Yerevan, Armenia – Day 3 of 3

Today was my last day in Armenia, and my last day of my trip. I woke up early at 7:30am, because I had to pickup my rental car at 8:00am. I walked 5 minutes away to ibis Yerevan Center, where the rental car location was for Alamo. When I arrived there wasn’t anyone there, so I went into the hotel and inquired. The picked up the phone to make a call… I noticed a guy at the other end of the desk answered it, said something in Russian, grabbed a uniform, and left. The lady said “the guy will see you next door now”. It made me chuckle.

My rental car was a newer automatic Nissan Sentra. After doing the walkthrough I drove about one hour towards my first stop; Sevanavank. Sevanavank is a 9th Century Armenian Apostolic Church located on a peninsula at the Northwestern shore of Lake Sevan, about an hour Northeast of Yerevan. Initially the monastery was located on the southern shore of a small island, however after Lake Sevan was drained about 20 metres during the era of Joseph Stalin, the island was transformed into a peninsula. On the Southern shore of the peninsula a guesthouse was built for the Armenian Writers Union, and on the Eastern shore a summer residence was built for the Armenian President. Unfortunately the entire entrance was gated off, and since I was already feeling uncomfortable being in the country I chose not to try to see it up close. I used my Sony RX100v6 to zoom in on it.

Next stop was Goshavank Monastery, about a 40 minute drive away. What an incredible drive! Windy road after windy road, with frost on all the trees! Unfortunately I also went through a few check stops on the drive, and they seemed pretty upset with me visiting Azerbaijan. I really should have entered into the country on my UK Passport…

Goshavank Monastery is a 12th Century Armenian Apostolic monastery located in the village of Gosh. The monastery is in mostly original state, and remains in good condition. Goshavank was built in the place of an older monastery called Nor Getik, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1188. Mkhitar Gosh, a statesman, scientist, and author played a major role in the rebuilding of the monastery. The site consists of St. Astvatsatin Church, St. Gregory Church, St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, Double Chapel, Single Chapel, Gavit of St. Astvatsatsin Church, a Bell Tower and Book Despository, School Building, and a Gallery. The site is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. While I was here there was a beautiful husky named Hank that wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted a ton of attention; it was really cute and made me miss Ru.

After visiting Goshavank Monastery I drove to Haghartsin Monastery Complex, a 13th Century monastery located near the town of Dilijan in the Dilijan National Park, a World Heritage Site. Construction of the monastery began in the 10th Century with St. Gregory Church being the first building to be built. The monastery contains St. Astvatsatin Church, St. Astvatsatin Church Gavit ruins, St. Gregory Church, St. Gregory Gavit, St. Sepanos Church, and the Bagratuni Sepulchre. While I was here there were also a few friendly dogs that kept me company.

It was time to grab some lunch so I stopped at Cafe Number 2, located in Dilijan to have some delicious pizza, and a few coffees. Cafe Number 2 is staffed by 14-18 year olds looking to make their way in the hospitality industry. I found them to be exceptionally polite, and the food and coffee were fantastic!

I then tried to visit a few other monasteries, but wasn’t successful due to the weather, and two aggressive dogs. I gave up and ended up driving over 1.5 hours to my next location; Saint Hovhannes Church. Saint Hovhannes Church is a 10th century basilica located in the village of Byurakan, Northeast of the city of Yerevan. The basilica is different than many others in the country because it doesn’t have a dome. I wanted to take some photos of the inside, however there was currently an active service, and when I entered everyone was staring at me so I left quickly.

30 minutes away was Charent’s Arch, which was an unplanned visit. Charents’s Arch is an monument dedicated to the famous Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, who loved and admired the beauty of Mount Ararat. Unfortunately today was very foggy so I couldn’t see much of a view.

Along the same road is the Pagan Temple of Garni and Geghard Monastery, my two last stops of the day.

The Pagan Temple of Garniis the only standing Grego-Roman colonnaded (columned) building in Armenia, and in the entirety of the former Soviet Union. It’s a bit foggy as to when the structure was originally built, but it’s believed to have been built by king Tiridates I in the 1st Century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia was converted to Christianity in the early 4th Century, it was then converted into a royal summer house for Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III. It collapsed in an earthquake in 1679, and lay in ruins until it was reconstructed between 1969 and 1975 by a team lead by architect Alexander Sahinian.

Geghard Monastery is a 4th Century medieval monastery located in a partially carved out mountain in the Kotayk region of Armenia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery was founded in the 4th Century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery was originally named Ayrivank, which means “The Monastery of the Cave”. Today the monastery is known by its current name of Gegardavank, which means “The Monastery of the Spear”. There’s a legend suggesting that Apostle Judy (Thaddeus) brought the spear that injured Jesus during the crucifixion to Geghard. The first monastery was destroyed by the Arabs in the 9th century. The current iteration of the monastery was started in 1215. Some of the churches within the monastery are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, some are little more than caves, and others are elaborate structures.

Afterwards I drove an hour back to Yerevan, parked my car at Freedom Square, and walked back to my hotel. After resting for a while I walked next door to the grocery store and purchased some fruit and vegetables for dinner. I had to call it an early night since I needed to wake up at 3:00am to drive to the airport. Unfortunately some very loud ladies woke me up at 12:55am when they came back to the hotel and had a conversation in the hallway. I only ended up getting 2 hours of sleep.

I drove back to the airport and dropped off my car. Upon check-in I was presented with an upgrade to business class for my first of three flights. At this point I already knew that my third flight was also upgrade, but wasn’t sure about my second flight yet. I settled into the lounge to do some photo editing and some work. There was this obnoxiously loud individual talking on speakerphone in the lounge, however at this point in time I chose to ignore him.

My first flight was on an Austrian Airlines A320 from Yerevan, Armenia to Vienna, Austria. In Vienna I had a 4 hour layover so I checked into the lounge to do some more photo editing and work. Guess what… obnoxious guy also came into this lounge, and chose to sit right next to me. Within 10 minutes he started up a facetime conversation with someone, and this was an open invitation for me to comment. I turned to him and said “I chose to ignore you at the last airport, however nobody wants to hear your conversations. People come to a lounge and relax. He made the unfortunate decision to sit next to me despite the rest of the lounge being completely empty. What you’re doing is obnoxious, and you should be more mindful”. He ended up putting his headphones in, but was still rather loud, so I chose to move. Gotta love those kinds of people… Towards hour three I was notified that I was upgraded to business class, which was great because I was functioning on very little sleep.

My next flight was on an Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Toronto. The flight was a bit turbulent, but other than that went smoothly. I ended up getting about 3 hours of shut eye on the flight, which helped. After arriving in Toronto I caught the Hilton hotel shuttle bus to my hotel. By the time I arrived it was 4:00pm. I worked on my blog for an hour, and then went to bed, sleeping all the way until 3:00am. After waking up I took the shuttle back to the airport to catch my final flight back to Calgary on an Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX-8. Prior to boarding I spent some time in the Air Canada lounge and had some breakfast.

This concludes my Further East Europe trip. Upcoming trips include The Wave, Arizona in March, and Eastern USA in April. Stay tuned!