Thanks to an awesome e-mail to-do and to-eat list from our friend Natalie, we we’re prepped and ready to check out Yerevan in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Then, in a stroke of luck, we met a group of American Peace Corps people who had been living in Armenia for almost two years. With these powers combined, we had a more fun and interesting experience in Armenia than we could have ever hoped for.
We’re both so glad to have experienced a country and culture that we knew so little about. We spent most of our time in Yerevan, which felt like a fairly modern European city with a tinge of a grim post-Soviet hangover. As one of the oldest continuously human-inhabited regions of the world it goes without saying that Armenia and it’s neighbors have a complex and fascinating history. I won’t even attempt nutshell it here (as our buddy Zakar did so entertainingly over Georgian beers on a shoddy balcony in Yerevan), but just getting a glimpse and taste of it was a enriching experience.
Some highlights include: a brandy tasting at Ararat distillery, where we befriended two Iranian girls (Negar and Elham) and a twin brother-sister combo (Mubarak and) from Kuwait who were all really amazing and fun people. A hilarious and thorough regional history breakdown by Zakar, California native and Peace Corps resident philosopher and historian. A semi-abandoned Soviet-era theme park (a Zakar rec). Visits to Noravank, Geghard, and Garni – a few of the relatively local historic sites, which were all really beautiful – with Victoria and Stacey. Eating (and drinking) at Crumbs, Aperitvo, and Kavkas.
The coolest, most unexpected part of the trip was randomly being taken to Areni-1 Cave Complex. We were in Areni doing a bit of wine tasting, and met an Armenian guy who was insistent on taking us to the cave and having his friend (a groundskeeper) let us take a look. When traveling, one tends to have a little bit of their “what’s-in-it-for-you” guard up when someone offers anything, but this guy turned out to just be a fantastic human (seemingly lots of these in Armenia… and the world. #DeepThoughts), and he was just really excited to share his local claim-to-fame with us. Sure enough, it was incredible. It’s one of the most significant architectural dig sites in the world, and is currently being excavated for some of the oldest remnants of human life that have ever been discovered. We were mere feet from 6,000 year old wine-making remnants and the site of the oldest leather footwear ever discovered. It was absolutely mind-blowing. As a history nerd and lover of humanity, I’ve never felt so moved by a “historical site” – if you can even call it that. Deep human history right in front of us. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Armenia was surprisingly amazing to us. The people we met, both Armenian and American, made our stay so much more interesting, fun, and memorable than we could have asked for. I hope to go back some day. Sincerest thanks to Natalie, Victoria, Stacey, and Zakar for facilitating our exploration and appreciation of that beautiful country.