Entertainment and Leisure
Armenia is a real heaven for travelers. While traveling in Armenia, you will meet kind and open people, feel what real hospitality is and taste delicious dishes of national cuisine, which are considered one of the oldest in the world.
Armenia displays stunning natural diversity of landscape, flora and fauna packed in a small area of less than 30.000 sq km: The blooming Ararat valley, dramatic sceneries of volcanic highlands, the gigantic summits of Mt. Aragats with powerful slopes covered with carpets of alpine meadows, the marvelous mountain Lake Sevan with its crystal clear water, valleys of fast flowing mountain rivers, the breezy forests of Dilijan and Jermuk, “Symphony of Stones” – unique basalt rock formations in the canyons of Azat and Arpa rivers, serpentines of the Great Silk Road set in mountain sceneries, intrepid mountains of Zangezur range with wild growing trees of pomegranate and almond, the oak groves of Meghri and the vast steppes of Vayots Dzor. All these make up an unparalleled beauty of breathtaking sceneries found across Armenia.
Armenia is a wonderful environment which motivates to create. Many famous people, such as Osip Mandelstam, Dmitri Shostakovich, Rockwell Kent and others have created compositions in Armenia. Armenia and its culture have been a source of inspiration for George Gordon Byron, Andrey Belou, Osip Mandelstam, Franz Werfel, Jamie Francis, Peyo Yavorov and others. We assure that the picturesque and mysterious nature of Armenia will fill your soul with new emotions.
In the National Art Gallery of Armenia are demonstrated works of famous Armenian painters, Auguste Rodin, Peter Paul Rubens,Marc Chagall, Georges Braque, Ivan Aivazovsky, Martiros Saryan and others.
Yerevan is a city of museums and theaters. They are in abundance in downtown Yerevan. The Museum of the History of Armenia and the National Art Gallery are unique collections of treasures of the Armenian culture. The Matenadaran of Yerevan posesses the richest collection of medieval manuscripts and books in the world. In Yerevan, which is one of the oldest cities on Earth, one can wander among the ruins of Urartu, the fortress town of Erebuni and the fortress Teyshebani, reconstructed by archaeologists.
Yerevan is a city with almost three thousand years of history. Forever a young booming city, it was founded in the heart of the Ararat Valley – the cradle of Armenian civilization. The City is the hope of Armenians spread worldwide, the embodiment of the dreams of its genius architects. This city is filled with the charm of its lavish fountains on hot summer days and with long evenings in countless cafes on the sidelines of its busy streets.
Yerevan is a fascinating modern city, rich with beautiful monuments and sightseeings, among which stands out Gafesjian Centre for the Arts which has become a favourite not only for the citizens of Yerevan, but for guests as well. Citizens of Yerevan call it the Cascade. This place is interesting both with its music-hall, various exhibition halls and outdoor demonstration hall-promenades, where, among the works of other famous authors, Fernando Botero’s sculptures are exhibited. You can also visit a number of museums either in Yerevan or in other cities and regions.
You will never find so many places of interest and entertainment in any other city of Armenia. Yerevan is a truly unique cultural center and a charmingly hospitable city.
You should start your acquaintance with the city from a large architectural center named the Big Cascade. At a glance it reminds of a majestic pyramid – this is a large-scale system of ladders that connects the central part of the city with the living quarters located high above in the mountains. The stair openings are decorated with beautiful sculptures and fountains; the best architects and sculptors of our time have worked on the creation of this complex.
The National Museum of Armenia will get you acquainted with the history of Yerevan. The museum was opened in 1921. Art connoisseurs should move their feet to the Square of the Republic where they will find the state picture gallery. The square is a frequent location of multiple exhibitions and fair-trades, where young talents demonstrate their works. The Museum of History of Yerevan is one of the oldest cultural places of the city. This is also one of the oldest museums, opened in 1931. During its long and glorious history the museum managed to gather over 80,000 items. In its halls you can see rich collections of books, household tools, national costumes, handcrafts, pictures and jewelry. Several halls are devoted to photography, military orders and flags.
The central part of Yerevan is the location of the Theatre of Opera and Ballet that is built by the project of Alexander Tamayan – a splendid architect and a public figure. The building of the theatre ended in 1939; in the 60s of the previous century its halls were expanded and after this the theater had enough space for 1300 visitors. The opera theater can seat 1400 people. Opposite to the theater are located the Swan Lake and a huge park, so after your visit to “the temple of art” you can walk along picturesque valleys and share your impressions of the performance.
More and more international cultural festivals are organized in Armenia day by day.
During the “Golden Apricot” international annual film festival world known figures of culture and cinema as such as Charles Aznavour, Tonino Guerra, Atom Egoyan, Taviani brothers, Bela Tarr, Agnieszka Holland and many others participate. The festival is held in July when the Armenian sweet apricot ripens. Master classes are held during the festival, the holiday is accompanied by outdoor concerts and other interesting events.
In the “Yerevan Perspectives” annual inetrnation music festival participate world known groups and soloists, such as Claudio Abbado, Vienna Philharmonic, Estonian Men’s Choir, Placido Domingo, Shanghai String Quartet, Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra and and others. Generally, there are also wonderful orchestras and solo performers of classical music, choirs and ethnographical singing, dance ensembles, rock and jazz clubs and performers in Yerevan.
The traditions and customs of the Armenian people, formed during many centuries, are our pride. Temperamental and hot-tempered, but at the same time good-natured and open, Armenians are very affectionate of their children, strongly respect family values. The Armenian family has always been remarkable for being firm, and even in the modern world’s conditions Armenians manage to maintain their marriages firm thanks to strong family ties and mutual respect.
The modern Armenian family consists, as a rule, of 4-5 people. However, in villages children of all brothers who live together are considered brothers and sisters, and the mother treats her own children and children of her brother-in-law with the same love and affection. Housekeeping is traditionally the responsibility of the elder woman in the house, and her authority is considered higher than that of the man.
Respectfulness towards elders, regard and deference of them are also traditional for Armenians. The opinion of the elders is always taken into consideration; seniors play a significant role in the solution of important family issues. It is considered indecent to speak loudly or to smoke in the presence of seniors. If an elderly man enters the house, young people should stand up as a sign of respect and only sit down again after their senior’s invitation.
Wedding ceremonies, which still accompany most of the weddings, especially in villages, are considered one of the most beautiful ones. In the past, weddings used to last “7 days and 7 nights”, however today their duration is much shorter. As a rule, young people got married with their parents’ consent. Although if the girl’s parent were against the marriage, the young man, previously arranging it with his loved girl, organized her kidnapping and married her in secret. After that the parents could only accept the fact.
The Armenian people have been known for their hospitality, warmth and peacefulness. The local people pleasantly surprise tourists with their sincerity and generosity. Friendliness towards guests, unselfishness and candidness has always been and still is characteristic of Armenians.
People in Armenia have preserved their amazing heartfulness, decency and honesty.
The Vardavar Festival.
At the end of the flood, Noah left the Ark and descended from Mt Ararat to an area now called Nakhichevan.
In this area today the land remains abundant in alkaline soil due to the salty flood waters that once covered the earth. The area is a sacred ground, because the father of mankind settled and later died there.
To commemorate the Great Flood, each year on the same day Noah would order his sons, who were also residents of Nakhichevan, to splash water on each other. On the same day, in memory of the dove that had brought Noah an olive leaf (to signify that land was clear of water); they released doves into the sky at the same time they splashed each other.
It is indicated in the Old Armenian Calendar that this was done in the month of Navasard (August). In this month the residents of Nakhichevan also showed respect and celebrated the goddess of love, beauty and water—‘Astghik’, who beautified herself with roses.
Therefore on that special day in August, the residents unified the three rituals—they would splash each other with water; release doves and also throw rose petals at each other, in respect to Astghik.
This special day of celebration is what Armenians call Vardavar (Rose Festival), which still happens to this day in Armenia. Many visitors to Armenia are taken by surprise when on a particular day in August the locals happily splash buckets of water at each other, usually in the most unexpected places. They follow this by releasing doves and spreading rose petals. Along with this fun festival there comes a peaceful time when mutual grievances are forgotten.
It is said that the people who end the day having been splashed with water, are cleansed of dirt and corruption. With that, along with doves flying and rose petals strewn, the people’s faces are transformed.
Armenia has managed to save its true spiritual riches – religion, culture and national centuries-old traditions which they strictly observe both in times of joy and in grief. Today such traditions as marriage stability, honoring of elders, strong ties among relatives, mutual readiness and help and of course hospitality have been preserved.
The Legend of the Treasure Mountain.
Many centuries ago the Roman Empire was at its largest and most mighty. The greedy and oppressive tyrants invaded country after country, expanding their borders across nations, while plundering people’s homes.
Several Roman military units headed towards Armenia. The Armenian King at the time was young King Artavazd. After sensing danger approaching he hid all items of value including crystal, gold figurines, silver candleholders, jewelry and precious stones, in a secret cave in the Kahats mountains. To increase the safety of the items he constructed a mighty fortress at the peak of the mountain, directly over the hiding place. Only the king and his advisers knew about the secret cave that lay beneath the fortress. Before long, whether due to jealousy or fear, one of the king’s advisors told the Romans about the cave. Roman soldiers arrived and surrounded the fortress. Artavazd’s small unit of Armenian soldiers fought off the Romans well, until Roman reinforcements came, which then resulted in the Armenian warriors being overcome in numbers and they bravely and heroically died in battle.
The Roman military raided and pillaged the fortress, leaving nothing unturned in their search for the secret cave. All they found was a sprout from a golden teapot. The Roman soldiers were ordered to invite the power of ‘Magi’, use sorcerers and question all the peasants in the area, to get information about the cave.
But it was all in vain—no valuables were found. The betrayer of the king, who told the Romans about the secret cave, was hurled into jail and later put to death.
It is said that the Gandzasar Mountain still contains the treasures of King Artavazd, but not just anyone has the qualifications to find it. The mountain will only give up the treasure to the person who can restore peace throughout the land.
The Legend of Khor Virap.
Legend has it, that where Khor Virap Monastery fortress stands today was once the ancient city of Artashat, which was the former capital of Armenia. On that hill, under the church, was a prison pit where people on death row would be kept. This place has great significance to Christianity in Armenia.
The king at the time was Trdat, a faithful servant to the pagan gods. And for this reason he confined Gregory the Illuminator, bound hand and foot, in the prison pit, for giving Christian sermons. The pit was strewn with snakes, scorpions and other poisonous insects, and it also stank of rotting flesh. It would have been much easier to die than for Gregory to struggle to live amongst these terrible creatures.
Fourteen years later, after King Trdat witnessed the massacre of the Christian Martyrs, the king was overcome by an abnormal illness. He stepped of his chariot in fury and began to chew at his body; he then turned into a pig.
Trdat’s sister saw an angel in her dream. She told the king’s courtiers that the king’s madness will not stop until they released Gregory. But they did not believe her. The dream came to her a fourth and fifth time, it was only then that they agreed to go to Artashat and lower a rope into the prison pit.
Once they lowered the rope they yelled “Gregory! If you are alive, come out! The God to whom you pray to has commanded us to free you!”
Gregory then grabbed the rope and they dragged him out into the light of day. The preacher’s skin looked as black as coal—he was then washed, dressed and taken to the king. Gregory knelt beside the king and began to pray with urgency, asking God to heal Trdat. Before long the king transformed back into a human again.
From that day Trdat became the most loyal and dedicated supporter of Christianity.
In 301AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. Thisevent happened at the exact place where the prison pit had been located and the Khor Virap monastery was built.
The Legend of Duduk.
Once upon a time Young Wind was flying over the picturesque mountainous area. Suddenly he saw a tree of an amazing beauty. Never before had he seen such a beautiful tree and got strongly impressed. Playing with itsdelicate flower petals and lightly touching the leaves, the Wind removed amazing tunes. When the Supreme Wind heard about that he got very angry and furiously destroyed almost all the vegetation of that area. The Young Wind did his best to save the tree, announcing that he was ready to do anything for saving it. On hearing these words the Supreme Wind said: «You can stay here but you will never be able to fly». Delighted, the Wind agreed to part with his wings, but the master stopped him with the words: “Your wings will stay with you, and you can take wing as soon as you wish, but once you do, your tree will die.” The Young Wind was not upset as he was glad to stay with the tree and not to loose his wings. And so the days passed until autumn came. The tree lost all its beautiful flowers and leaves which had been cheering the Wind up. He felt so bored while his brothers were having fun tearing the last leaves from the trees. The Wind couldn’t bear anymore and joined them. At that moment the amazing tree died, and only a small branch was left. After a while, a small boy seeking for brushwood found that brunch and made a small reed pipe from it. As soon as the reed pipe was played it mad sad tunes of parting.
The Legend of Noah’s Ark Relic.
There are many legends that the mountains could tell about the time when Noah and his family descended from the Ark into the valley. One day the Christians of the area decided to retrace Noah’s story by climbing Mount Ararat and finding the Ark. On that day Bishop Jacob of Nisibis grabbed his staff, crossed himself and set off on his journey.
However, he found it very challenging—on his first attempt he stopped to rest and was so exhausted he fell asleep on a warm boulder. When he awoke he found himself standing at the foot of Mt Ararat, staff in hand. He crossed himself again and began to climb once more.
Three times he tried to climb to the summit of Mt Ararat to see the Ark, but each time he became so exhausted he fell asleep and awoke standing at the foot of the mountain.
Finally God saw his efforts and sent him an angel who told him there was no reason to climb the mountain because the Ark could not be found. Instead, in reward for his faith and patience, God gave him a piece of the Ark.
When Bishop Jacob woke he could feel something hard under his head—it was wood from a Shittah tree. According to scripture, Noah, the forefather of all humanity, built the Ark from this wood.
Jacob thought it was best not to question God, and he returned to the people with his recount of what had happened. That sacred piece of Shittah wood was framed in gold and has been displayed in Etchmiadzin cathedral since.