OK. After several years of playing my travelling very safe I decided it was time to push back my horizons and try a new adventure to somewhere a bit out of the ordinary and where I have never travelled to before. So I am off to the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Georgia, travelling northwards through one to the other. New language. New alphabets. New cultures. New environments. These countries between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea straddle the Caucasus Mountains. The caravans of the Silk Route started and ended their journeys around here and criss-crossed the area on their way to and from Europe and Asia.
The adventure starts in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia from way back in 180AD when Christianity was first adopted by the Armenian people. How about this for the view out of my window on the first morning.
Yes, that’s snow on that peak reflecting the rays of the morning sun. I learnt, as the day progressed, that views of Mount Ararat, the place where Noah set down his ark, would accompany us all the time we were in the city.The place has really developed since the turn of the 20th century. Grand 9/10 storey apartment buildings line wide leafy boulevards. It has the feel of a cosmopolitan Paris. Statues of writers, leaders, artists, soldiers (even Armenia’s favourite son – Charles Asnavor) peer through the spreading branches of columns of plane trees on every street.
It’s Sunday. So it seems appropriate to go to church…..well, 2 churches and 2 cathedrals to be precise. First stop is the ancient church of Hripsime.
The next stop is the church of Gayane, covered with its 21st century shell of scaffolding.
The artist managed to capture is grace and form using his imagination. These guys are only too pleased to have their photos taken in the shaded peace of the gardens.
The service was in full flow in the cathedral of Echmiadzin with a packed congregation and tag teams of clergymen preaching in all four corners before heading away from the chants, the singing and the haze of incense into the fresh air outside. Bearded clergy stand around discussing theology and putting the world to right, and maybe heaven.
The 7th-century ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral kindles images of those first days of the bible and the birth of Christianity, especially as the silhouette of Mt Ararat holds firm between the pillars.
What an amazing first day in Armenia.