Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Armenia Part IV: Cognac

Yep, that's what I do for a living :)

Well, this was the last trip - therefore the last post about Armenia. No more rocks, promise.

This time I spent my day off enjoying the sights around Yerevan with my friend Makrita. We started at a Christmas fair with lots of handmade and traditional crafts. Including a display of vana katou (white swimming cats!). 

Other delights included:


I received a beautiful Armenian scarf as a leaving present. It's that time of year to start wearing it again. 

Next, we headed to the Matenadaran: National Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. This is a building of epic proportions, housing some of the oldest books in the world.

The Armenian collection at the Matenadaran is abundantly rich in manuscripts dealing in all fields of the humanities, but particularly historiography and philosophy...
The Armenian collection is also composed of 2,500 Armenian illuminated manuscripts, which include such prominent examples as the Echmiadzin Gospel (989) and the Mugni Gospels (1060). Another prominent manuscript in the collection is a 632 page, 80 lb. calendar made out of calf skin, which dates back to the 15th century. The calendar was found by two Armenian women in an Armenian monastery in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and because it was found to be too heavy to be carried, it was split into two: one half was wrapped in a cloth and buried, while the second half was taken to Georgia. A couple years later, a Polish officer found the first half and sold it to an officer in Baku. It eventually was brought to Armenia and the two halves were finally reattached together. - Wiki
It was truly fascinating to see what the ancient inks and pens were made from. Something that impressed me most was that, in Armenia, there seemed to be very little schism between church and philosophy. It wasn't considered heretical to discuss ideas such as the world being round, or medical theories. This meant that there were a lot of copies of extremely ancient philosophical and scientific works that may well have been burned in places such as Britain. 

I forgot to mention, during the trip to Geghard, we stopped at a beauty spot dedicated to the Armenian poet Paruyr Sevak, overlooking the Ararat valley where he liked to sit and write. Some speculate that he was killed by the KGB for being outspoken against the Soviet regime.

Paruyr Sevak's Spot

View of the Ararat Valley
It was a bit too cloudy to see Mount Ararat clearly. The dark band in the distance marks the border between Armenia and Turkey. Ararat was once in Armenia, and remains the symbol of Armarvia Air.

We rounded off the day with a trip to the Ararat Brandy Company in Yerevan.

The adult version of
winning the golden ticket.

Armenian cognac is considered so fine that both Stalin and Churchill ordered supplies. As shown in an illustrative theatrical sketch above. Makrita's interpreting skills came in handy here.

The Peace Barrel. Only to be opened once a peaceful reconciliation has been found between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

That's the way to do it.
We received a lesson in cognac drinking from a living statue. Apparently you should hold the glass against your heart to warm it. I can assure you, this is indeed the way to do it - I practiced at the hotel bar afterwards.

"What's that Makrita? You want
me to stand just here...?"
A wonderful end to a full-on couple of months. It was all plain sailing after that (literally, I had to take the ferry home because snow grounded my flight!)

I really enjoyed my time in Armenia and would highly recommend it as a country to visit. Massive amounts of history. 

I leave you with a picture of another fond memory. Hotel Aviatrans did a stunning BBQ sandwich. Three stories high it was!

Cognac Antidote

See Also:

The Schiphol Saga

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