A Taste of Armenia

Dermatologist and avid traveller Dr. Padmavathi Surapaneni loves wandering the globe. She recently took
a much-needed break from her hectic schedule to visit the European nation of Armenia. Here she tells us about her adventure.

I love travelling. Taking a break from my routine to spend some quality time with my friends is one of my favourite things. Visiting new countries, trying new food, learning about other cultures and lifestyles, and taking part in different activities is always fun. This time we chose Yerevan, as it isn’t a common tourist destination but has a lot of history. It’s also a very beautiful place with extremely pleasant weather.
The capital of Armenia and one of the oldest cities in the world, Yerevan is a stunning place full of religious structures like temples and churches. We travelled from Hyderabad to Yerevan via Sharjah, reaching our destination in the afternoon and promptly embarking on a city tour. Much of Yerevan has been redone. This vibrant city boasts unique buildings that have been made from materials like marble and onyx. We saw Republic Square and the Musical Fountains.

On the second day, we went to Lake Sevan and Tsaghkadzor Ski Resort. The former is a gorgeous spot, the blue hues standing out against the white of the snow-clad mountains. We went on a lake cruise, enjoying our glide across the water beside the famous ishkhan, or prince fish. Tsaghkadzor, meanwhile, is one of the most popular winter spots in Armenia. The ski resort is just above the town,
1,750 metres above sea level. A series of elevators took us right from the base of the mountain up to the peak. The journey on the ropeway was splendid, as we got a view of the splendid mountains and valleys. The resort was lovely, and offers skiing and snowboarding from mid-December to March. The best part of my trip was capturing snapshots of this amazing resort.

We visited Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano that last erupted in the 1840s. Part of its peak is covered in snow throughout the year. Ararat gets its name from its Biblical heritage, as it is believed that Noah’s ark rested atop this mountain after the flood. Armenian mythology has strong associations with Mount Ararat, which is believed to be the home of gods. Ararat also shares international borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. Also of note was the pagan temple of Garni, a beautiful structure built centuries ago in the name of the Armenian deity Mitra. It served as a summer home for Armenian rulers after the country converted to Christianity.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Armenia has been only been an independent country for a couple of decades. While the republic struggles in some ways to keep up with the world and become a modern nation – especially with its limited resources – it is a lovely country nonetheless. Armenians are proud by nature, and most are highly educated. Hospitality seems to run in their blood.

Armenian cuisine is very interesting, and strongly influenced by Middle Eastern nations such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much as they do in Turkey, Armenians use lamb, eggplant, yoghurt and bread in most of their food. Cracked wheat is a staple grain. Their food focuses on quality, avoiding unnecessary spices and flavouring agents. The fresher the core ingredients, the better the dish tastes (this is why they use plenty of fresh herbs). Some of the more popular (and delicious) dishes are dzhash and khash, as well as the better known sheesh kebab.

We had an exciting and enriching holiday in the Armenian capital. The incredible life and heritage of Yerevan cannot be experienced in three short days, but my brief tryst was a heart-warming one. If ever you get the chance to travel to Armenia, I suggest you grab the opportunity and go. I hope to visit Yerevan once again to enjoy more of its beauty, and to go skiing at Tsaghkadzor. Until then, ts’tesutyun!     – as told to Saloni