Sunday 13 June 2010
13.06.2010 - 14.06.2010 87 °F
This was our last full day in Armenia as our flight was due out early Monday morning. Our plan was to have another excursion with Saro, this time to Ejmiatsin. Before we left, Lia, our landlady's daughter came round with a bottle of brandy for our brother Rod. We were under strict instructions that we all had to have a first drink together. We then went on our way and took the same road we had taken a few days earlier when we had gone to Saradapat. We passed the casinos and the streets lined with furniture shops. Apparently, the contents of the shops are dragged out in the morning and then dragged in again at the end of the day. This would not work in England.
Ejmiatsin Cathedral was buzzing when we arrived as, being a Sunday, there were services due to take place. We saw a whole crocodile of trainee priests making their way through the gardens to the cathedral. Having been mostly in ruined monasteries, it was quite a culture shock to see the inside of a church that had all the trimmings associated with orthodox christians. A lot of gold and many icons around the walls. This is meant to be the oldest christian site in Armenia after one of the Saints saw a vision of Christ carrying a golden hammer which he struck on the ground three times. The church has changed and been rebuilt, renovated and extended since the very first one was built. We didn't stay to hear a service but went back towards Yerevan to see the last item on our itinerary - Zvartnots. This is a ruined church that collapsed sometime in the 7th Century I think because of an earthquake. It's quite interesting as it looks as if its totally round. Apparently, it wasn't actually round but had 32 sides and was three stories high. What was really interesting were the number of mulberry bushes on the site, bowed down with very ripe fruit. I can't remember the last time I ate a mulberry. We ate loads, getting purple fingers in the process. I think that the vodka is made from the white variety of mulberry.
As it was our last afternoon in Yerevan, we had to make sure we managed to get everything that we needed to take home with us before starting the horrible job of packing. To have a break from the heat we spent a little bit of time in an internet cafe on Amiryan Street. When we had first arrived in Yerevan we didn't think there were any internet cafes. In reality there were lots, mostly in the basement of shop or office buildings. We had tried to keep this blog up-to-date as much as possible but had got behind in the provinces due to the lack of connectivity. This is actually being completed nearly 3 months later - luckily I took notes while we were travelling otherwise I wouldn't remember any of it.
We wanted to buy some flowers for Viva our homestay host and were anxious to avoid buying imported flowers. We decided to walk to the Cascades, one of our first discoveries when we first arrived in Yerevan, and had lunch at one of our favourite cafes - Retro Cafe. Although we had pasta the evening before we decided to go for the pasta again which was very, very good. We resisted the temptation to climb up the Cascades for the last time and just admired it from the cafe instead.
We finally found a florist which did some very sweet arrangements which were all kept in a fridge. I wouldn't have minded spending a bit of time in the fridge myself - I wondered if the florists ever went in to cool down. When I worked at the Watershed in Bristol during one really hot month I used to go and cool down in their walk in fridge on a regular basis! The other item I needed to buy was some vodka which I got at the local supermarket for a very small amount of money. When we went back to our homestay to pack, it was like getting a quart in a pint pot. Les' rucksack looked enormous weighing in at 17K. My case didn't look much better weighing in 2K over the allowed amount. We thought we'd be OK as between us we just reached the required amount.
We decided to have our final meal at Caucasus as it was close and also because it had the best dolma that we had had so far. Then it was back to the homestay where Lia arrive with gifts for us. The Armenians are so generous! After a few hours of sleep we had to get up and get ready to go to the airport. Poor Saro had to be up at the crack of dawn too as we had to be at the airport at 3am. The drive there was the reverse of our arrival - it was dark but this time we knew what we were driving through - the flashing lights of the casinos were quite familiar to us now. My optimism about the weight of my luggage was short-lived as they made me transfer stuff into my hand luggage, no easy task, especially when there is a queue of people behind getting impatient. Saro was brilliant - we told him to go and get some sleep but he insisted on staying to make sure we were safely through to the departure lounge. We couldn't have asked for a better guide and driver. We would recommend him to anyone who wants to do a similar trip.
We were sad to leave Armenia - the last poster we saw as we headed to the departure gate was for the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund - the charity that we had collected money for before we had left for our holiday. I was definitely going to come back....