Having fun is the best medicine to relieve stress and there are so many things how to do it— traveling is on the top of the list (I assume, how about you?)
I went to Armenia and stayed there for 5 days and I was still lucky to at least experience their winter which later on resulted to almost losing my voice for a month (My voice was so raspy one employee of the hostel I was staying at thought I was a man inside the girl’s washroom hahaha!). It is a budget-friendly country for tourists.
Armenia is the home of Mt. Ararat, where Noah’s Ark believed to be resting inside. Yerevan as the capital city and is the largest city of the country not to mention it is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. World’s first Christian country.
It took us 30 minutes to travel from the airport to the city proper which our hostel was located, I stayed in Vagary Hostel which is very cheap and a nice place to stay. The owner was so accommodating and they are a wonderful person even their son. Every day the owner will visit us and check if we are enjoying our stay. Bringing vodka that is waaaaaay too strong but tasty. They even arrange the tour for us and waited for us to get back to the hostel.
We first visit Yerevan Square, taking pictures and appreciating the old buildings and the atmosphere, it’s like you were in a modern – medieval era. The locals are also very accommodating, we were walking and saw an ice cream stand, we were in the line when they noticed us and let us go through first, we were hesitant because it was kind of a long cue plus they also have children with them but they insisted and also the child was smiling at us pointing the ice cream stand and so we obliged. We believed (I) that they were not used to having a tourist in their country but I know for a fact that some are still visiting Armenia. The cute part is they thought we are Chinese but no we don’t have the chinky eyes and super fair skin Chinese use to have (some Filipinos also have a fair skin tho). after taking photos, looking around and buying groceries for our dinner (yep! we are being super thrifty haha) we went back to the hostel and started cooking our dinner, chatting to each other and drinking. Oh, and btw I just met them at the airport!
After a fun and relaxing night, we first went out to Echimiazin, it was the first cathedral that was built in the country and the world’s oldest (correct me if I’m wrong). The main church is under re-construction but still open for the public to pray. We saw a parade of priests and sacristans inside, it’s very rare for me to see it personally it’s like you were pulled back in time. After that, we went to Tsaghkadzor which is almost an hour drive and we were pretty much excited to experience the snow (no snow in our country and where I’m working at lol). Ski lifts brought us to the other side of the mountain to enjoy the scenery, so when we arrived there, we were like in a war—snowball fight! it brings out the kid inside me, us. After we got tired we went back to the van and visit Kecharis Monastery which is a medieval monastic complex dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries. Since we all woke up late and headed out late we decided to go back to the hostel. That night we go out for a drink and went to 90’s Cafe Pub, it is the most popular pub in Yerevan and the cue going inside was kinda long (when we arrive there). We had a blast that night, we get to meet people who became our friends hang out, danced and chat with them for the rest of the night.
On our 3rd day we woke up early had our breakfast and headed out again, we decided to go first to Lake Sevan since it’s winter it is super cold, even when we were wearing our jackets you can still feel cold. While we were sightseeing and looking around before going up the hill to visit the church, one local vendor handed me a moonstone I was actually returning it back to her since I don’t want to buy it but she told me it’s a gift from her and I was so thankful I ended up buying a bundle of key chains to give to my friends. After taking several photos, we decided it’s time to go to the church and the view was so beautiful plus the weather. In Lake Sevan, you will see different monasteries and cemetery. After that, we went to Khor Virap where St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first official head of the catholic church was imprisoned for 14 years and when I saw the monastery at the top of the hill (not that it’s high but it’s still high for me) I blurted out “That’s too high! Are we really going to walk that far?!” (I’m not a fan of walking if there are staircases lol) they just laughed at me and I don’t have a choice but to walk and climb the stairs. But when we reached the peak, it feels so amazing, the wind touching my face and the scenery.
The view of Mt. Ararat was breathtaking. After appreciating and looking around the monastery we headed to Noravank Monastery, just by going to the monastery makes our eyes even fuller. The view, scenery, color of the sky, the road itself is already entertaining, not too wide not too narrow and it’s like someone dug out just so we can go to the monastery. When we arrived there, breathtaking is an underrated word, I cannot find the exact words to describe what I’ve felt when I got there. The sunset also made huge participation in making the place more beautiful. Since it’s a 1-hour drive from Khor Virap to Noravank and 2-hour drive to Yerevan. We decided to go home straight and just rest for a bit and walk around the city again trying to discover where to buy souvenirs which we found in Yerevan Square but kinda expensive compared to other shops behind the Square.
4th day, I slept late so I woke up late. My roommate saw me going to the washroom and she followed me, I was still inside the cubicle when I heard my roommate talking to someone. Then I came out and when the receptionist saw me who happens to be the one my roommate is talking with, smiled and looked like she’s embarrassed and started talking Russian (their language). I don’t have any idea what’s happening until my roommate burst out laughing, and explained to me what happened. The housekeeper walked inside the washroom and since my roommate who was standing in front of the mirror while talking to me, she thought that there’s a man inside girl’s washroom (hahaha my voice was already raspy and since I just woke up it gave me the sound of a man’s voice). They were so shy and embarrassed about what happened, they re-open the free breakfast for me even if it’s already past 11:00 AM and made me a pot of mint tea. We were all laughing at what happened. It was already late so we decided to just stay inside the hostel, then the owner came and invited us to go to Tsitsemakaberd Memorial since they are commemorating the lives that were perished during the war between Armenia and Turkey. It was really an honor for us to be a part of that historical event. Imagine of us being proud because we didn’t see any Filipinos or Asians in that event. Thanks to the owner of the hostel who really exert so much effort just to keep us accommodated. I also made a special bond with the owner’s wife, we were linking our arms as we are walking, keep on chatting about my life, her kids and what we love doing. She bought cotton candy for me and when we came back to the hostel, she asked me to go with her to the grocery store-bought Ice cream, peanuts, chocolates, and other foods for me (all of them really made my voice worse but I still ate them) I was really touched by her gesture and I really appreciated it. Well when other guests saw what she bought for me, they envied me (hahaha but I shared it with them of course).
5th day, It’s the last day and we were preparing our things and ourselves for check out. It was really a sad day because we already got attached with the people in Armenia most especially to the people who we are with everyday, the receptionist who became our friend, we are still in contact with her to this day, to the owners and to other people who are in our group (sadly most of them are out of reach already so I don’t know their whereabouts now).
Those uncaptured memories that are forever in your hearts are the most genuine thing you could ever asked for, sure the photos made you remember. But what’s behind that photos are the reason the smile on your face was carved forever.
Travelling is a learning, learning is a living. We travel to learn not only the culture and the history of the place but to learn how to mingle with different races, be friends with different people, become a family with them and have trust on them. There will always be a language barrier but this doesn’t stop us to know them. It doesn’t stop us to be good to one another. You will also learn how to de-stress while travelling, putting everything behind and just enjoying where you are. It will also bring out the best in us..the kid in us.. And we live to learn, we are learning endless things. And by learning, we live our lives to the fullest, we live our lives to be the best we can be.