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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Visit to Armenia

Actually, today, I am in Yerevan! I came to Armenia by myself today from Japan for some reasons this time, arriving at almost 2am on 18th so that I am writing this entry almost right after my arrival (although I have already taken a nap of 4 hours or so).

Armenia today is not as cold as I imagined but I feel it is obviously colder than Japan at the moment (the weather forecast says it is around 20 C in Tokyo while it is 11 C in Yerevan as of 8am Armenia time). This cool temperature makes me feel kind of refreshed after my long journey from Japan (though my family here asked me what I am wearing only T-shirt in this weather… I feel fine with that).

Narita Airport is always busy with many travelers.

Narita Airport is always busy with many travelers.

Narita Airport

Since it was Friday when I left the airport and still in the morning, there are less people than usual.

From Japan, probably, most typical route to reach Armenia is by using Aeroflot (Russian airplane), first arriving in Moscow and changing airplane there to Yerevan. By including the time for transit, it usually takes about 21 hours. It sounds very long, doesn’t it??? The secret is that people usually have to wait for another airplane in Sheremetyevo International Airport for almost 8 hours while it only takes 10 hours and 3 hours from Japan to Moscow and Moscow to Yerevan respectively.

 

It was rainy in Moscow. Actually, it turned to be snowy when I left the airport.

It was rainy in Moscow. Actually, it turned to be snowy when I left the airport.

There are many shops and restaurants but obviously 8 hours are too much to explore the place.

There are many shops and restaurants but obviously 8 hours are too much to explore the place.

Actually, last time when I visited here with my father, he said that it was almost killing him who is almost 65 years old. Can you imagine yourself spending 8 hours in the airport?

But this time, luckily I was able to find another airplane leaving Moscow for Yerevan earlier than that so I just needed to spend 5 hours which was much better than 8 hours. (You may think that 5 hours is still too long but obviously I felt it was a lot better than doing nothing for 8 hours).

For some foreigners, after arrival to Yerevan, there is another obstacle making you tired actually. It is visa application! Depending on how many people are in line waiting for their turn, it would take another 30 minutes. So, it is highly recommended for you to apply to visa online if you can. Also, please do not forget exchanging your money into the Armenian currency (DRAM) before applying to visa. They do not accept other currencies for the purpose!

View of Yerevan from my family place here.

Today, I will attend a wedding party and tomorrow visiting some tourists’ sites in Armenia.

Do you need VISA to visit Armenia ?

Would you like to be the citizen of the world, to travel every country without any additional permits and payments, feel free to move wherever your mind blows OR you prefer to be bordered, have your private borders, regulate entries, differentiate people coming from different parts of the world?

Of course we have different approaches on this, for some of us borders are important, for some they seem to be limitations. However you think, it’s always good to travel 🙂

Armenia is small country, very hospitable, though it has some visa-requirements. So before coming to our wonderland, check if you need a visa or not .

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If you are coming from the following countries, you will not need  a VISA, you are so called “very welcomed people in Armenia ” )) /kidding, it’s just a result of diplomatic relationships among our governments/:

1. Republic of Austria
2. Kingdom of Belgium
3. Republic of Bulgaria
4. Federal Republic of Germany
5. Kingdom of Denmark
6. Republic of Estonia
7. Republic of Ireland
8. Iceland
9. Kingdom of Spain
10. Republic of Italy
11. Republic of Latvia
12. Republic of Poland
13. The Principality of Liechtenstein
14. Republic of Lithuania
15. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
16. Republic of Cyprus
17. Republic of Greece
18. Hungary
19. Republic of Malta
20. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
21. The Netherlands
22. Kingdom of Norway
23. Kingdom of Sweden
24. Swiss Confederation
25. Czech Republic
26. Republic of Portugal
27. Republic of Romania
28. Slovak Republic
29. Republic of Slovenia
30. Republic of Finland
31. Republic of France
32. Republic of Croatia

And if you are not  a citizen of Sweden or Norway or any of the countries, mentioned above and you are a citizen or a holder of travel document of  another countries / check the info from http://www.mfa.am/u_files/file/consulate/Visa/Invitation_eng.pdf/ , you will need an invitation to apply for the VISA. So start making friendships with armenian citizens 🙂

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Happy to inform you that The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia issues e-visas : you could check it by visiting : https://evisa.mfa.am/pls/dbms/evis_n.put_application_p0 

As it is mentioned in official webpage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Armenian foreigners ca stay only 180 days. . Though it’s not a short time to discover this small land with it’s amazing beauty.

Here is the table of  The Republic of Armenia Visa Fee. Hope one day we will not have any limitations and charges for anyone, cause we believe that we all are sharing a world full of diversity and love.

Visa Type Fee
AMD USD EUR GBP
Visitor, single entry, up to 21 days of stay 3000 7 6 5
Visitor, single entry, up to 120 days of stay 15000 37 29 24
Visitor, multiple entries, up to 60 days of stay, validity up to 6 months 20000 50 39 31
Visitor, multiple entries, up to 120 days of stay, validity up to 1 year 40000 99 77 63
Official 0 0 0 0
Diplomatic 0 0 0 0
Transit, single entry 10000 25 19 16
Transit, multiple entries 18000 45 35 28
Children under 18 for all types of visas 0 0 0 0

 

(source http://www.mfa.am/en/visa/ )

 

 

And remember it’s not important you hold Official Visa, Diplomatic Visa or Transit Visa, we are always glad to have guests and meet new people 🙂 Enjoy your visits to Armenia !

Armenian hospitality : A story of one photo !

If you have ever been hosted in Armenia, you would understand what means armenian hospitality somehow, if not, then you’d be happily surprised of this post 🙂

Nowadays big cities become more formal, people not trust each other as before and somehow you could feel some distance between people. Though whenever you visit any armenian family, be sure you’ll be treated very well. If you visit them in the evening, you will not be allowed to leave them without having a dinner with them, and even if you have just visited your friend for some minutes you’ll be forced to drink at least armenian coffee with some sweets. And this is common in every armenian family all around the world, there is some habit/ tradition to treat a guest warmly and be kind to them. If the visit is already planned, then the family is preparing the house by cleaning it so that everything is in it’s order, creating a pleasurable atmosphere for the guests. Another issue is to prepare good food, it migh be barbecue or something from family’s favourites, it should surprise the guest and make him be satisfied of it, so imagine the dinner, which might onsist of almost everything . If it’s summer time there would be a watermelon for sure, ice-cream and fresh homemade juices, or you migh be offered cold drink made of yogurt. If you are coming from abroad or other region and you would have to stay in their city you’ll be asked to stay at thir house, even if house itself is quite small. Be sure they’ll find a room with clean bed, linen. If you will not have any strong argument of not being hosted this way you might hurt the family .

Some people say that this is not so common in the city now, but I still meet many families who think and beahve this way, i see how hey really love their guests and care for their comfortable stay with them.

Though another thing is to have unexpected guests, someone whom they don’t know. And I will surprise you by telling that even if they don’t know you, they will become your closest relative very soon 😉

In this case may be you won’t face the same hospitality in the city as in the village, but you’ll find at least all the necessary info or contacts to survive .

It’s amazingly beautiful to see how people from regions/ villages behave towards foreigners. They are so kind and open to them, that sometimes you ask yourself how they could be so trustful and willing.

In this part of my blog let me tell the story which inspired me to write bout this. Some weeks ago, while we were doing our Armania-trip to Vayq, we met so many nice people, that I am still willing to visit this place again. It’s so nice that you start liking the place with it’ people, it becomes close to your heart.

So we were walking to the place where we wnted to camp. Unfortunately we didn’t remember the exact place, so we were asking people on our way and were following their directions. And when we were already close o some nice place, close to the village, we had heard an old lady singing in her garden. We stopped to see who’s she, cause it was such a nic voice full of warmness and sweetness. And it was obvious that she was alone in her garden and enjoying it, working there. When she noticed us, she called as and said that we were on a wrong direction. I think that there were many other tourists passing that wayin the past, so she could guess where we were going. And she came to us and showd the right way , then when we wanted to thank her and continue our way, she stopped us. She told us to wait , she wanted to share with us some fruit and vegatable of her garden. It was so nice of her and we were ful of staff, so we couldn’t take anything with us and wanted to go, but she resisted and said a phrase which made us take whatever she could give. She said ” This is the porion of the traveler”. It’s so surprising that she works so hard, cares for her garden so much and she’s still wiling to give. And it’s not just giving , it’s special portion dedicated to traveller. And I remembered the words from the Bible telling to take care of the people while doing harvest, cause there might pass someone who don’t have anything and could reap something from your garden. And I saw this beautiful woman sharing with us peaces, tomatoes and ucumbers of her garden with love and respect.  And though we were walking a lot before meeting her and we were really very tired, after that we were feeling so good, her approach was so kind and beautiful, that made us smile and feel loved. And we contiuned our way with heavy bags , but we were happy, happy to see people who are ready to share even not having much, people who could be kind to you without knowing you, people who are open-minded living in so-called traditional parts of Armenia, people who made us feel proud close to the foreigners, who were with us.

We couldn’t resist of not having a photo with this nice lady 🙂

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And the funniest thing of that moment was the reaction of my friend from Germany, whom I looked trying to say something about this nice lady and he said smiling  “This is Armenia”. I am so happy that Armenia is associated with such things, with kindness and love.

Love each other, give and share, don’t worry of not having enough, after visiting Armenia and living with armenians you will learn how to be a good host . But for now enjoy being a guest 😉

Lost and Found

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It was an amazing weekend full of adventures in the countryside. There were 4 of us. We reached the wildest part of Vayots Dzor region. We had with us tents water potatoes and fishing rod. After opening up the tents I have tried to fish for the dinner because we had only bread and potatoes with us. After I realized that there is no worms or something like worms with us to fish. I took a piece of peach which was given to us  on the way to wild Vayots Dzor by an old grandma who was very kind to us. I know it was stupid of me to use peach for catching fish but there was no other option for me left. Of course I didn’t catch any fish for dinner. Finally I gave up fishing and went for dry wood to make a fire for potatoes. We were on the shore of Arpa river and on the next side there was a large valley. While gathering the wood I noticed a small garden full of trees and ‘bingo’.  There were chunks of wood. I immediately took all the chunks and hurried to our place. We made a huge fire. Even during the whole night the fire didn’t stop.  On the next day we woke up full of energy to continue our trip. We picked up our things and ‘oops’. Where is my fishing rod? For 2 hours we were looking for the fish-rod. I remember that I had left it near my tent. Then I started to think – “maybe the owner of the garden took a revenge?” 🙂

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Vardavar International Youth Festival (Part 2)

So I’m back to finish up writing about the Vardavar International Youth festival and impressions of foreign guests. During the festival some of the guests were interviewed. We were mostly interested in their impressions on both, Armenia in general and the festival itself.

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So the first one was Daria from Belarus. This was her first visit to Armenia, so she first talked about her  impressions of Armenia.

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–          I’m absolutely enjoying my visit to Armenia, because people here are unbelievably kind and hospitable. Armenia in general is wonderful country with its’ miraculous mountains. Unfortunately we don’t have such landscapes in Belarus.

–          And what do you think about Vardavar?

–          You know, it’s very hot in Armenia and playing water fight is the best way to overcome this weather. But I mostly like the fact that you can pour water on strangers and they won’t scream at you. This is of course a bit weird, but absolutely awesome.

–          Do you have any similar festivals in Belarus?

–          No! We definitely don’t have such celebrations. If you try to pour water on a stranger, they will scream at you loudly! But in general there are some interesting festivals, which are celebrated among youth, but they are not as massive and as loved as Vardavar in Armenia. So this is my first experience taking part in such an amazing festival!

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At last we have found someone for whom this kind of festivals were not something new. Andrash who came from Hungary told us the following.

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–          Vardavar is an amazing celebration. It’s awesome to play with water when weather is this hot. About my impressions on Armenia, I’d have to say, that I’m very impressed by Armenian mountains and ancient historical and cultural structures. Armenians in general are very active and positive and now I feel like I’ll never ever forget these days in my life.

–          Which one impressed you most, Garni temple or Geghard monastery?

–          Garni impressed me more, because when you look at the landscape from here it is magical. And temple reminds me of old Greek architecture. When you imagine that this building is built more than thousand years ago, you get a strange and interesting feeling of the present and the past. I actually really like being in Armenia

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–          Do you celebrate something like this in Hungary?

–          We also have a celebration, during which we pour water on beautiful girls, so they will look fresh and will shine like a flower. It is actually Christian holiday with some folk traditions.

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So guys these were words of some of the participans. I’m pretty sure they will return to their countries with lots of positive energy and also with the full package of knowlege of Armenain folk songs and dances, because as they played with a great enthusiasm water fight, with the same enthusiasm they were learning and exploring our ancient culture and traditions.

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Armenia ≒the real version of Dragon Quest?

Hi guys!

How is everything going with you mate? Is there anything particular this week? I got so drunk today actually because of a party tonight (you know today is Friday!). So, please forgive me if I make disorganized structure of my blog article today. Today, let me write about how I think or express about Armenia as nation actually as a foreigner.

Dragon Quest 3

Well, briefly speaking when I always introduce Armenia to Japanese people, I usually say it is the country of the real version of Dragon Quest. Have you actually heard of Dragon Quest or played it in your life? Dragon quest is a computer game which became very popular in Japan as well as in some other countries. It is role-playing-game of kind of medieval time where you, as the main character, leave for a journey to save the world (by beating the evil). So, it is kind of very orthodox story of fantasy.

Now, probably some of you guys think why I am thinking that Armenia is a country of the real version of Dragon Quest. Ok, actually I think that the world of Dragon Quest is based on the medieval time Europe where there are a lot of castles, monasteries, churches, towns, villages and the nature without any artificial involvement. For example, please take a look the image below.

Dragon Quest 1

 

Dragon Quest 2

 

Don’t you think that the above photos resemble some photos of Armenia?

For example,

Armenia landscape5Goshavank 4What do you think?

Yeah, probably some people have different opinions and if you do not get it by now, it is fine. I’m gonna have to stay sorry. But, if you get it, you would probably understand why I usually tell people that Armenia is the real version of Dragon Quest right?

Well, in my opinion (this can be reflected as a very silly opinion), if Armenia can be promoted to the rest of the world especially Asian countries where many people have experienced in playing Dragon Quest when they were young, they would more likely remember Armenia and would be more interested in vising the country which would be reflected on their eyes as a sort of mysterious country in which they would be able to experience what they really wanted in their childhood while they were playing Dragon Quest.

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Actually, I may be going to start promoting Armenia in that way in the future when I have enough capital to start it and some other Asian countries have more income to spend on something for their pastime. So, by then, I would probably have to start making plans!

I want to ask you guys especially if you are Armenian about that idea. Simply asking, “What do you think”??? You can always contact us if you want. Let me know!

 

That is it for today!

Mountains and Mountains Again

Yesterday I had an unexpected and interesting trip to the South of Armenia. My boyfriend’s family invited me for a picnic. I packed up and we left immediately. The road turned out to me pretty long and intense, but the scenery surrounding us all the time was absolutely beautiful. BEAUTIFUL.

Well, some people would find it boring, but not me. All the way down to the South we were going either through the mountains or over them. But what was interesting is that although there were all mountains, none of them were similar. And how could they even be similar? This is Armenia. Every stone, every mountain is unique, they never repeat, and I seriously doubt if one could find two stones or two mountains that would be similar. As a proof for that have a look at this absolutely beautiful pictures of mountains I took on our way.

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When after 3 hours of drive we finally got to the place of our picnic, I was surprised. And I bet not only me. Everyone with us was amazed by the beauty of the nature around the place where we were at. The river Arpa was right next to us; its sound was so nice to listen to that I realized I would love to have a house right there, and spend the rest of my life  there.

Here, we were on the bank of the river Arpa.

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So, we set there and spent wonderful time talking, laughing, eating and simply enjoying the wonders of nature we are lucky enough to see and feel.

Isn’t this just divine to have these beautiful places so close to  you… ^_^
Well, next time you are in Armenia, make sure you go and enjoy some of this wonderful nature 😉

 

Symbol of Yerevan – Drinking fountains

It’s not a secret that summers in Yerevan are very hot. Fresh and cold water is the best way to overcome thirst and hot weather. One thing in what Yerevan is rich is water. You can see drinking fountains everywhere in Yerevan, in public squares, streets and even in backyards of living blocks. These  fountains first appeared in Yerevan in 1930’s.

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People in many modern European cities can’t even imagine, that it’s possible to drink water in the street whenever you’re thirsty. The most fascinating thing about this is that water is very fresh and cold. We don’t have to carry thermoses or buy water on the way. The tastiest water is free in Yerevan. 🙂 There are almost 1500 drinking fountains in Yerevan.

Drinking fountain

Drinking fountains play an interesting role in Armenian society.

Many years ago, when there were no cell phones, many young couples appointed meetings by some famous drinking fountains.

For example the most famous one is in Republic square.

Republic square drinking fountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also another tradition. When someone dies in a young age, his/her family built a new fountain in his memory. That’s why in Yerevan you can often see drinking fountains with names of people. As water is the symbol of life, people who build this fountain believe that, when passers by drink water from it, this person gives life to people, though being dead.

Drinking fountain

There is no doubt  that drinking fountains aside from being useful, are also inseparable part of Yerevan’s culture.  Each of them has it’s own history and many people have their own stories connected with them.

So every person who visits Yerevan should definitely try the water of this fountains.

Adventure in Noravank

Recently I visited my brother who serves in Armenian Armed Forces in Vayk region. After seeing  my brother me and my family decided to visit Noravank monastery. Last I have been there 7 years ago. Back then there was no automatic machine  which would shoot you on the background of monastery.  But this time to my great surprise there was this machine in the picture which would take your picture with the monastery.  And, what was also interesting, this time I saw much more tourists than ever before.

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I decided to climb the narrow stairs which led to the second floor of the monastery. I finally got there. Everything was beautiful, I was admired the scenery and then the time came to climb down.  And oops, at that moment I discovered that I have an acrophobia. During these 7 years I have obtained a fear of height. Even after 30 minutes I was still there wondering how to get down. All the tourists, everyone around was trying to encourage me , but no way. I was not going down. But fortunately there  appeared an old Armenian grandpa, who came to visit Armenia form the USA. He told me that this monastery is 809 years old and during this  period no one has ever fallen from these stairs. I couldn’t be that unlucky to be the first. And you know, these words totally encouraged me and I slowly climbed down safe and sound.

 

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Remember about the machine taking pictures? So, when I got there I knew I was to make a video with the help of that machine. But just imagine yourself. Wouldn’t you forget about that machine after the type of adventure I had up in the stairs.
Anyways, I promise next time I visit Noravank I will surely shoot a video for you. I advise everybody who visit Nravank to do the same !