In front of us were untouched crop fields. For some years I’ve found myself taken by uninhabited and vegetated areas. The sharp blows of dry wind and the sun-drenched reflection on the bare rocks is as drunkening as wine.
We were in the Aragatsotn province at the Agarak Historical and Cultural Reserve. If you want to break away from the current millennium and dive into the past, Agarak is exactly the place to be. Here, it is impossible to walk in harmony with modern life. Instead, we walked along deep circular holes. The reserve is huge and indescribable. I was wandering around the holes, and if it were up to me, I’d wander there still. At that time, I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm while my brain was busy trying to understand what I was seeing. I was studying the lives of my ancestors, imagining their daily activities and lives.
The whole area is surrounded by large-scale rock complexes. During the excavations, a large number of wine mills have been discovered that indicate that the locals paid particular attention to viticulture and winemaking. Many fragments and statues have been discovered here from the Early Bronze to the Iron Age. The excavation results allow us to conclude that this area was inhabited from the first quarter of the 3rd millennium. Once again we were convinced that Armenia is an open-air museum.
For months, my thoughts were wandering around, and now I finally recovered and began enjoying myself. My mind became more active, I liked that peaceful place that helped me focus. The mood at Byurakan Studio was in tune with the 10th century, as we enjoyed the re-invention of paper.
Artist Ararat Sargsyan told us that paper has been used in Armenia since the 8th-9th centuries and in Europe since the 10th century. Already in the 10th century paper was widespread in Armenia, and it was the third country after China and the Arab Caliphate to have its own paper production. Armenian paper had a unique technology, as local flax fibers were used as raw materials, and okra was used as glue.
Here you can feel like the inventor of paper inventor Chai Loon, who developed his own way of making handmade paper with cutting-edge technology. Of course the materials that Chai Lun used to work with are no longer used. Instead modern recycled paper, and as glue – mulberry bark.
Headed to Gyumri. I have said once before that Gyumri is a city rich in its unique people and history, and if you visit here once, it will always make you come back, and you’ll feel like you’re discovering the city for the first time.
New acquaintances, new discoveries, and wonderful occasions. The visit to Black Berd took us back to the 1830s, when the area belonged to the Russian Empire. Then two defensive castles were built – one black and the other red. It was during these years that Nicholas I transformed Gyumri into Alexandrapol, named after his wife Alexandra.
Currently, the 102nd largest Russian military base in Armenia is located in the Red Fort. The church of St. Alexandria was also built here. The church exists and operates on the military base area, and the underground paths of the Black Fortress lead to the Mother Armenia Monument and the Red Fortress. On the walls of the Black Berd, you will notice engravings made by Russian soldiers, writing their names and the names of the cities from which they came.
Artak Tadevosyan, a resident of Gyumri who turns capsules into jewelry, is well-known, and whomever you ask will either show or accompany you to his studio. The Gyumri jeweler has been preaching peace for almost four years now.
“I try to create not so much jewelry but rather symbols that oppose war and weapons. That is why the symbols of sun and life, as well as kindness and light, prevail in the works, thus removing the aggression from the shell,” Artak explains as he continues to present his works.
Artak turns capsules and rubble remnants into earrings, rings, bracelets and pendants, exclusively with self-propelled tools, and is the only one in the industry to open the capsules by ironing them. This is the transition from war to peace.
The Sari Tea Hotel was chosen for lunch. At the entrance stood Mrs. Knarik, a middle-aged woman, with endless strength and energy.
We were welcomed with the typical hospitality and care of the Gyumri residents. During the whole time we were not able to say two words to each other, as Mrs. Knarick, like every Gyumri hostess, thought about the comfort and happiness of her guests. I’ve decided to return here. Once you love a place, you always come back.
Unfortunately, many outdoor games have been forgotten today, but not in Gyumri. Spinning tops are a staple in Gyumri. You can often see groups of noisy children walking on Gyumri Street, and as you approach, you will notice the rotating colored tops on the ground.
We bought some of the handmade spinning tops and before we started playing, we received proper instructions. Since we had never played before, we swung the hard thread around the hook, held it straight, and hit the ground confidently as the top spun.
5 minutes later, in the backyard, various colors, voices of joy and sadness, smiles, sorrows, struggles, and good entertainment were all around.
We planned to be in Tbilisi by the end of the day, which was why we were in a hurry. In front of us was the Stepanavan Dendropark, where I learned to listen. I was completely immersed in the countless number of birds and the sound of trees. They were all now merged, becoming one whole body, a phenomenon, a perfection.
The park is always crowded, and one of the most popular periods for visitors is the pine pollen season, May-June, when the air here is especially useful for people with respiratory problems.
The idea behind the creation of the Dendropark was Polish engineer-forester Edmund Leonovich, who founded the park in the early 1900s. During the course of half a century, over 2500 species of plants were tested, seeking to find new species that could grow here. Now his son is the director of the park, and currently there are 500 species adapted to the climate of the area. The five gigantic trees that are planted next to each other are still young and will grow tall for several hundred years.
I looked around in amazement as if I was in a world of nature for the first time. It was beautiful, diverse and colorful, wondrous and mysterious, and the world was transformed. Surprisingly, my emotions were flooded with joy. Maybe it was from that long deep sleep that I woke up. This day I felt close to my roots, having moments that were typical of our ancestors. It was at this time that I discovered an ancient civilization that had a profound effect on my psyche. That was the reason for my joy, as I smiled and gazed at it.
There was no time as we headed to the Georgian border, and we were sure that we will be faced with a new set of adventures, adrenaline, and discoveries.
The material was prepared within the framework of the “From the Mountains to the Villages” info-tour through the support of the Tourism Committee of the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).