Our Bride Story Blogger Manifa shares her personal experience of traveling to Armenia for the very first time. While at first she was not a fan of Armenia, the beautiful sights, the delicious food, and the relaxed attitude of the people helped change her mind about the beautiful country of Armenia. She tells us all about her trip as well as tips for traveling to Armenia. Grab some popcorn and settle in; this is a blog you don't want to miss!
Barev Hargeli Harser yev Pesaner. Clearly, someone’s Armenian has recently gotten better. Why you ask? Well it’s because I just spent two whole weeks in Armenia speaking, reading, and writing in only Armenian! I’m so excited to be blogging about my trip to the Motherland so let’s just get started.
How it all Began
Emin and I planned our Armenia trip when our Kavor and KavorKin told us they were getting married there in August. On top of that Emin’s cousin also was having his wedding there a week after our Kavor’s. We knew we couldn’t miss these weddings so we purchased our tickets right away. We flew to Armenia on July 25th and got there at 12am on July 27th. Because we got there at night I couldn’t exactly tell what Armenia looked like. I was just happy to be out of a plane and able to walk around. Our first night we went out and drank a few beers and by the time we got home the sun was coming up.
Emin and I stood at the window in our room on the 7th story of our apartment and watched the sun come up. That’s when the horror of Armenia hit me! I know you must be wondering, what do I mean by horror? Well, I’m going to be very blunt and honest here; Yerevan is not a very nice-looking city. From our window all I could see are half built buildings, crappy backyards, and disgusting unfinished, litter filled roads. And don’t even get me started on the smell! It was disgusting. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to spend 2 weeks in this third world country looking place. I instantly began to cry and beg Emin to go home. I couldn’t believe my eyes, or my nose. I knew I already hated Armenia.
For the first three days we were there, I dreaded going out. All I could think about was how much I wanted to go home, how much I hated Armenia, and how much I already missed my mom. We didn’t do much the first three days other than explore, but the more we walked around the more I hated Yerevan. Things started to take a turn on the third night when we went to a very popular outdoor restaurant called Parvana. This place was a bit out of Yerevan, in the mountains. The views were amazing. They were set up kind of like a wedding where they served family style Korovats as food and there was live music and dancing. They even had a dance group perform a few numbers. I was starting to enjoy my night out when Emin’s cousin, Sarine, called for me to follow her. As we pushed through a whole bunch of people all of a sudden, I could smell something amazing! I looked around and there it was! A tonir with ladies making fresh lavash! I was so excited. I had been saying before our trip that I had to eat freshly made bread in Armenia at least once. The lady at the tonir handed me this round fat lavash and when I bit into it it was like I was in heaven! I could easily say it was the most amazing thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. That piece of bread was the catalyst to me changing my mind about Armenia.
A Shift in Mood
On our 4th day in Armenia the jet lag hit both me and Emin! We actually fell asleep at 2PM in the afternoon and woke up at 11PM at night. We went out and got a quick bite to eat and came back and fell asleep until 9AM the next morning. We both hadn't realized how tired we were. My lack of sleep was making me a monster! After sleeping away the jetlag things were starting to look up. Emin and I discovered Vernissage while we were exploring Yerevan. We were able to buy some really cool souvenirs for our family and we even invested in a hand carved backgammon board for our own future home. We went to eat at some amazing restaurants. I was very surprised to see how many beautiful restaurants there were in Yerevan. The food was absolutely amazing everywhere we went and everywhere had a very unique look and vibe that you we don’t have here in the States. One of my most favorite places was Paulaner, a small German restaurant by Cascade. I’m not a huge fan of beer, but they had the best beer and carrots EVER! We went there about 3 different times because we loved it so much. The more time we spent it Yerevan, the more I started liking Armenia.
The First Wedding
August 1st was our Kavor and KavorKin’s wedding. I can easily say their wedding was one of the most beautiful weddings I have attended in my life. I’m not sure if it was because they are such close people in our lives, or if it was because I’ve never seen two people more in love, but everything from the festivities at the “Bride’s House” to the reception at the end was amazing. I don’t want to spill much because I know my KavorKin Evie is writing her own blog for Harsanik, but I will say this; Evie’s dad is the one who performed her marriage ceremony and I cried from beginning to end. He talked about the whole concept of marriage and how each person must leave their family behind to start their own family. I kept looking at Emin, standing with all the Groomsmen and we would make eye contact and smile. Although Evie’s dad was talking about her and Narbe, we knew that everything he said also pertained to us as well. We partied the night away and had the most amazing time ever.
Places We Have Been, Things We Have Seen
After Narbe and Evie’s wedding we decided to do a full day trip to Sevan, Dilijian, and Tsaghkadzor. So bright and early one morning me, Emin, and 20 other people from Emin’s family got onto a shuttle and made our way to "Sevana Lich". When we got there, I was sorely disappointed. I’m not sure why, but I had a very magical image as to what Sevan would look like. I had this idea it was going to be like clear water, black rocks, and a forest behind the shore. It was just a lake, like every other lake here in California. Although it was not how I imagined it would look, I had fun at Sevan. Emin and I went jet skiing, we had lunch at this amazing restaurant in Dilijian, and we got to explore an old church while it was pouring rain while in Tsaghkadzor. It was a long day, but it was worth it to get out of Yerevan and see how beautiful it is outside of the city.
One of my most favorite trips was when we went to Khor Virap and Tatev Monistary. For those who don’t know Khor Virap is a pit where Grigor Lusavorich was thrown because he was Christian. He was expected to die, however for 15 years a woman fed him and kept him alive through a little hole at the top of the dungeon. The cool thing about Khor Virap was that you can actually go down into the pit and see how Grigor Lusavorich lived! There is a narrow passageway where you have to climb down a ladder until you get to the bottom. I was extremely nervous about the tight space and I wasn’t sure what it would be like down at the bottom, but I convinced myself to climb down. I also didn’t want to seem like a sissy in front of Emin, so basically, I had no choice. When we got to the bottom of that dungeon I was surprised to feel how cool it was compared to the blistering heat outside, and then I realized a man spent 15 years stuck in this tiny little space. It was unbelievable! I couldn’t imagine spending 5 minutes in there let alone 15 years! The other cool thing about Khor Virap was that it was our first time being able to see Ararat Mountain. Throughout our whole trip Ararat was right outside our window, however it was always way too cloudy to see it. When we got up the hill at Khor Virap and I saw the mountain I felt like a part of me was satisfied. Since I was a little girl I remember my mom telling me stories about Armenia and our history. Mount Ararat is such an important part of our culture that I had always dreamed about seeing it in person. I knew it was going to be a very powerful moment when I did and it truly was!
After Khor Virap we began our drive to Tatev. Interestingly enough, Emin and I were not supposed to be going on this trip. We were told that the drive to Tatev would take about 3 hours. Emin really didn’t want to sit in a shuttle for that long. The night before we had gone out to a rooftop bar call El Sky Bar with some of our friends, drank, and stayed out until 4 in the morning. In our drunk state we agreed to go to Tatev, so 3 hours later we woke up and found ourselves sitting in a shuttle. Ironically the drive to Tatev didn’t take us 3 hours… IT TOOK US 5! Emin will tell you it wasn’t worth it because it was such a long time to sit in a car, but the view to Tatev was one of my favorite things about Armenia! It was literally like looking at art. The hillsides were amazing, the river was magical. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Those 5 hours flew by so quickly for me because there was so much beauty to look at outside my window. But the best sight of all when we finally got to the Tatev Monorail. That view of the mountain was breathtaking. I felt so peaceful and at home. I honestly would have built a house on the top of those mountains and live there the rest of my life. The Tatev Monorail, or the “Wings of Tatev” was a 3-mile monorail that took you from one part of the mountain to the Tatev Monastery. The Tatev Aerial Tramway is actually in the World Guinness Book of Records as one of the longest Monorails in the world! From there we got to see amazing views of the bottom of the mountain until we got to the church at the top. Nestled between the hills is this amazing old church. Emin and I explored every nook and cranny of the monastery. We climbed up into the windows, found passageways into unexplored rooms, and took so many Instagram worthy pictures I was actually overwhelmed with what I would post! All jokes aside, it was such a beautiful church. Being so close to history and being able to touch and actually explore a place that has been around for so many years was a very out of this world experience. After exploring for hours, we drove to a small "gyugh" (village) and had the most amazing "pamidorov tzevatzegh" (eggs with tomatoes) that I have ever had in my entire life. My mouth is watering as I think about it now. That day was the day I actually learned to appreciate the beauty of Armenia, my Motherland.
Our Last Event: Another Wedding
A few days after Tatev, we attended the second wedding we were in Armenia for. This was Emin’s cousin’s wedding. It was very beautiful, however anything that could go wrong went wrong. The wedding was in an outdoor venue and it was expected to be very hot, however it ended up being extremely windy! People were having trouble sitting outside. It was so windy that the sweetheart table was blown into the pool! Nothing however, could stop anyone from having fun at the wedding. We partied under the stars and even the waiters and waitresses joined us at one point. It was a blast. And that’s how we ended our Armenia trip!
At the beginning of this blog I talked about how much I hated Armenia. I truly did not like it when I first got there, but Armenia grew on me. I learned to fully appreciate it when I got home though. While I was prepping for my first week back at work I was thinking how Emin and I would probably be walking around by the Opera house, eating fresh Tut, and drinking amazing beer. I was thinking about all the beautiful restaurants and the amazing food. I was even thinking how the people in Armenia were so much more relaxed than the people in LA. It took me a long time to appreciate Armenia because I was so used to an LA lifestyle. I was used to beautiful clean streets where the government actually used money to beautify the city I live in. I was used to the hustle and bustle of a busy city with traffic and angry people. I’ve never really lived in or been to a “poor” country before and the reality of it sucks, but Armenia has so much more to offer than just some cruddy streets and unfinished buildings. Armenia is a warm, loving country. It’s truly a place where you go to have fun, relax, and enjoy your own history. Although I never quite felt ownership of Armenia as MY home country, I will always love it there and be ready to go back. I do believe all Armenians should visit and experience Armenia at least once; I plan on going back next summer!
Tips for Traveling to Armenia
A few tips to help those who are planning on traveling to Armenia soon.
- Make sure you learn the area you are living in. Pretty much everything is connected and you can walk everywhere.
- A taxi shouldn’t cost more than 1000AMD MAX in the city. Find either a shuttle service, or a reliable taxi driver who would be willing to take you outside of the city for a good price and just call them anytime you want to go someplace.
- Take a paid-off phone and get an Armenia SIM card. You will actually need an Armenia number while you are out there.
- Download the GiGi app. It’s kind of like Uber for taxis.
- Go easy on the food the first few days because it’s all natural and our stomachs are not used to hormone free food.
- You need comfortable shoes 100% of the time.
- If you plan to leave Yerevan to go see the outskirts of Armenia, be prepared for long drives.
- Cash is king. You don’t really need a credit card there.
- Some places you should really go to eat in Yerevan are Parvana, Lavash Restaurant, Atlantis, Tiziano, Jazzve, Dolmama, and make sure you have beer and carrots at Paulaner by Cascade.
- And the most important piece of advice I can give, go with an open mind and no expectations. Armenia has a lot to offer, but you won’t know what until you are there. I also suggest staying more than 2 weeks. By the time Emin and I had figured out the flow of Yerevan we had to come home.
Well fellow readers, this is usually where I end my blogs with goodbye and “Happy Planning”, but I don’t think it pertains to this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Armenia travels. I can’t wait to go back and hopefully do more things that I can write about for Harsanik! Until then… Happy Travels!
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