Arriving into Yerevan airport, it felt quite chaotic. I’ll add this city to the list where I got stared at, incessantly. It is not uncommon for that to happen to me and I am quite used to it having travelled quite a bit, especially to remote areas where it is unusual to see someone of my features present there. My gut instinct can differentiate if it’s curiosity or more. All eyes were on me the moment the arrival doors opened. My pre-arranged driver did not show up and at least a dozen locals approached me to use their vehicle while I stood in one spot attempting to blend in. Some were more civil than others. To avoid further harassment, I decided the best way was to take a local taxi to the hotel. While rushing across the road to the taxi line, I noticed two men running towards me. Both I had politely declined earlier. As I opened the boot of the taxi to load my luggage and one angry man slammed the boot down so I would not be able to place the luggage in. In a shock I opened the passenger door and threw my belongings inside but not before my phone got knocked out of my hand by one of them, while the other opened the driver’s door and began to yell and shout with unsavory hand gestures. All three men including the taxi driver were very loud, but nobody around seemed to take head or care. Instinctively I wanted to leave but the passenger door was being held shut by one of them. In the midst of the heated argument I realized this was turning into a brawl so I ran to the other side and jumped into the taxi through the opposite door slamming the locks on!
I sat in the back seat unable to rationalize what had happened as they now moved to the front of the vehicle blocking us. Almost as instant as the debacle began, they reached a settlement of sorts and retreated. The moment the taxi swerved out of the airport, the driver turned around, his tone of voice had subdued. He broke into a big smile and said ” Welcome to Armenia”!
After spending the night in, I decided I did not want last night’s shenanigans ruin my excitement for Yerevan and continued to proceed with the rest of my plans. My friend Jules was arriving that morning from Poland to explore together. I texted her to inform her of what I had encountered at the airport the night before but when she walked into the hotel room she said, her transition was pretty smooth, unlike mine.
From visits to my first Pagan church, to visiting a monastery and celebrating Armenia’s Independence day with the locals, here are some of the moments we enjoyed in Yereven.
Carved into a side of a mountain, 6 km from the temple at Garni, lies Geghardavank, or Geghard Monastery, meaning “Monastery of the Spear”.
It is mentioned in the Gospel, Jesus was stabbed in his side by a spear whilst hanging from the cross during the Crucifixion. This spear was thought to have powers of other origins. Throughout many centuries, many different churches have claimed to possess this. It is alleged, the spear was carried to Armenia by an apostle and stored here for some time.
In the monastery chamber, I see a natural single ray of light beaming from a circle on the ceiling, that casts a shadow on their coat of arms carved into the rock: An eagle with half-spread wings, whose claws grasp a calf along with two lions by it’s side. Traversing the premises I followed the chantings that echoed from the walls. From a distance I spotted a monk vanishing behind a door.
While exploring behind Geghard, across a bridge over Azat River Gorge, I caught glimpses of ribbons tied on trees. Near them were what looked like sacrifice rocks. Customs speak that those who bring a chicken or sheep to sacrifice on the rocks, will tie the ribbons on the trees to make a wish. This traditional is carried over from Persian influences from ancient times.
On our last day in Yerevan, we danced with the locals in Republic Square on it’s Independence day. Here is a video of the atmosphere surrounding us.
What a brilliant way to end our trip.