Armenia: a country of big contrasts
Armenia has been independent since 1991. Before that, the oldest Christian country in the world was a part of the Soviet Union. It is around as big as the Federal State of Brandenburg or a third of the size of Austria. Around 3.2 million people live in the country. Far more, namely around 5 million Armenians live abroad – mainly in Russia, California and France. The gap between rich and poor is very wide, which is above all visible and perceptible when you drive from rich Yerevan with its 1.2 million population up into the countryside around. Here, people often only have the bare essentials. However, there is a saying: what Armenians don’t have in their pockets, they have in their hearts.
Running in Armenia: experience the seclusion!
Armenia wins you over with its unique mixture of thousands of years of culture and its untouched natural environment. You can be on the road for days in Armenia without meeting a single person. The whole country is surrounded by mystery, secrets, surprises, oddities, melancholy and lust for life, all densely packed next to each other. There is no other country which so enchants, touches and moves its visitors as Armenia does.
Yerevan: Armenia’s capital planned on a drawing board
Yerevan is a planned capital city, and this is reflected in chessboard-like laid out streets, a huge boulevard and large squares. There is not much to be seen in the way of Soviet architecture apart from various concrete-slab housing estates. All public buildings have the pink shimmering stone facades with a strong oriental influence that are typical for Yerevan. Yerevan is a city in a state of change: it’s alive and growing and more and more often, historical buildings are making way for modern, glassy high-rise buildings. The clocks move to a different rhythm in Yerevan. Life doesn’t begin until 10 pm and even at midnight, there’s often more going on than early in the evening. In summer, life goes on mainly in the open air – the whole city is then transformed into a giant open-air café. Yerevan surprises travellers from the West with its charm and vitality, but the real Armenia is to be discovered away from the modern capital.
The Armenians are a very proud and hospitable people. They are regarded as being enterprising and flexible. They enjoy dancing, singing and feasting. They hold their drink well and are hungry for life. They like to stroll about and parade themselves, but are not too keen on exercise otherwise. The best-loved sports are playing chess, arm wrestling and wrestling…
An appointment is more of a point of reference than an obligation – you meet in the morning, in the afternoon, after lunch, for dinner, but rarely at a fixed time and on no account before 10 am. Tasks are often accomplished in the very last minute. Everyone is hectic and everyone improvises, and it somehow always works anyway. Armenians are certainly not perfectionists, but they are definitely true survival artists.
Not much is held down in writing in Armenia – there’s lots of phoning all the time. Many Armenians are masters in explaining why something doesn’t work and sometimes forget the solving process in doing so. They also find it difficult to make decisions or to commit themselves. The conjunctive tense could be a typical Armenian discovery: one, could, should, may, ought to, would have…
Armenia: eating and enjoying food together
They say that Armenians express their love in the kitchen and everyone that has truly dined in Armenia will agree on this! The Armenian kitchen is just as old as Armenian history, just as multifaceted as the country itself and as varied as the cultural impacts in Armenia – a wonderful combination of aromas, spices and colours, a fusion of flavours and tastes from East and West.
The banquets in Armenia take place in a warm and festive atmosphere, especially within the family. There are endless toasts at the table: to mother, father, sisters, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, the past, the future… Lack of time and hastiness don’t hold. You sit together and celebrate with abandon together with friends and family. To come together for a meal is so much more than just having food!
Architecture in Armenia
There is Arabic influence on many houses with high, lacy windows and many columns and playful decorations. The facades are often faced with a reddish shimmering stone, which bathes the city in a very special light especially when it’s sunny. At the edge of the city or on the squares, which also had tourist significance during the Soviet period, there are interesting examples of Communist architecture. Even the bus stops and countless oversized monuments entice you to grin and marvel at the same time.
Armenia: a Christian country in the middle of the Orient
As a border land between Europe and Asia and between Christendom and Islam, Armenia is a special country.
For thousands of years, the fascinating culture has presented itself as deeply Christian but at the same time influenced by the Orient. Armenia was the first Christian state in the world. Spectacular monasteries and countless stony crosses spread out over the country are witnesses to a thousand-year old Christian tradition. A part of the Silk Road ran through Armenia and several of the caravensarais are still preserved.