H.E. Ambassador of Armenia to the Netherlands Mr. Tigran Balayan invites you to a virtual trip to Armenia, to visit his favourite places and learn more about his breath-taking country.
By Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska
What comes to your mind when you think of your childhood? Life full of adventures, legends and myths about kings and queens, palaces and kingdoms, or maybe touching stories of man’s courage, love, suffering and happiness, taste of grandma’s delicious food that takes you back home, friends full of love and mercy??
Here in Armenia everybody will definitely find what they are missing- unforgettable memories, a new favorite dish, good friends.
If you are ready, let’s start the journey.
Founded in 782 BC, Yerevan is considered as one of the oldest constantly inhabited cities in the World. The Erebuni fortress being the pillar around which the city of Yerevan was born, 2800 plus year old remnants can still be found there, as well as a cuneiform inscription attesting to the birth of the city.
Temple of Garni
A staple of pre-Christian Armenia, this is the only pagan temple that has persisted and survived after Armenia officially adopted Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century. Furthermore, it is the only pagan edifice of the country as well as of the Soviet Union that remains standing.
This medieval monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with enhanced protection status. The monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator. It is located within a close distance from the Garni temple, therefore both sites are often visited on the same go and often form a unisson known as Garni-Geghard.
Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin
Included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, these two are considered to be masterpieces presenting the summum of Armenian religious architecture. Being built between the 10th and 13th century, Haghpat monastery is a medieval architectural complex, located in Lori, in the Northern region of the country. The nearby monastery Sanahin was founded in the 10th century with its name meaning “this one is older than that one”.
Cathedral and Churches of Etchmiadzin
The first official Chrstian church in the world, Etchmiadzin is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Etchmiadzin is one of the main pilgrimage destinations of Armenia. The complex is surrounded by museums hosting a number of precious historical documents and artifacts such as a piece of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, the spear which pierced his side as well as a piece of Noah’s Ark.
This 9th century monastery is located in the Syunik province, in the South-East region of the country. In the beginning of the 11th century, the complex hosted around 1,000 monks and a large number of artisans, Furthermore in the 14th and 15th centuries, one of the most important Armenian medieval universities was located in the monastery.
Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Built from 643 to 652, it was considered as a masterpiece of the Armenian religious architecture and remained standing for 320 years until its collapse in the 10th century.
The largest body of water not only in Armenia but also in the Caucasus, lake Sevan is considered as one of the freshest waters and one of the highest lakes in the world, with an altitude reaching 1900 meters above sea level. Fed by 28 rivers and streams, Sevan takes up a considerable surface of the territory of Armenia.
Also known as the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, this museum located in Yerevan hosts an impressive collection of over 17 thousand ancient manuscripts and more than 100 thousand ancient archival documents. It is considered as one of the largest repositories in the world and the largest repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts. The Matenadaran Museum is divided into 9 thematic exhibitions including halls of manuscripts of Artsakh, oriental manuscripts, medieval medicine, ancient maps, archival documents, ancient books and more.
One of the cornerstones and staples of Armenian culture and its people, Armenia is considered as one of the oldest wine producing destinations in the world. During archaeological excavations a few years ago, a 6100 year-old winery was discovered in the cave Areni-1. It is the most ancient winery found to this date.
The country is known for its apricots which are not only abundant, but also have a juicy and uniquely delicious taste. Hence they are considered as Armenia’s fruit. Even the scientific name of the fruit is Prunus armeniaca meaning Armenian plum.
Aside from being consumed raw, you can find the fruit in various forms here, such as dried apricots, apricot marmalades, apricot leather wraps, and even apricot vodka…
Also known as “the soul of an apricot tree” due to its apricot wood tube, this national musical instrument is considered to be one of the oldest wind musical instruments in the world.
With its dreamy, soulful and velvety sound Duduk has been a popular pick for Hollywood movie themes and soundtracks. You have most probably been familiarized with its captivating notes through films such as the ‘’Gladiator’’, “The Last Temptation of Christ”,, “Alexander”, “The Passion of the Christ”, “Da Vinci Code”, “Hulk” etc
Duduk is listed in the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage
Oldest Shoe in the World
Found in 2008 in perfect conditions, the Areni-1 shoe is a 5500 year old leather shoe, it’s the most ancient piece of footwear found to date.
ADVENTURE AND SPORTS
Armenia offers a wide array of adventure and extreme sports such as
The country doesn’t lack options for Hiking, with difficulties going from easy to highly challenging levels. From Mount Aragats, to Forrestial landscapes, national parks such as the one located in the picturesque Dilijan , fortresses and more… The options for a good hike are endless here, with something for everyone.
which is not by any mean a new sport to Armenia, given that the very first paraglide in the country took off in 1997.
This sport has gained a huge popularity within the last few years, with some of the most popular destinations for practicing it being the Debet river, in the Lori region, situated North of the country.
The country offers many interesting landscapes which are a perfect fit to this very old and multidisciplinary activity. From the Khosrov Forest, the devil’s bridge (considered as one of the most beautiful wonders of Armenia), to cascades of waterfall in Lichk (south of Lake Sevan)… Canyoning can be practiced in a multitude of places in Armenia and with different difficulty levels.
There is almost any kind of cave you seek in Armenia, from man made caves to natural caves, from human inhabited caves to caves with outstanding rock formations – there’s something for every history enthusiast or adventure seeker. With more than 10,000 caves throughout the country, Armenia lures and can challenge the subterranean explorer. Caves are located in every region of the country, but the most impressive ones are in the south. Here, nature lovers can camp near natural springs, under the boughs of ancient forests, or below towering rock formations.
Ziplining in Armenia is available all year round. You can experience the thrill both in summer and winter! All four seasons offer a unique natural landscape for you to enjoy while flying on the cable. The nature of Armenia is far more amazing from above, so do not miss your chance to enjoy the scenery and take some cool photos. If you are wondering about the best places to visit in Armenia, these extreme parks can be your choice. You will enjoy both the nature and adrenaline that this extreme activity provides.
Included on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, this thin flatbread is a staple of Armenian cuisine. In 2014, the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity described it as “an expression of Armenian culture”.
Located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, the Armenian cuisine is a rich melting pot of culinary delights. With various and mouth-watering dishes from chicken porridge (harissa) to meat dumplings (manti) and carved pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits and nuts (ghapama) and a succulent sweet, buttery treat (gata) and many more. The Armenian cuisine is a pleasure for your senses and a must-try.
With the New Year just around the corner, we cannot help but mention this essential dish, which is a staple around this time of year.
The delicately wrapped grape leaves or cabbage stuffed with a mouthwatering combo of rice and minced meat is simply out of this world tasty and there is something just so simply comforting (and eye-pleasing) to see them on the Celebration table each year.
Pasuts Dolma is even more quintessential to welcome the New Year with.
This slight variation is vegetarian and vegan-friendly which makes it all the more awesome. Pasuts translates to lenten in English, given that traditionally this time of Year was a fasting period, and the meal symbolizes prosperity and abundance and all the good things that you need to kick off the year on the right track.
These cabbage-wrapped beauties contain an array of protein-packed grains, from red beans to lentils, chickpeas, bulgur you name it. And in order to make it even more complete, usually, a dried piece of fruit (apricot, plum) is included in order to add up a sweet note. An ideal meal…what’s not to love here?
With its very first brandy factory opening in 1877, Armenia is well known for its high quality brandy which was believed to be Winston Churchill’s favorite!
Armenia has about 2700 hours of sunshine a year, and you can enjoy all 4 seasons here to the fullest, with snowy winters, warm sunny summers, enjoyable, blooming springs and cozy autumns.
I hope to meet you in person in my breath-taking country Armenia. Armenia is a country of unforgettable impressions, history, heritage, amazing food and hospitable people who would be delighted to have you as a guest.
Images: ©Embassy of Armenia to the Netherlands
Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, board member and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is now part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen since 2005.