you can find almost on every street and yards in Armenia. While I was taking a bow to drink on the unique one-meter-high bubbling jet, a friend of mine said, the country has a special attitude to water even since the great civilization of antiquity. The people, who fought with a rock day after day for a piece of bread, worshipped the water. And centuries ago, when mutual respect was valued of gold weight, people often built on road springs with drinking water and carved on them the following phrase: “TRAVELER, STOP AND TAKE A BOW.” The Armenian plateau is rich in water resources. It’s a unique hydrographic unit, which has hosted four major rivers of Asia: the Euphrates, Tigris, Araks (or Yeraskh – Armenia’s mother river) and Chorokh that, according to the Old Testament, are the four sacred rivers of Eden.

I stared on that giant stairway that linked the downtown Kentron area to the City. So attracting, I wondered. From the top of Cascade, the beautiful view overlooking the Yerevan City, 16,854 ft. Mt. Ararat and 12,782 ft. Little Ararat. It’s the place where I felt so safe and where I could think about life. I could clearly see from where I was standing the snow-capped and dormant compound volcano. It was associated with the “Mountains of Ararat” in the Bible. It was the traditional resting place of Noah’s Ark according to the Book of Genesis. The main national symbol of Armenia and it’s considered a “Holy Mountain” by Armenians.

On the other sad place, I visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial. Before I decided to finally go there, I have done some quite reading about it and I had mentally prepared myself for the museum. However there were three things I was trying to forget: Photos of starving children and brutally murdered; of the old men and women thirsty and died with hunger and slaughtered in cold blood; and photos of a massive blood stain everywhere. From the museum, a broad pathway flanked by a 100m- long wall engraved with the names of massacred communities leads to the memorial, which was built in 1967. It consists of a 40-m high spire next to a circle of 12 basalt slabs leaning over to guard an eternal flame that they dedicated to the 1.5 million people killed during the Armenian Genocide. These 12 tilted slabs represent the lost provinces of Western Armenia. While the spire has a fine spilt dividing it into larger and smaller needles, the smaller one representing Western Armenia. I stared at the monument, then, I began to imagine the eyes of those victims begging for compassion. And felt the weight of pain and sorrow in my heart. I felt hatred and despair. I wanted to cry about those subjugated people, whose human rights were stripped away by horror. I picked one piece of taraxacum, cusped it in my hands- with my eyes closed and whispered, “May all of them rest in peace!” then blew the spores away. On the ground, there is a stand of cedar trees planted by foreign leaders of the different countries who used the term genocide to describe the event that occurred. I left the place with misty-eyed and heavy heart. Yes, a place where one can feel the pain- that when you turned your back to leave the place, you would never wish of looking back again. You just want to walk away and leave.

This is what holidays and travels are about. It is not really to rest and chase the leisure. We want to renew our ability for wonder, to just surprise ourselves to astonishment once again. It’s such an unexpected pleasure and I never get tired. I created memories of my holiday by getting some postcards of Mt. Ararat, Mother of Armenia, The Cascade overlooking the Mt. Ararat, Opera House, Republic Square and all that. Everything is alien. I have been in beautiful places in this City that I just have to leave. I can’t take it. That’s an interesting trouble for travelers. To be surrounded by amazing beauty that is compelling to the eyes. I took a photograph of every single thing, even the last leaf that fell down to the ground on the last day of autumn. I have kept the paper napkin and tried to take away menu from a restaurant. I brought home with me a small snake- shaped bottle of whiskey that a man gave me. He said smiling, “This is for you. It’s a simple token for coming in our country. Welcome to Armenia.” I brought home with me the fallen autumn leaves with different colors and different shapes; those fruits of the cedar trees and so on. It’s always been our characteristics to bring home souvenirs or two from a place we’ve been to, especially for the first time. Maybe it’s our sentimental nature that made us store sackful of souvenirs, so that each time nostalgia hits us, there’s a memento we can see, touch and evoke memories of the good times. There were other wonderful moments with my friends on that glorious holiday- delicious foods, sips of Armenian Champagne and Georgian wines and much laughter. The scents of the wood fires, fresh air- we gather December’s joy- with a playful snow walk. We hold the gaze and flashed a smile. We hugged. We embraced. We laughed. And we just love everybody. And hey, don’t count on getting by in English. Your best bet is Russian or learning some Armenian words, people will love you for it!

What I have seen there or what I have done was really a part of my life and happiness. If the heart has a memory, somewhere in time, in the vast lingering landscapes of the mind these words and feeling of happiness will forever be inscribed.

To all of you- an immeasurable THANK YOU for being there with me when I decided to make one of my dreams come true.

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