The Bible says Noah beached the ark on the mountain that my husband points to in the picture to the left.
David and I could see the mountain peak clearly during our visit to the Armenian city of Echmiadzin, pronounced etch-my-ad-zin. This city is to the Armenian Apostolic Church as the Vatican is to the Roman Catholic one. Closer to Echmiadzin is the Metsamor nuclear plant. Look closely at the left side of the photo below and you’ll see steam rising from Metsamor.
“It’s kind of neat to see cooling towers and Mt. Ararat, while standing in front of an ancient Armenian church,” David said. We were on the steps of a shrine first built to St.Hripsime around 618 A.D., as seen below. Major reconstruction was done there– a millennium later.
Welcome to Armenia, which in the 4th century became the world’s first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion. This is a country that in the 20th century would embrace Soviet ideology, giving the USSR some of its top physicis The reward was in part the Metsamor nuclear plant, closed in the 1980s because it wasn’t considered safe.
Armenia re-opened the nuclear plant in the 1990s when political feuds with Turkey and Azerbaijan left it short of power. Armenia and Turkey have been fighting even before there really was a Turkey. Armenians helped make the Ottoman Empire a success, and then suffered in the empire’s dying years. As many as 1.5 million Armenians may have died as Turks fought to retain part of their former empire between 1915 and 1917. Some Armenians died at soldiers’ hands, some starved.
Formed around the nub of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey came into existence in 1923. It won Mt. Ararat and other land that had been Armenia in a treaty that the USSR negotiated for Armenia, then under its control. Armenia hasn’t forgotten that.
On a hill above Yerevan rises Mother Armenia, as seen in the photo below. This Soviet-era statue is meant to inspire the local folks. Mother Armenia has both hands clenched on a sword like she means business, as shown in David’s pictures below. She faces the Turkish border.
Mother Armenia looks all the more fierce when compared with Mother Georgia, who rises above the capitol of the neighboring country. Mother Georgia has a sword too, but seems much
more focused on the goblet of wine she holds in other hand.
The Armenians do have more on their mind than Turkey. It’s hard to find a corner of the country where music isn’t playing. David and I were treated to an impromptu concert when we asked some men what was the purpose of the building shown below.
Above is the Palace of Culture for Echmiadzin. The former director happened to be standing in front of the palace that day and led us inside for a tour. His name was Robert and he took us after the tour for `Armenian coffee’ in his office. Robert, shown on the left in the picture below, had one of his students play for us.
Robert then took over. He started with what he called an “Armenian jazz improvisation.” He then played us a folk dance known as akochari and closed with a ballad that was so sad in tone, one doesn’t need to know what the words say.
The link below plays bits of Robert’s concert. The first bit is the jazz. There is a pause and then the kochari plays. Another pause and then and then the ballad. Forgive the poor quality of the recording. Robert’s music played live was very beautiful.
Moments from Robert’s concert
Robert invited us to his house for Easter, to have dinner with his family. David and I couldn’t stay and regret even now that we couldn’t. As we left, Robert gave us one last gift. I had admired the art hanging in the office. Robert plucked a drawing off the wall and gave it to me,
ignoring my protests that he had already been way too kind. It was a drawing of a landscape with a distant Mt. Ararat as the focus.