Lake Sevan is hugely important as a provider of energy, a resort area for locals and visitors and as the source of irrigation for the orchards and farms of the hinterland. Fish from the lake, particularly trout, are an important source of food. 28 rivers flow in, only one flows out. There are 6 hydro electric power stations which use the waters of the lake to produce energy.
The monastery at Sevanavank holds a commanding position over the lake and the resort that has grown on the shore near the President’s summer residence.
Lake Sevan is Armenia’s seaside. The resort is full of reminders of what Soviet summer fun must have been like. Bleached walkways lead to the water, rusty metal umbrellas cover flaking seats, tired bamboo shield picnic tables from the wind off the lake. Leather-skinned men, with cigarettes glued to their lips, offer boat rides.
The hawkers are here selling cheap jewellery, precious stones and local produce.
Then it is a drive into the Caucasus Mountains proper. The landscape changes completely. This feels like mountains. Tall deciduous forest grows up the side of canyons and gorges and through their turning foliage the highest ridges are bare and exposed. Streams provide a harmonious accompaniment of trickles and hushes on their descent through the trees. The road winds through this natural cathedral where sky and rock and flora combine to lift the spirit. Haghartsin Monastery is hidden away in the forest.
Dilijan is a small town nestling in a valley.
We pass through a Molokan village and drop into a home for tea. They are a sect of Russian Old Believers who live in their own communities and lead a very simple, rural life. Tea is very simple- tea, potato doughnuts, lavash (thin, floppy pancake-type pitta breads) with home made apricot jam.
One last night in Armenia.