Monday, August 23, 2010

The world's oldest shoe and a snake pit: Weeks 8 and 9

My time in Armenia is coming close to an end now, and I think though it will be nice to get back to normal life I'll be very sad to leave. In terms of AIESEC work things are quite relaxed now, as I hand over to my replacement and get together the EB* for the next year.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been up to a fair amount, so I'll try hard not to make this blog post too epic...

Trip to the museum

Over the last few weeks I've been to Republic Square a lot of times, and I think it is my favourite place in Yerevan with lovely soviet-era buildings (normally an oxymoron) as well as the dancing fountains I mentioned before:

However I've not been inside the huge museum which overlooks the square until now. With a morning free me and Karen my host decided to have a look around the bottom 3 floors that house the National History Museum.

Armenia has an incredibly rich history. Their position in middle of major trade routes meant they were frequently invaded by several different empires, however at one point Armenia controlled a huge area of land.

Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the museum but there was a huge amount to see. When Lake Sevan was drained by the Soviet Union a large number of preserved artefacts were discovered, including a 2000 year old wagon, which was on display.

Another one of the main exhibits was a shoe dating back to 3500 BC, the oldest in the world...

It looks a bit like a pasty
Moving house

The next day it was time to move again, this time to stay with Arman, a member of the OGX* team and his sister Shushan. Again I noticed the Armenian approach to houses, while outside the block of flats was quite plain and the exterior wall unpainted inside the flat was very nice.

Arman has a large collection of English films, so we've been watching a few of them. I think he is glad not to have to watch movies with his sister, whose tastes seem to be limited to rom-coms. Their parents are currently away in their cottage for the summer holidays, and should be back next week, so we're all cooking together although it's quite hard to find the ingredients for the recipes I know in Armenia.

Khor Virap

A couple of days after moving house me, Elize and her family drove up to Khor Virap, one of the most popular sites in Armenia. Right next to the Turkish border (as in about 50 meters away from the first fence) this church is built over the pit where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years, with only the old woman who would sneak him food and the snakes for company.

You can climb down into the pit through a metal ladder tucked away to the side of the church's altar. It's about 6 meters down, and a bit of a squeeze for me (not many Armenians are 6 foot 1). Fortunately they had got rid of the snakes and put in a few lights, but the air was still very stale, and I was finding it hard to breath after only 5 minutes down there.

It was the pits

We also climbed up the hill next to the church to get a better view of the border. Sadly Mount Ararat was pretty hard to make out in heat haze, but you could see all the countryside for miles around.

Afterwards we went for a picnic in the shade before heading back to the city. Elize's dad is a keen photographer and was very pleased with all the photos he'd managed to get from the day.

As for Gregory the Illuminator eventually he was released by the King in exchange for curing his madness, and went on to convert the whole country to Christianity so I guess it all worked out in the end.


Next time: Adventures in Yerevan markets and my last days in Armenia!

Also because you demanded it, a photo of That Place, the bar in a car park.

*EB - Executive Body / Board, the people in charge of each functional group in the Local Committee

*OutGoing eXchange - In charge of sending people abroad

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