Finding home again in Armenia

Anush Yepremyan

Since I was three years old when my family left Armenia and moved to Ukraine, going there in my adulthood was like seeing it for the very first time. If you have ever seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” that is what it was like to meet all my distant relatives. No exaggeration.

When I visited one of my aunt’s, her daughter asked me if I could help her with her homework. I did not expect was that the subject she needed help with would be chess. It turns out that chess is a required subject in school there. Of course, I knew that one of the world’s best chess players, Gary Kasparov, was Armenian; but I did not expect it to be required in school. We even went to see the chess house named after Tigran Petrosian, where a lot of international chess tournaments take place.

We had the chance to walk through the open-air markets. And let me tell you, I will never forget the aroma of apricot. It was available in a variety of forms such as fresh, dried, apricot juice; you name it. They even offered apricot-flavored wine, which I had never heard of before. No wonder the apricot is one of the symbols of Armenia. One of the locals even told me that the orange color on the flag represents the fruit.

Did you know that Armenia is considered to be one of the oldest countries that has produced wine in the world? To be honest, it was new to me because I have always associated Armenia with cognac, also called Armenian brandy. Apparently, they grow high quality grapes on the fertile valleys of Mount Ararat. We drove close by to see the beauty of the Mount Ararat. The mountain was astonishing. It seems as if it stood still as a pass to this petite world of history and mystery. Armenians worship Ararat and it is another symbol of Armenia.

What I liked the most about Armenia was the fact that tourists and locals were treated the same. In many countries, people take advantage of tourists with things like higher prices on taxis, but this wasn’t the case in Armenia.

If you like architecture, history and gourmet food, this is the place to visit. The churches are beyond monumental. You just have to see it with your own eyes. Since Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion, our tour guide took us to the very first church built in the world, Holy Etchimiadzin, which was built in the early fourth century.

The food in Armenia was also incredible. We were able to see the whole process of making bread. Bread is an integral part of the meal there. They basically eat bread with everything. So lavash, the bread, is made in an underground earth oven. It can be kept for one year without going bad.