A story of one church /Armenian churches worldwide

I have always wondered of those parts of the world, which we had lived before and had to leave because of some historical circumstances.  It is always interesting to discover a piece of historical testimony in forgotten places, especially churches or ancient administrative buildings.

Armenian churches exist in every part of the world, where they live or have lived. They have unique architecture and unite Armenian communities.

One of those churches is Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Church in Baku ,Azerbaijan. It was built in 1887  and had been  the main corner for the  worship for Baku’s Armenian community for many years.


This  Church was the only Armenian church that was not demolished  at 1920s throughout the Soviet Union.

In 1990 it was seriously damaged of an arson attack, but underwent renovation in 2004. After the Karabakh war it had been closed, for some period  had being used as a library, archive.


In  2010 the church was visited by guests of a World Religious Leaders Summit, including Armenian Apostolic Church Garegin 2. The Church of St. Gregory Illuminator is the only remaining Armenian church in Baku, all other Armenian churches were demolished in the 1990s.


Armenian_church_of_Saint_Gregory_the_Illuminator_in_Baku_4 ermeni_kilsesi_bakida03 st_gregory_the_illuminators_church_640x480_dwb st_gregory_the_illuminators_church_1024x768_1pl

Hope one day the church will be open and Christians of Baku will be able to worship there . Hope to visit it one day !!

Below is video of the Armenian church in Baku provided by RadioFreeEurope/RL’s Azerbaijani service.


Hosting Thor Heyerdahl Junior

While the whole last week I spent on passing mid-trem exams, I was generally thinking what interesting did I experience this week, about what should I tell my readers. And then, here you come, I have experienced something, that really was amazing. I met a person whom I’d never thought I could meet. I mean obviously I have read and heard a lot about him and his family, but hearing those stories from him was very appealing. That person is Thor Heyerdahl Junior. He visited Armenia on his famous traveler father’s  100th anniversary. As he himself claims, that it’s a great experience to visit one of the most ancient countries in the world on 100th anniversary of his father.



Those who don’t know who is Thor Heyerdahl, let’s just have a quick review on his biography. Thor Heyerdahl Senior  is a Norwegian adventurer and archaeologist, who started a journey around the globe on a raft Kon-Tiki in 1947 and later wrote an international bestseller on his adventures. And not only him, but his wife and son also became part of his adventures, they have gone through all of that together. And today we hosted  his son Thor Heyerdahl Junior, his wife Grethe Heyerdahl and marketing manager Halfdan Tangen Junior from The Kon-Tiki Museum in our University after Valery Brusov. During the seminar Mr. Heyerdahl told us the story of his family and adventures that they had. Obviously I’d like to share it with you my dears.

Kon-Tiki stort

Famous raft Kon-Tiki

So, let’s start from the beginning, Thor Heyerdahl Senior was born in 1914 in Norway. He studied zoology at Oslo University. As his son claims, the adventurer spirit he has got from his mother’s upbringing, because instead of reading fairy tales for him, his mom read Darwin and evolution. In 1936 he left for the island Fatu Hiva in the Pacific, with his first wife. He spent a couple of years there studying the indigenous plants and animals. During the 2nd World War he served in Norwegian Military.  Mr. Thor Heyerdahl Junior recalls. “When my father  was leaving for the war, my mother told me, that this may be the last time I see my dad. We were not sure, will he come back, or not. But fortunately dad survived”.  After coming back from war, Heyerdahl built raft Kon-Tiki and together with his crew of five started his journey across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands. They spent 101 day at sea, under the open sky. During this voyage they happened to face every kind of danger that man could come across in the sea. Later he wrote the book Kon-Tiki about his adventures, which became the bestseller of its time. And then the documentary based on the same journey won an Academy Award in 1951. By the way this film is the only Norwegian Oscar winning film.


Thor Heyerdahl Jr recalling his famous father

The next one was archaeological expedition in Galapagos islands in 1953 and the book The Secret of Easter Island, written in 1958 was based on this trip.  Then followed trips and explorations in Morocco, Bahamas, Egypt, Tucume Pyramid, Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, southern Russia and many other places.


HalfdanTangen Jr tells about Mr. Heyerdahl’s adventures

So I really feel lucky enough to hear much more of those adventures and stories from the first hand. Our students also were curious about our guests’ impression of Armenia during four days spent here. Mr. Heyerdahl Jr. told us that had many positive impressions, he did like the fact that Armenia is very ancient country and it’s difficult to describe what you feel here. In the end he told us “When I’m back in Norway, I’m going to be the ambassador of Armenia there.”


ArMania members with Thor Heyerdahl Jr and HalfdanTangen Jr


Besides he said that they are thinking about some projects in Armenia, which I think is going to be just as much amazing, many students even claimed the participation in possible projects. So obviously everybody is looking forward to see our dear guests in Armenia again and we hope that further cooperation will be very prosperous.

My 2nd day in Armenia 2014: Awesome places!

After the wedding party yesterday, I visited some great places on the second day during my stay in Armenia, 2014. Have you actually visited some great sites in Armenia? What is your most recommended place to visit from your experience?

So, on the second day, I left my wife’s parents’ place in Armenia with my brother in law and his wife around 9am to meet a friend of mine who is working in a travel company. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and forecasted to be rainy later. Also, it was a bit cold.

We arrived at Khachaturian statue located in front of the opera house in Yerevan at 9:30am and met my friend there. Maybe it was due to morning or because the season was approaching to winter season (late October), there were few people walking on the street.

Then, we went to my friend’s office and waited for another staff to join us. The staff turned to be actually our guide on that day. She sounded very nice and professional as a tourist guide. After she came to the office, we finally started the tour by car.

It was almost 2 years since I had had a tour in Armenia in 2012 when I visited there with my father. The moment we were driving on the street which came out of the town of Yerevan, I felt kind of nostalgic. The land around us already became brown as almost all trees and grasses turned to be brown, which was a sign that winter is coming soon.

The first place we visited was a small town called “Ashtarak”. Actually, I became a fan of this town and personally thought it was more attractive than Yerevan because there are a lot more trees and it showed a more real Armenia which is less influenced with Soviet style/culture. In the town, we went to several churches (I forgot their names so please only enjoy by looking at the photos). After the churches, we took a walk to explore the town on foot. The narrow ways between houses were really different from the atmosphere of Yerevan, giving me the impression that it was something very warm.

P1000339P1000342 - コピー P1000343 P1000347P1000353P1000356P1000362

Then, we visited Byurakan, an observatory located in Aragatsotn. The observatory has been used by astronomers locally and even from other countries too. Actually, the observatory itself may be not very interesting for most of tourists unless you are very enthusiastic to astronomy. Yet, the land around it is spectacular. So, I enjoyed walking in the field of the observatory with our companions but felt so boring especially while I was being given a lecture about stars and the history of observatory especially because most of the information was something I had already encountered on TV in Japan.

P1000392 P1000398 P1000402

After we almost spent 2 hours there (it was killing me! Unfortunately…), we headed to a restaurant located in Mt. Aragats for lunch. We drove the car along the carved rocky road leading to the top of the mountain. On the way to the top of the mountain, we came across magnificently solemn views in which I felt the greatness of the nature. Cloud was being generated as we moved forward on the street and chased after us becoming larger and larger. The view was so amazing and powerful that I would not be able to see the same scenery in my life again. (You can see it in the photos below).

P1000407 P1000410 P1000418 P1000426

However, actually, when we climbed up the mountain to a certain level. We found out that the road started to be covered by the ice so that it would be too risky to move forward on the way. When I went out the door, I felt so freezing actually. It was maybe under 0 degree outside. So, unluckily we decided to go back to descend the mountain as we all did not want to die on the day! As a result, I could not try Hash (an Armenian soup usually eaten in the winter to warm up) although it was my favorite dish in Armenia.

We then headed to Amberd which is a fortress of Armenia that shows how powerful and strong Armenia was in ancient time. The way to Amber was very mountainous where there are lots of up and down with lots of curves. But after the way, Amberd came into my site standing powerful even in distance.

P1000427 - コピー

I realized that Amberd is really huge in size when I arrived in front of the structure. It is all made of huge stones. Many parts of the structure were destroyed but this condition seemed to strengthen the impression of fantasy (it is really one of the structures which you may imagine in the story of fantasy). It was almost 3pm when we reached there but did not have lunch yet. So, we decided to take a short excursion in Amberd (Amberd consists of relatively large area and slope at high sea level so that it is tiring actually to explore all of Amberd) and then have lunch later in one of the small shops at the site.

P1000438 P1000449 P1000450

The lunch we ate was very simple one which was made with baked potato and salad. So, it was not something we really could enjoy the taste but we anyway could take a rest and gained some more energy to continue our trip.

By driving a car for another 30-40 minutes, then we arrived at the site of Armenian letters which is a place most tourists would be taken to especially they visited Armenia for the first time.

Then, we went to Saghmosavank. It started to rain a little bit when we got there and it became much colder. Saghmosavank was put on the list of my favorite places when I saw it in my eyes. What was astonishing was the combination between the monastery and the nature and landscape around there. The landscape is very harsh with very deep and steep cliff which seems very dangerous really if you try to reach the edge of it. In addition, on the other side of the cliff can be seen a mountain. These combination make the site really worth visiting showing the power and beauty of the Armenian nature with its history.

P1000461 P1000462 P1000463 P1000472

We left the place around 6pm and arrived in Yerevan at 7pm on that day. We dismissed and my brother in law left for home with his wife while I stayed in the city to see the members of ArMania to take them to a Japanese restaurant to let them taste the dishes. We had very good time for dinner of course.


It was very long day in the end with many things I newly discovered in Armenia. You can enjoy some photos from the day below. I really recommend you to visit some of the places I visited this time.

Armenian Paper (Papier D’Armenie)

Have you even heard that there is Armenian paper? Well, this is not just an ordinary paper. Keep on reading to find out what Armenian paper is and how it is connected with the French culture 🙂

Papier d’Arménie, a type of Armenian paper produced in France, is a room deodorizing product sold as booklets of twelve sheets of paper each cut into three pieces, which are coated with benzoin resin, the dried sap of styrax trees. Originally in the 16th century these were known as medicinal papers and burned to fumigate things only to slowly fall out of fashion in most areas of Europe. One area that did keep the practice alive was Armenia which used benzoin resin as the bases for theirs. If you’ve never sniffed benzoin, it’s somewhere between vanilla, balsam and, to me, rich amber. Gorgeous, especially during colder times.


Stripes of ‘Papier d’Arménie’.


At the end of the 19th century, Auguste Ponsot discovered that Armenian households would burn Styrax as a fragrance and disinfectant. M. Ponsot adopted this habit with the help of the pharmacist Henri Rivier and the recipe created by the celebrated French perfumer of Armenian origin Francis Kurkdjian, who recreated the recipe going from village to village in Armenia and France, whereby benzoin resin was dissolved in alcohol, then infused onto a blotting paper support. The “alchemy” inherent in Papier d’Arménie became a huge success with the emerging importance of hygiene from 1888–1889, and has been steadily produced in Montrouge, France since 1885. Armenian paper is an integral part of French culture, and has been mentioned in works by greats such as singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (in the lyrics to “Les Petits Papiers”), and the writers Georges Perec and Robert Sabatier (in his novel “Les allumettes suédoises” published in English as “The Safety Matches”).


This is how Papier d’Arménie is used. Put the paper on a special place and burn it.

The Birth of the Family Name Zilidjian

Avedis I, an Armenian alchemist living in Constantinople, discovers a secret process for treating alloys and applies it to the art of making cymbals of extraordinary clarity and sustain. Although Central Asia Minor (Anatolia) has a long history of cymbal making dating back to 1200 B.C., Avedis’ cymbals are far more musical and powerful in their projection. While attempting to create gold by combining base metals, he discovered an alloy of copper, tin, and traces of silver with unique sound qualities. In 1618, Avedis used his secret alloy to create cymbals of spectacular clarity and power. The sound of the instruments was so extraordinary that the Sultan invited Avedis to live at court (Topkapi Palace) to make cymbals for the Sultan’s elite Janissary Bands. The sultan’s famed Janissary bands are quick to adopt Avedis’ cymbals for daily calls to prayer, religious feasts, royal weddings and the Ottoman army. Sultan Osman II acknowledges Avedis to be the founder of the craft of Turkish cymbal making. In appreciation, the Sultan gives Avedis 80 gold pieces and the family name ‘Zildjian,’ which means ‘cymbal smith’ in Armenian (Zil is Turkish for ‘cymbal,’ dj means ‘maker’ and ian is the Armenian suffix meaning ‘son of’). In 1623, Avedis was granted permission to leave the palace in order to start his own business in a suburb of Constantinople named Psamatia. That same business is now nearly four centuries old and has been passed down to Zildjian heirs for fifteen generations. Relocating to America in 1929, Avedis III moved the Zildjian factory to Quincy, MA and then to its current location in Norwell, MA for Zildjian’s 350th Anniversary. The business passed to Avedis’ son, Armand in 1977 and then to Armand’s daughter, Craigie, in 1999. Currently, Craigie and her sister Debbie continue the family tradition in what is recognized as the oldest family-owned business in America.


Avedis Zildjian III in front of Zildjian Quincy Factory

Source: The Avedis Zildjian Company. (n.d.).ZILDJIAN’S HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


A legend of 3 sisters /churches !

There is a legend about  3 sisters lived in Ashtarak. and they all  felt in love with the prince Sargis. There is not an exact data about the prince, but according to some researchers he might belong to Vaspurakan Royal Family.

Among all the other man they 3 have chosen the prince, but only one of them could become his wife. What a sad and unusual story. You might think that it was not a big deal, though  as the legend says their love brought to very tragic circumstances for all 3. the elder two sisters decided to end their life that hinder their sister’s happiness.   And they threw themselves into the Ashtarak gorge. One was wearing apricot color dress and the other wearing a red dress .  They have just excluded their candidature by suicide.

When the other sister found out, she  also threw herself  into the gorge.  She was wearing a  white dress.

Sargis then became a hermit.

After that three small churches appeared at the edge of the gorge, named after the sisters’ dress colours: the Karmravor Church (“Reddish” ) , Spitakavor (“Whitish”),  Tsiranavor ( “Apricotish “).

karmravor karmravor-1-1



Spitakavor_Church_of_Ashtarak tsiranavor (2) IMG_3246


ciranawor_01_large tsiranavor

The legend is a legend, but the churches exist nowadays, they are a product of armenian architecture and it is good to have a look at these small mysterious churches.

According to historical data Karmravor   was constructed around the 7th century, dedicated to the Holy Mother of God,  Tsiranavor    was  built between the 13th and 14th centuries and  Spitakavor  was built between the 5th and 6th centuries.