Day 2: We all woke up in the Hotel Ani and proceeded to have a delicious American style buffet breakfast. At 10:45 a.m. we met in the lobby and took off for an exciting day of site-seeing around Armenia.
The weather was gorgeous and Mt. Ararat’s snowy peak was visible from every site we visited. Our first stop was to the AUA (American University of Armenia) for a private tour of their facilities. The faculty welcomed us and showed us around the school, taking us to various classrooms, telling us about the school’s curriculum and majors, and presenting us testimonies from AUA graduates. It was a very beautiful facility and it was an amazing experience to witness the face of Western education in Armenia working to make a change in the country. Our next stop was a traditional one that we visit each year: the Genocide Monument and Museum. Here we stopped at the memorial and paid our respects to our relatives who were persecuted and died for their beliefs and faith. We received flowers which we all placed around the flame in the center of the monument, a beautiful and emotional sight to behold. After this, we took a tour of the smaller museum, since the larger one was undergoing renovation. We learned facts and saw evidence, books, and propaganda of the Genocide, expanding our knowledge of the most catastrophic event in Armenia’s history.
Promptly after, we traveled out of Yerevan and up into the mountainous regions to visit the ancient monastery of Gerhard and the Pagan temple, Garni. We first travelled all the way up to Gerhard, an old monastery built into the side of the mountain. The monastery has two parts: a central cathedral made of exactly 1000 large stones, and a second section that is built of one single piece of stone, the mountain itself. In the main cathedral, we saw the gorgeous architecture of the stone building, large atrium, and a decadent alter featuring Mary and Jesus. In the second part, carved within the mountain, we traversed through caves with walls inscribed with crosses and with running water from which people drank. We followed these caves to a large interior room which we named the “best acoustic room in Armenia” in which, fittingly so, we sang several songs including Hyre Mer. After we had visited all the monastery had to offer and sang our few songs, we headed to dinner at a restaurant lying right at the edge of a huge gorge. The view from the restaurant was breathtaking. We ate outside in an open-air space overlooking the large gorge, and across from us on the left was the Pagan temple Garni, which was our next stop after some delicious dolmas, taboule, and salad.
At Garni, we visited the only Pagan temple still left in Armenia. This is because when Armenia adopted Christianity in 301 A.D, all Pagan temples were destroyed except for Garni, which became a summer residence for the Armenian king. Outside the temple were the ruins of the kings palace there and other ruins of an ancient Roman-style bath house. It was a marvelous site to see and it was amazing to think that we were witnessing architecture that was dated to approximately 2000 years old! And that was our day of touring.
After our ride down the mountainwe arrived back at Ani and took a group stroll down the streets of Yerevan to Republic Square for some socializing and ice cream.
We ended our day with nice company from the locals of Yerevan and with a much desired night sleep after a long day of touring.