Saturday, November 27, 2010

My 2-day road trip. Day 2 - the free Artsakh welcomes us (part 1)

You may read about the Day 1 here then go on with this :)

I'm not the same person after this trip.. I've got lots of answers to questions about that territory i had in my head, but also, more questions popped out in my head...

I've always felt guilty and underprivileged for not having visited the historical Armenian land of  Artsakh. It wasn't that hard to do, and there have been many occasions. The majority of my friends has been constantly going there, but somehow I wasn't lucky with it. I've been encouraging the tourists to visit it, while myself... well.

Now I'm actually glad that all the other opportunities to visit Artsakh before didn't work out. I'm happy I visited it in November for the first time and with someone who had lots of details and stories about these places to tell.

The first thing I saw in Artsakh was the Lachin/Berdzor corridor.. long, curvy road we passed by the dark, seeing the "Free Artsakh welcomes you" signs which made me feel very positive :)
source: Wikipedia
There wasn't much to be seen in the dark and it took about 2,5 hours to reach the capital Stepanakert. We stopped at the Armenia hotel in the main square, just near the newly reconstructed Parliament building.
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's Parliament building
The hotel was really nice and comfortable with almost all rooms occupied.
Hotel Armenia
In the morning we had a small walk in the city center...

A cute elderly couple strolling on the square
it was really touching
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's Government building
a new fancy park with free wi-fi in the center of Stepanakert!
 And here I finally met THEM. Grandmother and Grandfather (Տատիկ և պապիկ). The landmark, the symbol of the high spirit of this brave nation. Also known as the "We Are Our Mountains" monument representing the mountain people of Karabakh.
We Are Our Mountains
me and Papik :) (tatik didn't mind)
We left Stepanakert to go deeper into the beautiful and forested mountains of Artsakh. The weather was perfect. It was much warmer than in Yerevan. I've been regretting that I didn't wear a plain thin shirt.
The whole way I was staring at the autumn landscapes and layers of endless mountains all around... The roads were in a very good condition (North-South Highway constructed with the help of Armenians of the world).
Most of the time I was just smiling to the contrary wind and sun through the open window, sometimes taking pictures right during the drive.

The whole way I was hearing stories from the war, about the land mines, about the battles. Even though there are not so many evidences left from that bloody time, you can feel the cost... the reason why this land was worth fighting for and liberating.

Our destination was Gandzasar.. A truly magical place. A magnificent 13th century monastery located on the hilltop near the Vank village.

a cemetery. graves of those who gave their lives for liberating their land
On the way here I heard the story about how the monastery's priest solely protected the church when the enemy attacked it before our soldiers came for help during the war.
Vank village seen from the monastery
On this image you can actually see the holes made by enemy's bullets. The monastery stands still and reaffirms firmness of faith.
the monastery had amazing and unique carvings

The one thing that amazed me most about this place was the overwhelming feeling of sanctity - peace and silence.

Chilingaryan family tree
i had a very peaceful time on this bench for a while

inside the church

Second part of my (mostly photo) story about Artsakh is here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My 2-day road trip. Day 1 - the longest aerial tramway in the world and Tatev

I just realized several of my favorite wishes.
  1. A long road trip with nice people and music
  2. Visiting south of Armenia, Tatev Monastery and getting on the world's longest aerial tramway
  3. Visiting Artsakh - the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

The Road Trip
I love long journeys. On a plane, train, car.. whatever. I always enjoy the way, the process of getting into the destination. Especially having things to do (listening to music, reading, writing etc) or people to chat with.
When the way is longer than the stay, you have no choice but to enjoy it, otherwise - it's not worth the time spent.
This time we managed to travel to Artsakh and back in 2 days.
It was very intense. Too many hours of rapidly changing scenes, new places, experiences and feelings. But I've enjoyed it all.

Reviving Tatev 
the ticket (roundtrip costs 3000 AMD)
I've always felt myself something between retarded and underprivileged for the fact that I've never been to south of Armenia (further south than Noravank) and never been to Tatev Monastery. Now I feel special and quite privileged. I have been on the Guinness certified world's longest aerial tramway "Wings of Tatev" only couple of weeks after the opening.

The aerial tram was quite nice, not scary at all. The journey is 11-15 minutes long and the highest point is about 300m. The tram can fit 25 people at once and when we were there, it was full with villagers who are allowed to travel on it for free.

the Halidzor station
view from the tram
the second tram on its way back to Halidzor
an old road as seen from the tram
Then we arrived to the Tatev Station.
Tatev station of the aerial tramway
...and I finally saw it. One of the most magnificent sites in Armenia.
Inside the monastic complex
It was nice to see many restoration works being carried out there. They were restoring the old oil mill and visitors had the chance to see a 3D model presentation of how it used to work.
visitors in the old oil mill watching the video
This place is becoming a trending touristic zone due to the "Tatev Revival" project. "The wings of Tatev" was  the first step towards the implementation of this major project which includes also:
(1)   Restoring the monastery structurally, spiritually, academically
(2)   Developing community-based tourism in the six villages surrounding the monastery
(3)   Building tourism infrastructure - a hotel across the valley from Tatev and the world's longest aerial tramway spanning the Vorotan River Gorge

A friend of ours who was there a week before, had told us not to miss the cafe that is located inside the Tourist Information Office near the monastery. Yeah, just like that. Why not? :) By а strange but pleasant coincidence we met our friend right there, while trying to locate that Info Office. There we had an amazing homemade dinner in a cozy atmosphere, then some great gingerbread-like cookies.

Then we traveled back to Halidzor station on the last tram for the day (departing 17.30).

And then we continued our trip to Artsakh.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breaking: an Armenian guy found a big security hole on Google

I'm kinda proud and happy to share this while it's trending!

Vahe G. (an Armenian 21yo guy), installed a JS code in his blogspot blog (now closed by Google) and if you visited it while logged into your Gmail (even from an incognito window), you would receive an email from him. Creepy?

He has tried to reach Google for this but got no response. Then a friend suggested to write to Techcrunch, so he did. Now he's making headlines all over the interwebs.

Google has already shut the blog and responded: “We take potential security issues very seriously, and our team is actively investigating this one. We’ll share more information soon."

I don't personally know him, but he's been following and commenting me on buzz and twitter, for which I'm now pretty proud! :D

Seems like Google will have to hire him finally. Or maybe Facebook?

Hey Google, know Armenian guys ! Hovik, your brother is really cool! :)