The Caucasus – Hits and Misses

September 2018

Of all the 84 countries I have traveled in the past 46 years, I have to admit to knowing the least about the countries of the Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. Little is written about this area beyond snippets of information, a few news flashes, and, if you know an Armenian, possibly you are aware of the atrocious genocide of the twentieth century. When I informed my credit card of my travels, I had to spell Azerbaijan for them (after memorizing how to spell it myself) and inform them that Georgia was a country by Russia, not a state near Florida. (more…)

Yerevan, Armenia

28-29 September 2018

Mother Armenia

Mother Armenia, all 70‘ of her with admirable superwoman biceps and stern composure, clasps a powerful 10′ broadsword. I suppose there is much symbolism that can be read into her presence: power, country, martyrs of war, victory in peace. I see a monumental female statue of stone warning that when people have lost patience with foolishness, they will find the strength to overcome. She may be  saying, “Hey guys, fail to do what is right, you can be replaced!”

Mother Armenia already replace one guy who failed humanity. A monumental statue of Joseph Stalin, built in 1950, was a victory memorial for World War Two. It has since disappeared from Victory Park, within sight of a kiddie park and its giant ferris wheel. In 1962, 9 years after Stalin’s death, his statue was removed from this high pedestal and replaced by Mother Armenia. You go girl! (more…)

Surprising Sites of Armenia

27 September 2018

Geghard Monastery

Our first excursion is to Geghard (UNESCO), another monastery. Today promises to be different. I hope so as I may be getting a little jaded about climbing to monasteries. So far I have visited about 1-2 a day for two weeks.

It is said Gregory the Illuminator founded the Geghard Monastery at the site of a sacred spring during the 4th century. Nothing remains of this original structure. What church that does exist was built in 1215 by generals of Queen Tamar of Georgia who pushed out the Turks from this region. A series of chapels were hewn from the rock in the mid-13th century and the complex later expanded to include more chapels, vestry, several caves, large chambers and tombs. It indeed is a special and impressive site carved into and out of the mountain.  (more…)

Armenia – Mountains, Monasteries and Megaliths

25 September 2018

The excitement of spotting
Mount Ararat

Traveling south along the shoreline of Lake Sevan, we have had it too easy and begin to climb into the mountains traversing switchbacks up to the 7,900’ Vardenyats Mountain Pass. The views just gets better and better as our little caravan winds along the Silk Road Wine Trail. Mountains, unique rock formations, deep gorges, green plateaus with large herds of sheep, and shepherds’ huts dot the landscape. 

And then, just around our next turn, atop Vorotan Pass, there to the West, looms Mount Ararat, snow covered and proud, poking above the near mountain peaks. And there, just for a minute, is Lesser Ararat, 4,000’ shorter than big brother but equally exciting to see.  (more…)

Welcome To Armenia

24 September 2018

Willie Nelson is singing in my ear. As so often happens during these marathon travel-fests, “On The Road Again” resonates in my brain like the bass drum at a rock concert. We depart Tbilisi south through somewhat flatter terrain and cross the border at Bagratashen into Armenia. Our farewell to Georgia is very appropriate as we drive through Shulaveri, the well known ‘city of grape seeds’ where some centuries ago the prized 8000 year-old grape seeds were discovered. 

The Georgian/Armenian border crossing is uneventful and easy: off our van through Passport, onto our van to drive a few feet. Off our van with luggage for a final goodby, a walk through Passport and customs to board a large Mercedes bus. The Passport guy had lovely eyes and smile and perfect English, offering a “Welcome to Armenia.”  (more…)