“Armenia 🇦🇲 ~The Delicious and Traditional Cuisine!”

I thought this would be a fun post to put together, since we are taking some time to be off the wintery roads to relax. Normally this amount of information and detail will only show up in our travel books we plan to publish one day. But, here I have it in our blog. I will continue to add to this blog post, any new dishes we may to experience, as we continue our adventuring in Armenia.

As I write this, it is snowing outside, and I can see it coming down through the picture window of the B& B we are staying at. It is suppose to snow all day, and into the evening. It is so pretty. There is a blinking light set up, in the living room, that reminds us both of the warmth of a fireplace. We pretend anyway.

Throughout our travels, whenever we have stayed for longer periods of time, in any country, we always have an opportunity to learn more about the cultures, traditions, and see more historic sites and experience more varied traditional foods! In some cases, when the food is not interesting, there is no variety to speak of, or readily available, the stay can be ever so LONG Ha!

For one example, This happened to us in North Korea, when we stayed there for a planned two months. WAY too long, as our expectations were a little to high. The fact that Bim Bap (my favorite Korean food) was available most of the time, really saved the trip. Daryl got tired of this dish. I did not! While we didn’t exactly find the Korean people very warm or friendly towards visitors, or the food very interesting, otherwise, we loved what we got to see and do in South Korea. Here are a few pictures for you to see: what Bi Bim Bap is, as well as some scenery.

We dressed in rented costumes for an afternoon when touring around the Hanok ancient village in South Korea. Bi Bim Bap was on the menu again! I love it, with extra sesame seed oil.
Yep, the DMZ was a must visit
Jeju Island was incredible! We hiked to the top of this dormant volcanic crater. Amazing!
Also on Jeju Island, we got to explore to our hearts content. This island was our favourite part of South Korea, as far as history was concerned.
Here we have the Stone Sautés of Jeju Island; the
Dol hareubang meaning “Stone Grandfather.” There are 45 of these incredible Stone Grandfathers all together in one place on Jeju Island. Not much is known about their original origin, but to some they are called Fortress guards, or deities for protection, but they also represent fertility. They date back into the mid 1700’s
.

Back to our current stay

Even though we are visiting Armenia in the dead of winter, we continue to enjoy this country, more and more; meaning we feel very comfortable here. The people, though shy from lack of English skills, still make an effort to communicate and are welcoming and friendly. This is always a pleasant surprise, and of course we were hopeful we would be here for about month, then move and to the next country. This is not turning out to be the case, because borders remain closed all around the world. Deep down, we knew this could be a reality. Even so, we are finding there is plenty of joy for us, when we stay put, too. By doing so, we get to immerse ourselves into the fabric of our surroundings, and it a glorious experience, indeed!

One of those joys is being able to try so many different foods, where the cooking has been spectacular. WE have great cooks, and a variety of dishes, to keep it more interesting! Perfect for the Lon-term stay. I have taken many photos of foods we have been served, since arriving in Armenia. Interestingly enough, we have seen very few menus. When we have seen a menu, they have no English words or even photos to go by. In spite of the challenges of ordering food, we have come to love Armenian dishes!

I remember at one place we stayed (the no name hotel in Amasia) I asked if they had spaghetti. I even showed a photo with spaghetti noodles and hamburger sauce over it (like Bolognese Spaghetti). I was told yes, yes, they can make that “in one day from now.” Okay, great. I looked forward to that. But, when dinner was served the next night, I got a plate full of Spaghetti noodles with a big smile…nothing else. I’ve traveled the globe long enough and very far and wide enough, through many countries, I knew the woman was not messing with me. Had I been less traveled, I may have been more suspicious of this. But no, it’s just very hard to communicate, when in this case, the woman was Russian, and did not know English; nor did I know Russian. (Why the picture evaded her, I do not know) So, I just smiled and said thank you, because I knew she thought she did good, but I knew I would not be ordering Bolognese Spaghetti again!

A picture I showed of what I wanted to to order
A picture of what I got

Another bonus of staying in one place for a longer period, is, we get to ask (through translator) for no salt or spicy 🌶 foods. A
Armenian foods are rarely spicy, so this a plus, too. But, the cooking in the Caucuses tends to be very heavy on the salt; especially certain sliced cheeses and their meats. While here, at the Artson B&B in Vagharshapat, Armenia; About 30 minutes west of the Capital city of Yerevan, we get served whatever they are cooking for their family. Fine by us, because its a bit of surprise as to what we will have for dinner, and it takes the drama of trying to figure out what they have and for them to try to tell us.

Aside from the great food, we love the quiet part of this neighboring burb to the busy noisy big city, and the new and beautiful rooms, where everything works! Plumbing, shower nozzles, shower heads, hot water, cold water, internet, etc. It has be one our favorite place we have stayed. The family; our hosts are very nice, and care very much to ensure our stay is comfortable and satisfying. If you ever come to Armenia, be sure and spend some downtime here. You will be glad you did!

At the Artson B&B. This is where we spend most of our time, when indoors. It is a shared space for other guests, when there are any, but this time of year, it is the low season. We enjoy the added privacy we get to enjoy.

A story, just from yesterday

Our host asked if we liked Rabbit meat. Of course we do and we said yes. We always have our dinner delivered to our dining area at 4:30PM; which our time pick. About 10 minutes after he asked us about the meat choice for dinner, there he was out back in the large garden area and small orchard, under a covered shed. He was skinning a good sized Rabbit for our dinner, apparently from his own fluffle or colony. Now, you can’t get a meal any fresher than that! As always, the meal was delicious; all of it!

Cooked Rabbit
I have no idea what this pocket food item is called. Inside appeared to be cooked spinach

It is not always easy to learn the names of food dishes in countries where so little English is spoken, and this is the case in Armenia as well. But, I have taken some time on researching to match food photos with their proper names, to share this post with you. You may think it would be easier to ask the names. but its not, unless the person speaks very good English, because the heavy accent totally disguises what the word sounds like, let alone how to spell it. Asking for a spelling doesn’t work, either, because even if somebody can speak some English, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to read any English or know our letters or numbers, which is quite understandable.

Vayelek’ orzhakyakh! which we hear, means “Enjoy Appetite”

Armenian Pilaf
Pilaf isn’t specifically Armenian. Its origins are rooted in India and Iran, but variations on the dish are served throughout Central and Western Asia and beyond. Every ethnic group has put its own stamp on it. 
Rice and Vermicelli are tossed and cooked in butter with chicken broth.

Also, the meat is a Veal dish called Tjvjik. It is considered a delicacy in some Armenian villages. Originally, Tjvjik is made by frying pieces of beef liver with large amounts of onions that have been seasoned only with salt and pepper. Today, the dish can be made with additional ingredients that include tomatoes (grated or pureed), a variety of vegetables, various fresh herbs, as well as other offal such as hearts and kidneys.
For our meal above, the Tjvjik was a version of a hamburger patty, but instead of burger meat, veal was used.
Similar types of dishes can be found throughout the Near East and the Balkan Peninsula. The importance of this dish in Armenia is reflected in the eponymous movie, Tzhvzhik, which is considered a Soviet-Armenian classic.
Padtirma is a highly seasoned air-dried cured Beef. Served as an Appetizer.
(too salty and too spicy for us)
Armenian Eech
A tangy and Spicy dish
Matsun is also drunk by Armenians. They add salt and some mineral water.. to me it tastes like thinner buttermilk.
Homemade Hummus to dip our bread in.
According to several historical sources, the earliest mention of hummus dates back to Egypt in the 13th century. Chickpeas were and are abundant in the Middle East and are still commonly eaten. In fact, the word hummus means chickpea in Arabic. Hummus is not a tradition Armenia dish, but Armenians like it just like most people, so it can be found as a side dish, here.

Also, Toursh or Torshi is served like an “appetizers” here. Tourshi, which means “Pickled Vegetables” in Armenian, is made from various vegetables at harvest time. Once canned in jars, they are put away to enjoy during the winter months. It is a common practice. Any kind of vegetable from the garden is put up, and saved in the root cellars. We have often seen road stands with beautiful jars of colourful vegetables for sale.
Darly enjoyed this treat, but I do not care for it. It has too strong of a vinegar flavor, for obvious reasons. I like homemade Pickles, with Dill, which I used to can all the time, in my young adult years, but thats about all I care for in the pickled department.
The very flat bread in the top right is traditional Armenian bread, and is served with every meal. Lavash is a thin flatbread usually leavened, traditionally baked in a tandoor (tonir) or on a sajj, and common to the cuisines of South Caucasus, Western Asia, and the areas surrounding the Caspian Sea. Lavash is one of the most widespread types of bread in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey.
We have tried it and it doesn’t have a lot of flavor, and it dries out very quickly.

We much prefer the other bread in the photo which is often served along side the Lavash tradition bread. Matnakash (Armenian: մատնաքաշ) is a leavened traditional Armenian bread. The word matnakash means “finger draw” or “finger pull,” referring to the way the bread is prepared. It is made of wheat flour with yeast or sourdough starter. It is shaped into oval or round loaves with longitudinal or criss-crossed scoring. is always fresh and soft and tastefully homemade.
Butter is not traditionally served with dinner, but it is at breakfast. We like butter with our bread, so we ask for a butter serving, so we can enjoy the bread and the butter with the evening meal. We try to not to eat a lot of breads, but we indulge in one piece, because it really is that good!
Matnakash Bread, when it comes out of the oven
Tonight we had Hissara and a slaw salad
Desserts can be found in Armenian, but I do not know much about them, since it is so rare we see any to indulge in. What we know from the little we have had, is, even when they are fresh; and like other asian countries, they are a bit dried out. I do not know why this is, unless I’m just so spoiled with light fluffy, and sweet cream frosting varieties of the western world.
In the photo, we actually were at a restaurant in Garni, where they served the brownie-like dessert with ice cream. We do not see ice cream in the supermarket, even, let alone in a restaurant, till at this time.
this was a surprise and a wonderful treat!
Over the centuries, compotes are a very popular homemade drink.
Preserved in different sizes of jars, the pressed juice is added to fruit slices. The specific taste of Armenian fruits and berries can not be found anywhere else. Just ask an Armenian!
The compotes are prepared by mixing different kinds of fruits and berries 
As seen in this picture, it is a light colored juice, indicating grape. You can see the grapes floating. Yes they are edible.

Normally we do not indulge in anything other than sparkling water, or plain water at dinner, but we are making an exception here, at the lovely Artson B&B, because thee drinks are not overly sweet, and they are so organic and healthy for us.
Traditional Armenian Vegetable Soup. Every soup we have been served has rice and lentils in them. Very good, and we happen to be real soup fans during cold weather.
Another way to make of Armenian Fried Chicken
Bulgur Pilaf
Bulgur is a particularly good source of manganese, magnesium and iron and also slightly lower in calories than other comparable whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa
Khash
Starting from early September, Armenians begin to remind each other that the season of Khash is already open and it’s time to gather around the winter soup.
If you ask Armenians the best time for tasting Khash, probably everyone will reply “all months which contain letter “R” in it; meaning that you can eat Khash, starting from September till April. These are the chilliest wintery months in Armenia.

Khash soup is the shortened version of the Armenian verb “khashél;” that is “to boil.” Khash is mostly made of feet and stomach of cow or sheep. The recipe may seem simple. but one should master special skills to cook this really tasty winter soup.
In Armenia, khash is not just a broth made from beef bones and belly. It is a ritual for the organizers and participants. Khash is an ancient Armenian dish, which later spread throughout the Caucasus and Transcaucasia.
Even children in Armenia know that Khash is generally served early in the morning. (We ate our for dinner). People say that this “ritual” of eating Khash early in the morning started from days of yore. During that period, the rich took only the meat after slaughtering an animal. The poor picked up thrown feet and entrails of the animal and cooked them. As they didn’t want anyone to know what they eat, the soup was made early in the morning. But if you ever tasted Khash you will verify the rightfulness of eating this delicious winter soup early in the morning, as it is very difficult to digest. Many people, who are going to eat Khash, avoid eating anything from the previous evening.
So even though Armenians are famous for making countless toasts during any event, there are only three toasts that traditionally are made during the “Khash party,” which are well-defined and announced in a special order. Khash related toasts are relatively brief.
1. Good Morning
The first toast is for good morning, which is suggested when everyone is served with Khash and put some salt, garlic and dried lavash (the flat bread)into it.
2. For the ones who made Khash
The second toast is for the hosts, literally translated “For the ones who “put” Khash”. The guests make a toast to thank the hosts.
3. For the ones who eat Khash
Later comes the third toast, a toast for guests. Literally it is translated as “For the ones who eat the Khash.” 

These are the obligatory toasts, which are considered to be complete after the third. But a late arriving guest is provided an opportunity to drink for the “Good Morning.”
More on the Khash Day Tradition:
From the depths of the ages Armenian cuisine developed and maintained a culture of delicious and good-tasting meals, meantime winter soup Khash conserved its original cooking manner for centuries.
Khash is always a party dish and you wouldn’t find anyone in Armenia who he eats Khash alone. But you can definitely find many people who will reveal that they are mostly delighted from the mood, bright conversations and funny stories told during the meal.
There is no need to plan anything for the rest of the Khash day, as people who plan to eat Khash usually spend the whole day together.

About the digestion issue: we ate this soup in the evening, and had no issue with digestion. Darly deals with GERD, so that is saying something in my opinion. The soup, by the way, is delicious, and I would enjoy eating it, any time it is available!
Tolma
Traditionally, each Armenian girl before marriage must learn to perfectly prepare this tasty dish. And it can be said in secret that all Armenian women do it perfectly.
For the preparation of the traditional tolma, Armenians use beef, pork and sometimes add mutton. In minced meat they add herbs, basil, oregano and rice and then wrap it in tender grape leaves. Tolma is served with a unique white sauce prepared from fermented matsun (yogurt) and garlic. Armenians can also offer “summer dolma,” and even meatless “pasus tolma” for vegetarians.
In summer tolma the same meat is wrapped in cabbage leaves or stuffed in vegetables (tomatoes, egg-plants, green pepper). During the preparation process, an indescribable aroma fills the entire home.. In pasus tolma Armenians instead of meat put crushed wheat, lentils, peas and beans.

In addition, on the right side, we had some baked Bell Peppers. Finally, the compote fruit drink on this evening was cherry
Try as I might, I could not get a name for this salad dish, which was served hot. I would liken it to a stir-fry vegetable dish.
I previously blogged about this unusual Penicillin Cheese we got to enjoy up north.
The green string-like cheese can be found in high elevation of Armenia. It was delicious and we ate our fill while at the no-name hotel in Amasia.
The soft blue-green cheese “Sambiel” is made in Armenia in the higher elevations of the mountainous region at the heights between 12,043 and 15,054 feet above sea level. Obtaining an ecologically natural product is promoted by Alpine pastured, fragrant motley grass, tasty and clear water. 
The combination of German technologies and Armenian highlands gives the cheese “Sambiel” a truly unique and incomparable taste.
Cheese plate, as an appetizer
Lori is a brined Armenian cheese with a white-yellow color, an elastic texture, and irregular eyes dispersed throughout. The cheese has a much firmer texture than its cousin Chanakh, because Lori’s curd is heated twice. Its flavor is salty, creamy, and sharp, and it is regularly used as a table cheese in Armenia.
Fresh, cold Cucumber and Tomato Salad is quite popular in Armenia; all year long. The nifty use of root cellars in this country keep produce fresh, for all year around use.
More cooked Chicken Breast and Vermicelli dish
Ghapama
THIS is my most favorite soup I’ve had in Armenia!
In Armenias. believe they grow the most delicious fruits because “they taste of the sun”. If you want to experience the flavors of the sun, try out this a typical Armenian dish
Ghapama is a made from pumpkin which is stuffed and baked, and can be eaten as a main dish or as a dessert (I seriously could eat this any time of the day), but I like it best on a cold evening, because the dish makes me feel all cosy inside.
Now, to really get a taste of Armenian culture, put on the “Ghapma song” and enjoy your meal!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUMd9WczYn4
I have no idea how to describe this delicious non-alcoholic sparkling drink, and in my research I read a snippet from another traveler who was also trying to figure out exactly what this drink is all about. the only difference between my hot above and his description just another brand of the same type of drink. Normally we do not drink soda, like never, but this is an exceptional flavor that is hard to resist, and we share one; split between the two of us.We have never seen it in a store, but we have been served it at the B& B. Its really like a dessert to us.

The following is barrowed from: wedirdsodareview:

In the world of Weird Soda, there is an interesting dim, dusty corner–the Sodas Which Dare Not Speak Their Names. These are the ones whose names are neither descriptive nor, at least, to the provincial rubes such as myself, well-known enough to need no description. (Coca-Cola, for example, is familiar enough that I don’t need to speculate on its taste). 
The other day, while investigating an international market in Vista, I came across just such a coy bottle. It identified itself as “Duchess.” The possibility of a Duchess-flavored soda being too tantalizing to be realistic, I had to investigate further.
This one, however, doesn’t play too hard-to-get. Beneath the “Duchess” appelation is a picture of pears.
“Unless this is a clever scheme to lull the imbiber into a false sense of security, and then spring an unsuspected and breathtaking flavor upon his or her unprepared palate, it seems safe to assume that this beverage will be pear-flavored. Now, personally, I like pears. One of my favorite sodas (the Sweet Blossom Elderflower) was reminiscent of a pear cream soda.

Er. Yes. Duchess. Anyway, pears. Good.
Well, this might be nice. I should further note that there is additional text on the bottle, but alas, it is unintelligibe to me. High on the bottle is a label which bears the inscription “Napitki IZ Chernogolovki,” which seems Slavic. Come, let us consult the Google.
I put in the text and request an Armenian to English translation. 
No luck.
Okay, let’s try Russian to English.
No luck again, but interestingly, it makes a suggestion. “Did you mean Напитки ИЗ Черноголовки?”
Um…I’m not sure. Did I? Sure.
*click*
“Drinks from Chernogolovka.”

Well, that seems like a likely possibility. And lo, further investigation reveals that Chernogolovka is, in fact, a small Russian town not far from Moscow.
Which–ah, what joy!–is a major center of Russian science, and houses research institutes in chemistry, physics, “physiologically active compounds”, and experimental mineralogy.”

So now we all know very little about this amazing drink. which to me does not taste like pear at all, though “Duchess” is a type of pear. Image drinking a very cold creme soda, with ice cubes made of root beer popsicles floating and melting into the creme soda flavor. It sounds like a funny combination to me, too, but it is delicious, just the same!
Напитки ИЗ Черноголовки
Fresh Chicken Quarters, baked, with a side salad called Russian Vinaigrette with Beets and Sauerkraut. This is another “staple” of Russian/ Ukrainian cooking. Its also a very pretty and vibrant Russian salad.
Borsch with a dollopof homemade Matsoni; or what we call Yogurt.
Borscht, also spelled borsch, borsht, or bortsch, is a beet soup of the Slavic countries. Although borscht is important in Russian and Polish cuisines, Ukraine is frequently cited as its place of origin. Its name is thought to be derived from the Slavic word for the Cow Parsnip, or common Hogweed; or from a fermented beverage derived from that plant. The more-palatable cultivated beet eventually replaced the Wild Wow Parsnip as the basis of the soup.
Daryl managed to find this box of sample sized little cakes, for my birthday. Not an easy find! He did good.
More pounded and fried Chicken Breast; very tasty, with Bulgur Pilaf on the side.
Similar to the
Ghipana soup, here we have an even more simple and delicious pumpkin soup called Ddmapour.
Only a few ingredients are needed to make this healthy, light and very tasty soup. 
Pumpkin season, in the fall, is the best time to take advantage and use this extremely nutritious vegetable, with Okra.
I am a huge fan of pumpkin soups, and this was every bit as good as the Ghipana Soup
Ishli-Kufta
is often prepared by Turkish Armenians; those Armenians who moved to Armenia from Turkey. Ishli-kufta is very popular in Armenia and almost no festive table is complete without this national dish.

According to the structure of “Ishli-Kufta” it is a double cutlet. The outer part; the” went,” is fresh tender minced beef with blgur, which is cooked in salted water during cooking. The stuffing “Went kufta” is fried minced meat, as in Armenian pancakes, with spices and Greek nuts.
These are divine!

The round yellow food is a serving is mashed potatoes
A serving of Ishli-Kufta is seen in this soup.
Spas is a delicious Armenian soup prepared from fermented product Matsun (yogurt) with the addition of wheat and greenery. It turns out to be a very delicate white soup, and one of the most common and popular in Armenia.
Trying it is a real pleasure, but to the unfamiliar guest, it may be off-putting, if only for a second, because of its unusual sour taste. But, it is delectable, and soon we want more!
Spas is served hot in cold winter days or cold in summer.
Gata
We have only found the round sweet bread, when being in the Garni area of Armenia. In our experience, we do not care for the outside crust, as it is always seems over baked in our opinion. Again, this may be due to our western palette. Its just what we know, versus what the locals like. But, inside the top and bottom crust is a delicious and gooey center.
Gata, warmed up and eaten with hot coffee. It’s an Armenia coffee cake of sorts, by our description
Armenian Summer Salad: Cucumber, Tomato and a dash of Cilantro
Barbecue Pork
Shashlik is made usually with cubes of marinated pork meat, often with bits of vegetables. Shashlik is also grilled over hot charcoal using skewers.
Daryl usually orders these, and enjoyed them. But, we both agree the meat is over cooked. Again, this is just a different way of cooking meat. Most countries we have visited, in fact, all the countries we have visited (outside of Europe) tend over cook their meat. The terms medium, well, done, or medium rare, mean nothing.
Barbecue Pork
Harrisa
Armenians love eating delicious food, and who can blame them, as so many are wonderful and experienced cooks!
Throughout the centuries, Armenians made dishes which are quite tasty and their recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Over time, the recipes underwent some changes, but the main ingredients and cooking directions were preserved.
Harissa is one of the traditional Armenian dishes which has been passed on since ancient times. It is a kind of porridge, which is made of boned and stewed chicken and cracked or coarsely ground wheat. Traditionally it was made with lamb, but nowadays the majority makes it with chicken.
There are different stories about the origin and name of this dish. According to the most widespread and popular one, when the patron saint of Armenia; “Gregory the Illuminator” was offering a meal of love and charity to the poor, they had to add wheat, as there weren’t enough sheep to feed the crowds. They noticed that the wheat was sticking to the bottom of the pot. Saint Gregory advised; “Harekh!” which translates to “Stir It,” Thus, the name of the dish, Harissa, came from the saint’s own words.
Once a year (every third Sunday of September) Armenians gather together in Armenian region Armavir to commemorate the resistance of Musa Ler mountain during the Armenian genocide in 1915. They make Harissa and celebrate the victory with songs and dances.
Harissa usually takes an extremely long time to cook, but if you visit Armenia and eat this incredible dish, but oh so worth it.
Barbecue Chicken with mashed potatoes
 Russian Blinchek or Blini is a classic Russian dish is a thin crepe wrapped and filled with minced meat and fried onions, and then gently fried in a pan to get a crispy crust around it. This is then topped with some sour cream. The crispy crepe and the minced meat together with the creamy sour cream just makes a heavenly bite, you have to try this.
It is a favourite of mine, since being in Armenia
More pickled vegetables called Toursh or Torshi
Shashlik and Kababs
Shashlik, or shashlyk, is a dish of skewered and grilled cubes of meat, similar to, or synonymous with shish kebab. It is known traditionally, by various other names in the Caucasus and Central Asia. From the 19th century became popular as shashlik across much of the Russian Empire.
A kebab (kabob another spelling) is a simple name encompassing several different dishes; all being grilled meats. We know kebabs from Turkey, Cyprus, and most of the Middle East. Related to kebabs are the Greek Gyros.
Gata
Another form of Armenian Sweet Bread. These are made in bite-sized servings.
Gata is easily one of the most beloved Armenian desserts. It’s a pastry with similarities to both croissants and rugelach, but with a personality of its own. It is Crisp on the outside, flaky within, with spirals of vanilla-laced sweetness throughout, it’s a divine dessert any time of year.
Lamb Dish. Almost like a Lamb Stew, with out the broth
Armenia Spaghetti with yogurt. This is all I was told about this dish, when at a restaurant. It did not taste like any kind of Italian dish. It definitely had its own flair of flavors. It was good, bu not good enough to order it again. Spaghetti in Armenia has too many surprises, so Im done ordering anything Spaghetti
An Armenian version of Caesar Salad. Not bad

“Armenia 🇦🇲 ~The Seasonal White Stork and Living the Travelers Life”

Imagine our surprise to see a few White Storks, yesterday, on our drive from Vagharshapat to Yerevan, and back. This is a highly unusual sight to see, this time of year!

White Storks fly south from their summer breeding grounds in Europe (yes, Armenia is considered geopolitical Europe, south Caucuses and Asia) in August and September, heading for Africa. There, they spend the winter in the savannah from Kenya and Uganda, and south to the Cape Province of South Africa.

Not a great pic through the window of our car, of one of the White Storks in the dead of winter! I was unprepared to photograph any of these amazing birds, because it’s not spring time! We were not expecting any of the Storks to be around, but we see the many, many empty nests, as we have toured Armenia.
Then, out of the blue, we saw two Storks! I thought we were being things! Somehow they were way of course in their migration. They are all suppose to be in Africa right now!

We are quite familiar with this particular bird, because of their migrating habits. We have seen them in Europe, and Africa. These are very large birds, and have had to adapt to a more city environment, in Europe, due to their natural habitat being taken away. But, that being said, they do thrive!

Not my photo, but a photo during the spring, showing a young nestling

We were pleased to learn, when we have traveled to these other continents, and admired Stork activities, protection programs are in place to support these birds. Armenia is no different and I read up on their particular program as well. More on that to follow, BUT…..

From late March to August every year, around 650 pairs of breeding White Storks descend into wetland-adjacent villages in Armenia, settling into numbered nests where they will hatch nestlings and teach the babies to feed. Armenia is a stopover point for breed, on their long journey South, from Western Europe to their winter grounds in Africa. their nests are reused every year, and the Storks tend to come back to the same ones, or ones very close to where they, themselves, were hatched.

Storks, common in worldwide folklore for bringing human babies to families, gained new traction during the 19th century, when the myth; using the Stork as a symbol of birth, was popularized by Hans Christian Andersen in his version of the fable, called “The Storks.” In this tale, these birds plucked dreaming babies from ponds and lakes, and delivered them to deserving families.

Armenia as a stopover point to breed, on their long journey South from Western Europe to their winter grounds in Africa.

In Africa
In Africa

At the same time, more than 1,000 families in those Armenian villages will take pen to paper and monitor the Storks’ progress as part of a program called Nest Neighbors. If you want to read more about this program, here is the link. Its quite interesting and similar to other programs in other lands: https://whitleyaward.org/winners/white-stork-armenia/

In addition, here is a lovely story from Serbia, and how their people care for the the Storks, too: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/06/04/serbia-storks-are-back

My photo from Serbia 🇷🇸. Every spring, the Storks arrive in Serbia after a long migration from Africa. Empty nests which weathered the Serbian winter, slowly become occupied again, by the summer residents
My photo when in Serbia

Moving on from the Stork sightings……

We had driven into the capital yesterday, in hopes of getting me some new reading glasses ordered. I only use glasses when on my computer, but as you may know I’m always on my computer working on photos, writing, and posting on our blog. My lenses ares till good but the frame broke. One stem is gone.

After two different stops at Optical places in Yerevan, we heard the same following story: Because of the kind of prescription for my glasses, they would need to send my lenses out of the country, to duplicate them, because Armenia can’t do the work. I can’t be without my glasses for that long, as my work never stops. The other option we looked into is just getting me some magnified glasses, but we have never seen an eye glass stand of such non-prescription eye glasses readers, here. When we try to ask where we can find non-prescription eye glasses, they do not understand. EVEN when using translator. So, while my lenses are fine, and I still have one operating stem, Daryl will need to figure out some kind of a rigged band for me to wear around my head, to keep my broken stem side on my face.

While also in the city, we went into a Post Office (they are called Hay Post, here) to see what we could learn about my two shipped packages, which had left America on December 28, and are to be delivered here in Armenia. One of three gals could speak a little English. I gave her my tracking numbers, and she got busy on her computer, with all the gals overing over her, waiting for an answer, as were we. In the end, she could not give us any answers as to where our packages are, but she did write down a phone number, where I can call to check on the tracking, here, in Armenia. That was on Saturday and it is now Sunday. I will call tomorrow, on Monday, and hope to get good news. We are committed to remain in Armenia till the packages come. We just happened to come to the B&B where the owners are so kind to allow a delivery for us, on the chance they arrived on time.

Backstory: If we could have gotten back into India, from Pakistan, we would not have needed these shipped parcels. We have plenty of supplies (including cold weather wear) in storage at a hotel in Mumbai. But, while we can manage without the clothing (easier to replace) I can not go with out other things; not available as easily; if at all. India has been in lockdown since March and has never opened.

Based on how these two packages, being shipped to us here goes, will determine if I have our daughter send another letter envelope to me at this same place with my renewal drivers license she finally got in the mail. WE haven’t always had the best of luck getting our goods, when my daughter has helped us out, so we keep fingers and toes crossed, always!

At this time, no neighboring countries Armenia are open to tourists, so I arranged for the rental car, till March 2nd. Daryl also learned, the only way we can get to Azerbaijan, is to fly, since Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at war since around 1988, and land crossings for tourists are not allowed. We already know, as a tourist, we can not drive over land borders from Armenia to Georgia, either, so we will not keep the rental car beyond our Armenia travels.

YES! WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO SPRING, as most people are!

We have plenty left to see in Armenia, but given what is going on in our home county, this next week or so it seems and feels like uncertain times, we want to be on the safe side, and are taking a break from being out and about, till the end of the month, because if we can not access our online banking, or use our credit card from America, here in Armenia, we won’t get very far. We could not be in a better place; in a prepaid room and board situation, and such good internet!! Its very much a home-stay, which are our favorite kinds of places to stay. The food is amazing; healthy, home cooked and organic from their large garden they grow every year, and put up their harvest for the winter months in the root cellar. We have hot water in the shower and the sink, heat, a washing machine, a microwave, hot plate, fridge and the most comfortable bed we have had in over a month. We are the only guests, until the last few days of our stay, so yes, we are pretty spoiled. We are also expecting snow over the next few days again. It is nice taking some time away from driving, too. Winter time is a little tricky in that regards, to get around, easily. It can be stressful.

Well, that’s it for now.

“Armenia 🇦🇲 ~Hayravank Monastery, Saint Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) Church and Medieval Cemetery”

Also included in our big day of adventuring, we toured the west side of Sevan Lake, and had the pleasure of visiting two more incredible sites; a Monastery on the shores of Sevan Lake, and a Church with another medeival cemetery on the its grounds, in the nearby village of Noratus.

On the side of Hayravank Monastery with Sevan Lake view and a few large khachkar in the small cemetery next to the Monastery

Armenia has much to offer, and many of the historic sites are Monasteries, but for us, they never get old, because, while similar, each one has a unique character, history, and scenic placements in this country.

Hayravank Monastery

One of the hidden gems surrounding Lake Sevan; the largest lake in the Caucasus, is a 9th century Monastery complex consisting of: a church, chapel, and gavit that sits atop a high rocky hill, overlooking the water.  A small and humble Monastery, it has a certain charm to it, due to the beautiful surroundings.
The big church, named Saint Stepanos was built in the 9th century and is in the form of quatrefoil cruciform. The Chapel was added in the 10th century and the gavit was built some time in the 12th century.
A gravit is the narthex, which is the entrance to the church, mausoleum and assembly rooms
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The first thing you notice when approaching Hayravank Monastery are the vintage khackars (cross stones) as you start ascending the stairs.
There is also a little cemetery next to the Monastery. The 360 degree view from that height is amazing and calming.
Walk around Hayravank Monastery and pay attention to the old Armenian language and crosses carved into the stone. It’s amazing to be around a structure this old. As you enter from the northern entrance you immediately see the light coming down through the dome top reflecting light off the pillars. Just ahead you see a small entrance to the chapel located in the south section and to the right is entrance to the gavit. The Monastery is very small and cozy and while not the most impressive piece of vintage Armenian architecture, it has a great vibe and its charming because of the location and outstanding scenery.
According to legend, Hayravank Monastery also has a history connected to its name.
As Armenians were fighting against the infamous Turk ruler; Timur, who was conquering Armenia at that time, he approached the Monastery and left nothing on his way but corpses and ruins. The priest serving at the Monastery could not take the scene and threw himself off the cliff into Lake Sevan, but he did not die. Instead, he ran on the surface of the water.
Timur was shocked by the scene and as respect to such a divine act, he promised to make only one wish of the priest come true. The priest asked Timur to let the people of the village enter the church and he wouldn’t touch the people that the space inside the church could take. The church was very small, so Timur agreed, being sure that the priest won’t be able to save too many people.
So people started to enter the church. After some time there was nothing left outside. Timur got angry thinking that the priest was cheating. He rushed into the church and saw it completely empty. He also noticed how the priest transformed the last person into a dove, who flew from the church window. The priest’s name was Hovhan, and the church was named Hovhanavank, later becoming Hayravank (“Hayr” meaning “Father”).
Interestingly, the legend was written by His Holiness Ghazar A Jahkeci. According to him, the priest transformed his people into doves with the help of a relic of Christ’s cross, which was later moved to Sevanavank Monastery just a few kilometers away.

Saint Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) Church and Medieval Cemetery

Just a short drive from the huge Medieval Cemetery called Noratus, we found this really small church with an ancient cemetery on its ground. I can find no information on this church in the village in my research. I can’t even find a picture that matches the look of this church. Only by description, did I come up with this name.
It relates to being located in the village center, and was built at the end of 9th century for Sahak Ishkhan (Prince) of Gegharkunik. The vaulted hall was built entirely of solid, finely hewn stone. The churchyard has numerous khachkars (stone crosses) and gravestones. The oldest inscription (996), found on one of the khachkars has been removed and is now exhibited at the State History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan.
Three ancient khachkar preserved in the church…the fourth one; and oldest one, having been moved to the museum in Yerevan
In the 5th -7th century,  “cradle stones” developed. These low stones resemble Armenian baby cradles, and can have rounded or pointed tops running the length of the stone. Flat stones mainly depicted human shapes; cradle stones Smaller stones were primarily for children.

We will leave Sevan Lake, tomorrow, and will head back to the Artson B&B next week; (west of the capital) another tried and true stay, in hopes of being there when my packages from the USA are delivered. (I know, but I’m trying to be positive). Even if the packages don’t arrive on time it will be a nice stay. Very kind hosts and good, authentic Armenian cooking. Regardless of packages coming or not, we will leave again after five nights, and begin new adventures in Southern Armenia! We have officially completed touring in the north and central regions. A feat we are very proud of!