Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful 2018 Trip

ARMENIA 2018

 

In August 2017, our Granddaughter Savannah, confirmed she will be travelling to Armenia with her Rose and Alex Pilibos eleventh-grade classmates in May 2018. We therefore immediately planned our family trip and purchased our airline tickets revolving around Savannah’s travel dates. Other family members eagerly asked to join us.

Beginning April 2018, we followed the news due to political activities demanding important changes in Armenia’s leadership.  May 01, 2018 and May 8, 2018 were very important dates, when past president Serzh Sargsyan was ousted and Nigol Pashinian was elected by Armenia’s Parliament as Prime Minister.  Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution” had succeeded without any bloodshed nor problems, bringing joy to most Armenians around the world.

On May 25, 2018, my wife Shoushan, elder sister Shake and I left for Armenia. In Yerevan we stayed at a cozy boutique hotel in the center of town, Diamond Hotel managed by our good friend Igor Anisimova.

 

This year, as Armenia was celebrating the 100th Anniversary of our Republic’s Independence, thousands of visitors from all over the Diaspora visited Armenia. Yerevan was full of tourists, Armenian and non-Armenian. On May 27 and 28, we participated in several events and concerts held in the Republic Square, as well as in Sardarabad, Pash Abaran and other parts of the country.

On May 29 we traveled to Gyumri to attend the Christening ceremony of our friend’s son, Vahan, at Yot Verk Church (“Seven Wounds” of Jesus Christ), a beautiful church in the main square of Gyumri. Followed with a dinner reception at one of Gyumri’s very well-known fish restaurant “Cherkezi Dzor”.  Among the invited guests in addition to family, we saw some old friends from the USA. It was an excellent gathering and opportunity to mingle with old friends and make new ones. While in Gyumri I visited the Berlin art Hotel a small boutique style hotel with a very nice and helpful staff.

On June 01, Savannah’s class trip was over and she joined us, her grandparents and great aunt and moved into Diamond Hotel with us.

On June 02, we were invited to attend the opening night of “The New Names” International Festival of young musician-performers at the Komitas Chamber Music Hall. We were the guests of the Anisimova family to watch their twelve-year-old daughter Asya Anisimova perform on her violin.

She did an excellent job. Several young performers with different musical instruments from other countries also performed. We enjoyed Asya and all the other young musicians.

 On June 04 Savannah was invited to attend a local wedding at St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan followed with a celebration party in a banquet hall in the city of Abovian. She enjoyed all the Armenian traditional activities including releasing of white doves, the Armenian “Dhol and Zourna” music, the dances, the lavash on shoulders of the newlyweds, honey, the khorovadz dance and many other traditional Armenian wedding customs.

On June 06, Savannah and I visited the American University of Armenia.  We met with Ms. Arina Zohrabian, director of Admissions and Ms. Lilit Hovhannisyan, the Admissions Counselor. We were given a thorough tour of the facilities including several classrooms, the auditorium, lecture rooms and the cafeteria.

They told us about their summer program and asked us to encourage all college bound students to consider the AUA summer program which is a fun learning experience, that is affordable with all academic credits transferrable to US universities. American University of Armenia Promotional Video . For additional admissions information contact admissions@aua.am  .

June 07, was another educational day. Savannah and I had an appointment (yes, you need an appointment) to visit the TUMO Center for a one-hour tour.

  

Lena, our escort at TUMO, showed us the five major sections of this very unique creative technologies learning center. Over ten thousand youngsters between the ages of 12 to 18 take advantage of learning the latest computer technologies, including computer science, film and music, creating, editing and other creative computer technologies all for free. In addition to the Yerevan Tumo Center there are several other locations for the Tumo Center, such as in Dilijan, Gyumri, Stepanakert and coming soon in Koghb and Masis.  For details visit a YouTube video at                             :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N6t6yuv95Q

In the evening we attended Hovanness Toumanian’s “Classic Tales” at Henrik Malyan Theater. At the end of the show we had a wonderful opportunity to take pictures with some of the actors including Ashot Yedigarian, Gayane Avetisyan, Samvel Krikorian, Hayk “Hayko” Hakobyan, Anna Harutyunyan, Gevorg Hovakimyan, Hayk Sargsyan, Ara Sargesyan, Samvel Topalyan, Astghik Abajian among others

   

On June 08 more members of our family arrived to Zevartnots Airport. We met our daughters Lena and Lisa, their friend Seta and her daughters Elizabeth and Mary as well as Shake, my nephew Sahag’s wife.

We greeted them with flowers and transferred

them to Diamond Hotel, where the management had placed welcome baskets of fruits in each room.

   

Delicious apricots, apples, cherries and plums.

Our group was now 10.

 

The following is a day by day itinerary of our tour, including recommendations:

All our tours were arranged and operated by Hyur Service and due to many repeat visitors and also first timers in our group including seniors and active teenagers, I had asked the assistance of Marianna K. Deputy Director of operations to help plan our tours. She is professional and very detail oriented. She did an excellent job for which we thank her.

During all our prearranged private organized tours we had an English-speaking professional guide, a very pleasant and knowledgeable young lady, Mary Mirzakhanian. Our excellent and very safe driver Arayik (Ara) Grigorian made sure all the stops are done safely and as close as possible to the entrance of the venues. We thank both of them for making our visit a success.

Sat. June 9, 2018   was a day to unwind, stroll the streets of Yerevan and get to know the city.

We changed dollars to Dram (money exchange or bank). The rate of exchange was $1.00 to 482Drams. The easiest way to calculate 1000 drams is about two dollars. When exchanging our money, we asked for smaller 1000 drams because they were needed when stores, merchants or taxi drivers did not carry smaller change. We visited Vernissage the open-air flea art market; walked, shopped, enjoyed the scenery and the first timers of our group became acquainted with the beautiful streets of the Center of Yerevan.    Our welcome dinner party was at Derian Restaurant (with an Armenian singer and music).

With our group of 10 plus some local friends whom we invited we had 24 people at our dinner party. We enjoyed the delicious food, listened to the beautiful songs and danced until the wee hours.

Sun.  June 10, 2018 at 9:00 AM sharp our tour departed to Ashtarak where we visited The Garemeravor Church, had coffee and Ice cream at Pascal and Diodato Garden Restaurant owned by Gourmet Dourme Chocolate Factory.

  

Onto Sardarabad Memorial Complex.

Sardarabad Monument of Triumph

Afterwards our tour bus drove us to the village of Margara to enjoy a late lunch hosted by Lena at her friend’s home at the border of Armenia/Turkey.  We also enjoyed sweet mulberries (tout) apricots and other seasonal fruits picked from their own garden. On our way back to Yerevan we had a short stop at the Zvartnots Cathedral remains. In the evening we met with some of our local friends and had dinner and drinks at Martini Royal at the Aznavour Square.

Mon. June 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM we departed to Echmiadzin (Mother Cathedral) with stops at St. Hripsime and St.  Gayane churches.

   

At each church we lit candles, prayed for good health, love and peace. We also visited the souvenir shops and tasted the delicious apricots from the trees in the church gardens at St. Hripsime. We had a lunch stop at a garden cafe in Echmiadzin after which we returned to Yerevan with a tour of the Ararat Brandy Factory  to taste test and savor delicious brandies/chocolates (guided tour and entrance fees were included – reservations are a must).      

Ararat Armenian Brandy

Ararat Factory Tour

Diner was at Sherep Restaurant and our friends Hagop, Taleen and Robert Khachadourians (from Los Angeles) joined us for dinner. http://shereprestaurant.com   Sherep is a very busy and popular  restaurant located on Amirian Street right next to Armenia Marriott Hotel. Reservations are a must.  The  food is delicious, the portions are large and prices are very reasonable. Later that evening part of our group went to El Sky Bar roof top for after dinner drinks, located near the Hrabarag on 9 Grigor Lusavorich Street,

delicious large portions

 

Tuesday June 12, 2018 at 8:30 AM sharp we departed to Khor Virab visiting the deep pit where St. Gregory The Illuminator spent 13 years before Christianity was declared the official national religion of  Armenia. Onto Noravank

followed with lunch at Lchak – a riverside restaurant. Although it was raining we had a great luncheon with a beautiful view of the river/lake and delicious Armenian food. We stopped for a panoramic view of the City of Goris.

and of course, we made several other stops to take unforgettable photographs of prairies of beautiful red poppy fields and green lush mountains.

Beautiful Red Puppies in season end of May and June

Then onto the Artsakh border and arrived in Stepanakert. We checked in to our hotel called Vallex Garden located in the center of town.

We enjoyed a late dinner and celebrated Shoushan’s birthday with cake and champagne at Bostan Restaurant.

 

Wed. June 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM – after breakfast we visited the Stepanakert local market (shouga) where we bought fresh fruits, home-made vodka, and watched how the “shingalov hats” (an Artsakh specialty) is made.

     

Of course, we bought some to taste.  The Shingalov hats is a type of flatbread stuffed with finely diced herbs and green vegetables.   We had a photo stop at the Tatik-Papik Statue

and purchased handmade souvenirs from the base of the park; next we drove onto Dadivank Monastery where I was supposed to meet with Der Hovhannes Hovhannissyan,                                    The priest, who after rebuilding the Kantsasar Monastery was asked to move to Dadivank and help renovate it. When we arrived, there were several official cars parked and several security and escort personnel who informed us that HE Armen Sarkissian, the new President of Republic of Armenia, was visiting and meeting with Archbishop Barkev Martirossyan and that in a few minutes we will have a chance to greet him in person.

Der Hovhannes introduced our family and group to the President, who took time to talk to each of us individually. He especially enjoyed talking with Savannah who he had met a couple of weeks earlier when he hosted the Pilibos 11th graders at his quarters. H1 TV station recorded our impromptu meeting and it was aired that same evening on the H1 news.

Lunch was in Vank Village in the restaurant near the stone carved lion;      then we drove to Gandzasar Monastery. While some of the group went inside to light candles and pray others enjoyed the Horseman Greesha who sang and danced for us with his horse.

We continued onto Shushi, visited the “Ghazanchetsots Church, including the acoustic chamber under the altar, where we sang beautiful Armenian songs.

We hiked to Hunot Canyon to see the breathtaking view of this real deep canyon, where on the night of May 08, 1992,  Armenian heroes had climbed up to Shushi from Karin Dague Village and liberated Shushi.

Hunot Canyon Shoushi

This was the first significant military victory by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

A special Dinner was arranged at our hotel, where we were privileged to meet one of Armenia’s great music teacher, composer, producer and TV personality, Arthur Grigorian.

Hundreds of famous Armenian singers are products of his teachings. He was dining with HE Narine Agabalian,

Minister of Education in Artsakh

the current Minister of Education and science and youth affairs of Artsakh, and the past Minister of Culture. Mr. Grigorian introduced us to his friends and I had the opportunity to briefly explain the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project, its mission and its accomplishments to all present. They were interested and encouraged the project. Breakfast at Vallex Garden Hotel.

Thur. June 14, 2018 At 8:30 AM our Tour departed Stepanakert. We stopped at Khndzoresk for  a Panoramic view of the caves and the hanging (swinging) bridge.

                 

Some of our group adventurers went all the way down and crossed the 160 meters bridge to the cave village. Some of the larger caves were inhabited as late as the 1950s. Onto Tatev Monastery where we welcomed the rest of our family (My nephew Shahe, his wife Yeran and 13 years old son, Manoug). My sister Annie who surprised us and came to Armenia on the spur of a moment decision. They had arrived in Yerevan the day before and joined us after having toured Khor Virab and Noravank in the morning. We took the Wings of Tatev ropeway, which is the world’s longest (per the Guinness World Record book);

         

We visited the Church,

purchased souvenirs, stopped at the Tatev Information Cafe and enjoyed some of the owner’s home-made drinks; after which we had lunch in a cozy home style restaurant.

We then headed to Yerevan via Zorats Karer, also called Karahunj.

Karahunj is a prehistoric archaeological site near the town of Sisian in the Syunik Province, similar to Stonehenge in England. We stopped and enjoyed the Areni Winery

wine tasting and cheese. Our group of now 14 returned to Yerevan late that evening and settled into our quaint Diamond hotel.

Friday June 15, 2018 at noon we departed to Garni Temple; Our long-time friend, local guide Samson visited the temple and the grounds with us; then we drove to Keghart Monastery;

Keghart Monastery

after visiting the churches including the acoustic second floor area of the mountain carved church, where we sang “Der Voghormia,” we came down to enjoy the local musicians play and

visitors dance to the beautiful tunes.

.              

Home made Kata by Keghart Monastery villagers  We made sure to purchase the Home-made “Kata” and the fruit  rolls (sweet sujukh),   sweets with walnuts and other delicious goodies. Our group spread out and we all bought items from each vendor to make sure we helped all of them, instead of all of us buying from only one or two of them.

The weather that day was perfect.  We returned to Garni and went down to the gorge with 4-wheel drive vehicles

to see the Symphony of Stones

Garni – Symphony of rocks

    

Dancing at Garni Ishkhananotzfollowed with lunch at Garni Ishxananox 

for their famous fish. We watched lavash making and danced to beautiful music and spent several hours near the running river. The weather that day was perfect. We returned to Yerevan where some of us walked to the Cascade area to enjoy some late-night desserts and ice cream.

Sat. June 16, 2018 at 9:00 AM sharp our tour departed to Lori Marz. Our first stop was at Abaran where we visited the famous Gntuniq Bakery.

     

This is a must stop for all visitors! Freshly made lavash, breads, bonchigs and other pastries are specialties of this popular bakery.

Onwards to Tro’s Monument; The grave site is about half a mile away from the main entrance which unfortunately was locked not allowing our tour van to enter.

Art and Sculptures at TRO’s cemetery entrance.

Some of us who could not walk stayed and enjoyed the different art and statues at the newly built memorial park by the entrance.    The drive to Lori Marz is colorful and delightful. We made several stops to capture photographs with the beautiful poppies and lavenders; we had a coffee stop at Tufenkian Hotel in the Lori Region.

               

We continued to the rival Sanahin and Haghpat Monasteries and we took votes which we liked better… Haghpat won.

Haghpat Monastery in Lori region

We had lunch at Hotel Qefo dining salon in Haghpat.

         

This was a very long day.  When we returned to Yerevan, some of the group was tired and turned in, but the rest of the group went to the cafés at the Opera House, where they enjoyed some delicious late-night snacks.

Sun. June 17, 2018 Today was at leisure. The Ladies went shopping, visited Vernissage again to place or pick up orders. They also went to beauty salons. Some of our group went to pay respect to their Grandparents grave sites, visit their childhood homes and others visited with friends.

Mon. June 18, 2018 at 9:00 AM we left the hotel. Our first stop was at the Alphabet Monuments

         

We drove up the highest mountain in Armenia – Aragatz Mountain; Visited Ambert Castle and the church,

Ambert Castle at Arakadz

 

went down via Puragan and the Observatory to Visit Oshagan, where we visited the tomb of St. Mesrob Mashdots,

Mesrob Mashdotz at Oshagan

the founder of the Armenian Alphabet.

             

We returned to Yerevan in the late afternoon.

At 5:00 PM we left to Abovian to visit St. Hovhanness Church (St. John The Baptist)                     

Followed with dinner at the famous Dzirani Restaurant (reservations are a must). Beautiful garden bungalows of different sizes to suit every group’s needs.                  

Dzirani Restaurant near Apovian.  Delicious food, excellent service, music and lovely landscaping. We had an exceptional evening and a superb experience.

Tue. June 19, 2018 at 10:00AM we left the hotel and after purchasing flowers, we first stopped and paid homage to our fallen Soldiers and Heroes at the Yeraplour Military Cemetery.

                 

Yeraplour Monte Melkonian Graveside.

We visited Dzidzernagapert and the Monument with the eternal  flame.                                        

Genocide Memorial at Dzidzernagapert.

We prayed for the souls of our 1.5 million Martyrs who were massacred in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. We visited the Genocide Museum where most of the atrocities are documented, yet Turkey still denies shamelessly that a Genocide ever took place.

We next drove to the Mayr Hayastan monument overlooking the city of Yerevan with a breathtaking panoramic view of the City and the towering Mount Ararat in the background.

We returned to the Center of Yerevan with a stop at Madenataran and Grand Candy for the chocolates and bonchigs lovers.

Evening dinner reservations were at Havana Restaurant night club. There were several singers. A half hour show of an Indian group with colorful costumes, songs and dances. The musical show was called “The Power of Love”. The music was too loud and our group was a bit disappointed. We left earlier than we expected.

Wed. June 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM we left to Lake Sevan. Upon arrival some of us climbed about 200 steps to visit the Sourp Arakelots and Sourp Asdvadzadzin Churches and enjoy the stunning

scenery of the lake and its surroundings.

               

Surp Arakelots and Surp Asdvadzadzin at Lake SevanOthers spent time at the restaurant/coffee shop for some ice coffee or soda and shopped at the souvenir stands. Some went to the lake side and dipped their feet in the clear cold Sevan Lake water.

Sevan Lake beach

I went to check if the deck for the lake boat tour was renovated. Unfortunately, renovations were not made yet. I promised the boat tour operators that I will make every effort to speak to authorities in charge of that area to help renovate. We left Lake Sevan and had a short stop for pictures at the statue of “Akh-Tamar.”

Akhtamar Statue at Sevan Lake shore

The legend of Akhtamar is: An Armenian princess named Tamar lived on the Island of Akhtamar in Lake Van (Historic Armenia). She was in love with a commoner. This boy would swim from the mainland to the island each night, his way lit by a torch light Tamar lit for him. One day her father found out and was very upset. He took Tamar’s torch and smashed it. That night, the boy in the middle of the lake had no light to guide him to know which direction to swim and he drowned. They say his dying cries of Akh, Tamar… (Oh, Tamar), can be heard to this day at night. This is where the name of the island comes from.

Next, we had a short stop at the road side Tzovakugh Bakery where they bake fresh lavash, breads, pastries and sweets. Onto Dilijan and to Hagahartsin Monastery, which was renovated a few years back with the generous donation of H. H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qasimi.

Haghartzin Monastery near Dilijan

The larger buses are unable to come close to the Monastery, so they park about half a mile down and visitors must hike to get to the Monastery, but it is worth the effort, as it is a gorgeous three Church Monastery built between 10th and 13th centuries. We had Lunch at our favorite Getap Restaurant of course enjoyed their specialty, fried crisp smelt fish.

Smelt Fish dish at Kedap

We also enjoyed “ser” with honey from a honey comb.

Before leaving Dilijan, We stopped at the Statue of Mher Mkrtchyan (Frunzik), Yevgeny Leonov and Vakhtang Kikabidze,

Mimino Movie actors, with Frunzik

rubbed his nose for good luck, drank some cold water from the blblag; Then we drove onto Tufenkian Old Hotel complex to visit. The hotel is incorporated into an old-village complex with artisan shops, a restaurant and a small museum.

We then drove to Dzaghgatzor. Due to rain, the ski lift had closed early. We visited the Church, had to wait a few minutes as there was a wedding just finishing and captured some great photos of the newlyweds. Visited the Orbeli Brothers Museum.  Our dinner stop was at Hatsadoun restaurant in Dzaghgatzor for their famous potato kebabs and other delicious food.

Potato Kebobs at Hatsadoun restaurant in Dzaghgatsor

The owners were so gracious and nice.  They remembered us from previous visits. The musician started playing and our dinner turned into a fun eating, singing and dancing party. We returned to our hotel late.

 

Thurs. June 21, 2018  – Day at leisure.  We walked around Northern Avenue,    enjoyed Cascade,       

Northern Avenue and CascadeHrabarag, Swan Lake near the Opera, had coffee and refreshments at one of several Opera side cafes. We enjoyed and savored every moment.  Dinner was at Licher restaurant in Akunk Village near Aramous (famous for fish) where you can catch your own fish and have them cook it as you desire. BBQ, fried or boiled. In this garden setting they have different size cottages decorated with old village furnishings. The food was delicious, service a little slow due to very large area to cover. But it was a great farewell dinner for some of our group leaving the next day.

Fri. June 22, 2018   Lisa, Savannah, Seta, Elizabeth, Mary and “hars” Shake left Hayastan taking with them great memories and pledging to return soon. The rest of us will miss their fun company and good times we spent together. In the evening we were invited to an Armenian wedding where our friends the Vartanians were Godparents.       

   Traditional Armenian Wedding                    Serving Khorovadz Dance

Republic Square from Diamond Restaurant rooftop

June 23 and June 24 everyone had their own plans.

On June 25 2018 Lena, my sisters Shake and Annie, as well as Shahe, Yeran and Manoug also left Hayastan. The Diamond hotel lobby/bar suddenly went into its normal rendezvous place. For the past two weeks our family was ending each night regardless of late hours with delicious café glaciers or a beer and talking about the day and planning the next. We were a “happening” group. Now it was much quieter at the hotel.

June 25 through July 10 Shoushan and I spent a couple weeks relaxing, visiting friends and other daily activities. We watched late night World Cup games in the hotel lobby/bar. On July 01 a large group of Diaspora Armenian Studies teachers from different countries checked in to our hotel who were invited to participate in a month-long course of continuing education at The Pedagogical University on Alex Manoogian Street. Mr. and Mrs. Kevork and Liza Bedikian of Glendale were among the teachers with whom we spent some valuable time.

Diaspora Armenian Studies teachers in Yerevan

We enjoyed meeting teachers from Australia, Aleppo, Beirut and especially I met teachers from Damascus who currently teach at Miatzial Varjaran of Damascus, which was my childhood elementary school. I knew their parents, so we felt very close. We discussed life in Damascus now and remembered some old friends who still live there.

One of our local friends is building a summer home in a village thirty minutes away from Yerevan.

   

Summer house with beautiful scenery .

We drove there to see the progress and enjoy the fresh air. We spent several hours there, had a light lunch and fresh fruits, great talks and much laughter returned to Yerevan and to Shoushan’s preferred Derian Restaurant.

On June 28, we were invited to attended a comedy show at Henrik Malyan Theater by William Saroyan, called “Fantasies in a Train.”

I met a young artist Meruzhan Khachatryan

Artist Painter Meruzhan Khachatryan

whose exclusive Armenian paintings are so beautiful and getting recognition both in Armenia and in the Diaspora.

I visited and inspected several hotels such as the Alexander on Apovian Blvd and The Royal Plaza Hotel on Saryan Street. I had some meetings with different tour companies and tourist service providers. Inspected randomly chosen restaurants and fast food eateries, such as Darrget on Arami Street (for beer, pizza and light food). Abu Hagop Restaurant on Kochar Street, Chez Viken, Lebanon Shawarma, Mer Taghe for lehmajoun and sou beurek, and Khengali all three places located on Tumanian, CEO3 smokeless BBQ Restaurant on Baghramian near Cascade, Martini Royal at Aznavour Square and many others. We attended the opening of Dragon Garden Chinese Restaurant on Arami Street. We had our farewell dinner at Caucasus Complex with some of our dearest friends whom we  spent time with for the past seven weeks for a fun night full of music, dancing and delicious Armenian food.

Farewell dinner at Cavcas complex

This is a huge restaurant entertainment complex with several buildings and venues located approximately about 20 minutes north of Yerevan City center. We had a fantastic time.

As you noticed I was eating in different category eateries.  First because food is delicious in Armenia, and we enjoyed trying different places. We also wanted to be able to meet different servers at restaurants, enjoy their hospitality and good prices and show our appreciation. The prices are reasonable at all the restaurants. I wanted to share all of these with my readers and suggest or recommend places to those that will be visiting Armenia. I even wrote reviews and comments in TripAdvisor.

On July 01, we were invited to the opening ceremony of a new tourist attraction called Tesaran, an outdoor gallery where several companies were displaying and selling their products in a garden setting with apricot trees and beautiful evening views of Yerevan. There was finger foods and drinks, and music and dance lessons by Garin Traditional Dance Group. The location is at Nork Marash which is very close to the H1 TV Studios. The program is due to run every night until the end of the summer. I met representatives from Z-Travel, who among other departments provide Medical Tourism packages which are becoming very popular in Armenia.

July 09, 2018, Shoushan and I met with Mr. Aramayis Grigorian a Deputy Minister of Diaspora of the “New Armenia” Government office.

Deputy Minister Aramayis Grigorian

As he was a new appointee to his post, I introduced to him the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project, its purpose and accomplishments. We presented to him our slogan/logo. After he listened carefully to what our mission was, we took pictures and promised each other that we will work together towards advancement of tourism in Armenia.

I then went to the Ministry of Economic Development and met with the Deputy Director for the Tourism Affairs, Mr. Mekhag Apressian. He was running this office for the past several years replacing Mr. Ara Petrossian who was promoted to a different position in the Ministry. For years I have brought ideas and suggestions to Mr. Petrossian, such as improving touristic sites, building of new rest stops or toilets, improve signage, clean graffiti and other safety matters, of which some were accomplished, others still are in the works, as well as the importance of promoting our slogan/logo as a non- commercial brand. Unfortunately, I noticed Mr. Apressian did not show much interest in what I was presenting to him.  Two days later I learned he resigned from his post, this explained why he did not want to get involved, take notes during our meeting nor show interest. I will need to find the new person in charge so that I offer my professional ideas, suggestions and advice to improve the touristic sites both for local and foreign visitors.

As advocates of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project, our family enjoys traveling to Armenia every year to provide aid to several families throughout the country. Through our many years of travels, our local friends became our family and we anxiously wait to visit them every year. I encourage everyone to visit Armenia, not only to admire its beauty and history, but also because any little action can help generate the growth of the economy. Today, Armenia has a lot to offer as far as touristic attractions and I cannot wait to see where the country will be headed in the future. I would like to end this by saying    “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful”

 

Fresh Water from a Belelag

“Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” announces Essay Contest #5 – 2017

“Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” announces Essay Contest #5 – 2017

The “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project has organized Essay Contest #5 open To 9th to 12th grades high school level students.

Participants should write an essay in Armenian or English about “Why I want to visit Armenia”

The deadline to register is January 31, 2018
The deadline to submit the essays is February 10, 2018
Winners to be announced March 14, 2018

For full details, application forms and questions, please visit http://www.visitarmenia.org/html/promotional.html or e-mail ara@visitarmenia.org

We anticipate an overwhelming response and a very large number of participants, so please do not delay your registration.

Please click on the links below to view complete details and to download the necessary forms.

Essay Contest

Essay Contest Registration Application
Essay Contest Parent Consent Form


This essay contest is open to all High School students – 9th to 12th grades.  The deadline to submit your essay is February 10, 2018.

A panel of qualified judges will read, grade and select the winning essays. Three (3) winners will be selected and the essays may be published in Armenian newspapers or social media. All essays will become the property of VAIIB, and may be used and incorporated in the VAIIB website.  By submitting your essay, you agree to these terms. Participants under the age of 18 years, must have their parents written consent to register and enter this contest.

First prize: $500.00, second prize: $300.00 and third prize: $200.00. Additionally, eight honorable mentions will be awarded certificates and gifts.

ESSAY REQUIREMENTS:

  1. A. The essays may be written in English or Armenian and should be between 700 to 1000 words about why “I want to visit Armenia”. It should be well organized and concise.
  2. B. To qualify, your essay should creatively include and incorporate a minimum of two subjects from the list below. If your essay does not include at least 2 of the topics, the essay may be disqualified and/or your omission may negatively impact your grade given by the grading judges (at the judge’s option).

The mandatory subjects are as follows (remember at least 2 of the following must be included):

  1. Would you consider getting your higher education in Armenia? Why or why not?
  2. Would you consider opening a business in Armenia? If so what kind of business (where, what location: province, city, etc., and how would your business help Armenia’s economy.)
  3. You are creating an APP for tourism in Armenia. Incorporate 8 top hits of your APP and navigate your APP.

4.You are joining a top Architectural development group as an advisor to build a new or unknown tourist destination (one specific destination) in Armenia. You will propose what the attraction is, where and why the attraction will help promote tourism to Armenia.

  1. You are accompanying two non-Armenians on a trip to Armenia for two weeks. How do you convince them to join you on your trip, who are you taking with you, what sights do you intend to visit and why.
  2. C. Spelling, grammar and presentation will be considered by the grading judges.
  3. D. Write your registration number (see below) on the top right corner of each page of your essay as well as at the end of each page.
  4. E. Do NOT include your name, grade, school name or any other identifying information on or in the body of your essay, or your essay will immediately be dis-qualified. (You should include this information in the registration process only.)

 

To participate, please register by January 31, 2018.   E-mail your full name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, place and date of birth, school name, and grade level to Ara@visitarmenia.org,  Or complete the registration form below. Once your registration is received you will be assigned a personal registration number that will be e-mailed to you, along with a parental consent form, which must be completed and signed by a parent or guardian, and mailed or e-mailed with your essay before the February 10, 2018, deadline. To secure an unbiased selection, your information will be kept strictly confidential and your identity will not be provided to the judges/selection panel, or anyone else, until after the judges have chosen the three winning essays and honorary mentions.

Again, remember to include your assigned registration number on each page of your essay but do not include your name, school or other identifying information. Your essays, along with the signed parental consent form, must be submitted by mail to P.O. Box 7011, Burbank, CA 91510, or by e-mail to Ara@visitarmenia.org,  on or before the deadline of February 10, 2018.  Any submission of an essay that does not comply with the requirements outlined above will not be considered. The results will be announced and an Award Ceremony which will be held on March 14, 2018, at Raffi Cultural Center, 1711 N. Winona Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027.  Please mark this date so that you can attend.

Please note: due to the large number of participants, the first 120 registrants will be considered.

Good Luck, and remember, “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful.”

Important Dates:

Registration by 01/31/18 – Submission by 02/10/18 – Award Ceremony  03/14/18


Essay #5 Registration Entry Form




Please visit the following Youtube items and see what “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” is doing.
You too can Create and share videos using the Logo. Please let me know. Thanks. Ara

 

 

Thank you GirArt for preparing and publishing the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW9Pn4RWt-w

Promotional Materials
All organizations, churches, schools or other groups who would like a supply of our “Visit Armenia It Is Beautiful” promotional items, at this time we provide posters and postcards. We also have t-shirts and tank tops with the logo for reasonable cost prices, which is a great idea for fund raising activities. Please contact us for further details and information.

Another excellent way to promote Armenia, is to download a color or black and white logo from our website, and use it for publishing, advertising space, posting on your own website or just because you want to help promote Armenia.

 

“Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” Essay Contest #2 Awards Ceremony

By: Lala Mamigonian

In November 2010, students from sixteen high schools in the Greater Los Angeles area were invited to participate in the second essay contest organized by the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project. The topic of the essay was again “Why I want to visit Armenia”.

This essay contest was intended not only to get young Armenians, living in the Diaspora, to show interest in visiting Armenia, but also allowing them an opportunity to learn, understand, recognize, acknowledge and awaken their identity and direct connection to their motherland, Armenia. The essays could be written in English or Armenian, permitting the participants to freely express their thoughts, feelings and reasons why a visit to Armenia is important. Specifics of the rules and regulations of the essay contest were provided to all participants. The effort to appeal to our younger generation is significant in arousing and encouraging awareness of the importance of visiting Armenia, thus strengthening the urge to visit, transforming this urge to a goal, recognizing and accomplishing the goal, and ultimately creating a lifelong relationship with their motherland, Armenia.

About seventy guests attended the award ceremony, which was open to the public. It took place at 7:00 p.m., on Thursday, April 28, 2011, at the “Raffi” Cultural Association in Hollywood. Present were members of the local media, school principals and teachers, parents, students and supporters of VAIIB.

Mr. Mampre Pomakian Esq., Emcee of the evening, praised the determination and efforts of the “Visit Armenia It Is Beautiful” project for the past twelve years. He spoke about its’ mission, which is to spread the word that Armenia is a beautiful country welcoming everyone to visit. He praised the slogan /logo and website, and the various annual events it organizes, stimulating the perception and need in the Diaspora for all Armenians to take an active role, in a unified campaign, promoting tourism to Armenia.

Mr. Pomakian revealed, for the first time, the identity of the five Judges to the contestant’s and the guests:

Mr. Kevork Bedikian – Educator, Principal, Author of several books, reporter and Journalist;

Mrs. Annie Kertenian – Business owner, well travelled including to Armenia, experienced in proof reading movie scripts and documentaries;

Mr. Saro Nazarian – Educator and Journalist with experience in International Journalism;

Mrs. Eileen Keusseyan Esq., – Attorney at Law, President of PTO’s and Church organizations, as well as very active in several charitable organizations;

Mr. Zaven Khanjian – Community leader with heavy travel experience, including Armenia and Western Armenia, and author of several articles and books;

Alternate Judges: Ms. Tamar Baronian – Graduate of UCLA, and UWLA School of Law and well travelled including Armenia.

Ms. Lisa Boyadjian – Legal assistant, Armenian Bar Association Administrative Assistant, Administrator and Assistant Editor of the VisitArmenia.org website, with heavy travel experience, including Armenia.

Ara Boyadjian, founder of the “VISIT ARMENIA, IT IS BEAUTIFUL” (“VAIIB”) campaign project, thanked the media and press for covering the VAIIB events and utilizing the campaign’s slogan and logo, and the sponsors of the award ceremony which included

Mr. and Mrs. Yeprem and Varsenig Baghboudarian, Mr. and Mrs. Nazareth and Alice Chakrian, Mr. Ara Kassabian, CPA., Dr. and Mrs. Garo and Galia Kassabian,Mr. and Mrs. Tony and Eileen Keusseyan, Mr. and Mrs. Viken and Vartouhi Tavoukjian,

Shahe and Sahag Melelian of Arka Photography in Hollywood

for their contributions, the “Raffi” Cultural Association for hosting the evening’s event,

Armen Hovannisian Esq., Stepan Partamian/Armenian Art Fund , Kevork Bedikian, Zaven Khanjian, Nahabed Melkonian, Nechan Tchaghatzbanian, Seta Velasquez and Yerevan Magazine for donating books and CD’s as gifts.

Mr. Boyadjian provided statistical information regarding the essay contest; 65 students registered collectively from 11 high schools, public and private Armenian.

43 registrants entered their essays into the contest, of which 23 wrote in English and 20 were written in the Armenian language. There were 20 contestants from AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian High School in Pasadena, 8 from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Hollywood, 6 from Ferrahian High School in Encino, 3 from AGBU- MDS in Canoga Park, 2 from Clark Magnet High in La Crescenta, and one contestant each from Burbank High School, Glendale High School, John Burroughs High school in Burbank and Ulysses Grant High School.

Mr. Boyadjian then invited Mrs. Eileen Keusseyan to the podium who read a message from Mrs. Lena Melkonian, Board member and editor of VisitArmenia.org , whose moving and inspirational words congratulated every participating student and encouraged everyone to visit Armenia.

Next Savannah Minassian, 10 years old, grand-daughter of Mr. Boyadjian, read a heart warming message, which she had authored herself, thanking everyone for attending, and continued to say, “even though 3 essays are winning the top prizes tonight all of the participants are winners to me. I hope next time there are more participants from schools all over Southern California.” She continued “ I am in the fourth grade and I have been to Armenia, twice and hearing why other people want to go to Armenia makes me want to go back to Armenia and stay there. I think anyone who wants to go to Armenia should have at least one chance to go:” she concluded her thoughts with the slogan “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful”. One could see tears in some of the audience’s eyes, hearing this little girl’s heartfelt speech…

All five judges were present at the award ceremony and each expressed congratulatory remarks to the VAIIB project for this remarkable and important event. The judges were impressed by the essays and conveyed their opinions and praises on what the contestants had communicated in their essays.

Following the Judges’ comments, the winners were announced. The top three winners received monetary awards, books, CD’s, one year subscriptions to various Armenian publications, donated by USA Armenian Weekly, Asbarez, and Yerevan Magazine.

The First Place winner was Tigran Tufenkchyan of John Burroughs High School in Burbank, whose essay was written in English.

The Second Place winner was Talar Habeshian of AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian High School. Her essay written in Armenian,

Third Place went to Shant Artenian of Rose and Alex Pilibos High School, written in English.

Eight Honorary Mention certificates and gifts were awarded to

Katrina Karaboghosian from AGBU MDS High School,

Delilah Shahbazian from AGBU MDS High School,

Ari Kazanjian AGBU V.T.Manoukian High School,

Kathrine Tabakian from AGBU V.T.Manoukian High School,

Sevan Hovannisian from Ferrahian High School,

Kristine Azadian, from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School

Khajag Bornazyan, from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School

Vivian Kasparian, from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School

The evening concluded with Mr. Mampre Pomakian inviting everyone to share a cake which was presented to Ara Boyadjian in congratulating his fiftieth anniversary in the travel and tourism industry and thanking him again for sharing his knowledge and expertise in helping tourism grow in Armenia.

The essay contest participants are the future travelers and Ambassadors of Good Will of Armenia and will help facilitate the success of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” campaign project in its mission and commitment to promote tourism to Armenia, thus stimulating and boosting the country’s economy.

Mr. Boyadjian, commented at the end of the evening that “The essays will soon be available on the “VisitArmenia.org” website. And as always, with his consent, the “VISIT ARMENIA, IT IS BEAUTIFUL” slogan/logo is available and encouraged for use by all Armenians, organizations, schools, churches, media and publications.

_____________________________________________________

Strengthening the desire to visit Armenia

By: VAIIB

John Burroughs High School celebrated the achievements of its 2011 Senior Class on May 18, 2011, at 7:00 PM in the school’s gymnasium in Burbank, California.

Emilio Urioste Jr., Principal JBHS Administration, headed the ceremony, following the Pledge of Allegiance by Taylor Van Den Berg, the Senior Class President. Over one thousand students, family, faculty, educators, city officials, and guests were in attendance, including Ted Bunch, President and Debbie Kukta, Vice President, of the Burbank Board of Education, as well as Dr. Stan Carrizosa, Superintendent.

Scholarships and awards from a variety of donors for scholastic, civic, sports and art excellence were presented including the Burbank Police Officers Association Matthew Pavelka Memorial Scholarship, Burbank Teachers Association, California State PTA Scholarship, UCLA Alumni Scholarship, USC Alumni Scholarship and USC Trustee Scholarship, the “Visit Armenia, It is Beautiful” award and others. Special Honors for CSF Sealbearers, President’s Award and 100 Service Learning Hours awards were also presented.

Ara Boyadjian, Tigran Tufenkchyan, Emilio Urioste Jr. Principal JBHS

The “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” scholarship and award presented by Ara Boyadjian recognized Tigran Tufenkchyan, a senior at Burroughs, as the First Place winner of its 2011 essay contest entitled “Why I want to visit Armenia”. Essays could be written in Armenian or English, with specific guidelines to be followed. Tufenchyan, born in America, will be visiting Armenia for the first time this summer, and intends to volunteer with ACYO (Armenian Christian Youth Organization) to build a home for a widowed villager and her child and repair the community center at the village Bert in Davoush province.

There was participation by eleven high school students of public high schools and Armenian private schools in the Los Angeles area. For a second time, an Armenian student from a local public school was among the top winners. This year’s second and third place winners were Talar Habeshian of AGBU, Hratch and Tamar Manoukian High school in Pasadena, and Shant Artenian of Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School of Hollywood.

“Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” is a non-commercial, non-profit project, with an aim to promote tourism to Armenia through its slogan/logo, website and other events in an effort to help Armenia’s economy by encouraging tourism. The project showcases Armenia as a touristic country, for Armenians and non-Armenians.

The essay contest encourages young Armenians to go beyond what they have learned in school, in organizations, or at home by giving an opportunity to conduct their own research and be able to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings to build upon their identity, create a greater bond with Armenia and a desire to visit. For those who have come from Armenia or have already visited, the contest provides a forum to relay their experiences, communicate their intentions to return and explain why.

Building upon and strengthening, not only the desire, but the need to visit Armenia is the first stepping stone that the essay contest provides. For more details, and to view several of the essays entered this year, visit www.visitarmenia.org

Armenia – Historic Western Armenia – Javaghk – Artsakh

September – October 2012

September 12, 2012, 7:55 p.m., Air France flight from Paris landed at Yerevan’s Zevartnotz Airport. My wife, Shoushan and I, accompanied by Hagop and Vicky Seropian, close friends and advocates of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project were on this flight. Upon completing immigration formalities we were met by a large number of friends who had come to the airport, in spite of us keeping our arrival very low key.

Due to health reason I had not been in Armenia since 2010, although Shoushan had spent over five weeks in 2010 visiting sites, inspecting hotels, restaurants and other touristic related establishments. Additionally, Hagop Seropian represented us in Armenia during his visit in 2011, thus keeping up our yearly visit commitment alive.

This time during our visit to Armenia we had planned to take a side trip to Historic Western Armenia. I had made reservations for the four of us with NV Narekavank Tours whose managing director Armen and I had met several years ago during his sales/marketing visit to the USA.

Early morning of September 17, 2012, our 15 seater Mercedes bus left Yerevan toward the Armenian-Georgian border, passing Gyumri and several Armenian villages. Crossing the border was very easy and fast. Both Armenian and Georgian boarder officials and guards were very cordial, welcoming and friendly. We drove through Javakhk Region passed the town of Akhalkalak; we had a short stop at Khertvisi Fortress towering over Parvana and Kura Rivers. In Akhaltskhe we had an authentic Georgian lunch including (khachapouri –a variation of cheese pizza).

The Georgian-Turkish border was about a 45 minute drive; here too the visa/passport officials and formality was very fast and cordial. Then we drove through beautiful mountains and forests and arrived to the town of Ardahan. We visited its old fortress that belonged to the Pakradouni Royal Family. In the 16th Century it was invaded by the Ottomans and later by the Russians. We continued on to Kars, where we saw the medieval stone bridge and the Church of Apostles (10th Century), 

the Castle and the Hammams (Bath). We stayed overnight in Sari Ghamish at a resort hotel 50kms from Kars.

The second day was one of the highlights of our trip. Visiting Ani, the glorious capital of the Armenian Kingdom in the 9-11th Centuries, and known as “the city of one thousand and one churches”, was located on the Great Silk Road and was the largest trade, religious and cultural center on the Europe and Asia crossroad.

We experienced the power of hundreds of medieval towers, grand Cathedrals, palaces, mosques, baths etc; most are in ruins yet some partially remain standing.

later we drove through Igdir and had a stop to take pictures of Mount Ararat from its western side. 

We had lunch at an apple orchard setting right by Akhourian River, a few miles across from Pakaran Village in Armenia. Following lunch we drove to Bayazit, where we saw the Daoink Fortress and explored the magnificent 18th Century palace of Is’hak Pasha, a complex where Persian, Ottoman and Armenian architecture is intertwined in mosques, courtyards and harem rooms.

We saw Mount Tonrag and its volcanic lavas, drove through Apougha prairies, passed the town of Chaltran and arrived to the beautiful waterfalls of Muradiye (Pergri Chervej). After dinner we drove to Van to our hotel.

Our third day was a visit to the city of Van, starting with its Urartian Dushba Fortress (9th Century BC) where we saw the Menua Tomb. There we met several groups of Armenian tourists from Canada and Eastern USA. We then drove to Varakavank Monastery with its seven Churches, most in ruins, despite which a local family keeps the grounds clean in an effort to try to attract tourists to visit. There are several homes right on the grounds of the churches as well as a Mosque. After a short stop at the legendary Mher’s Rock carved door, we continued south driving by the turquoise waters of Lake Van, followed by a 20 minute boat ride to Akhtamar Island.

The unique Holy Cross Cathedral (10th Century) is an exceptional monument featuring Armenian architecture; all covered with marvelous Biblical relieves outside and frescoes inside. Once a year in September, a Sunday Liturgy is held and the Church becomes an operating Armenian Church. The rest of the year the Cathedral is used as a museum where all types of tourists and pilgrims visit. Lunch was Lake Van’s famous “Darekh/incikefal” fish.

On the fourth day we left Van and drove by the shores of Lake Van.

.

Our guide new of a secluded location where several of our group participants swam and others dipped their feet in the crystal clear and creamy waters of the Lake. We had a picnic lunch after which we drove to Mount Nemrut, a volcano site. Up the serpentine drive we reached the peak and enjoyed breathtaking views of Lake Van on one side and the Crater Lake on the other. There we saw a large group of European hikers who were visiting the historic Armenian sites. We drove down to the town of Bitlis, nestled in a gorge in the Taurus Mountains, saw its fortress and a short visit to the town, then entered Mush Valley and arrived to our hotel in Mush.

On day five we hiked up the hill to visit ruins of the legendary Apostles Monastery (4th Century). Later we drove to visit the remnants of “Msho Su;tan Sourp Garabed” St. John Cathedral.

 

once the most important center of the Armenian Churches; it remains as ruins inside a Kurdish village. We continued to the medieval Murad Bridge on the eastern Euphrates River. This is also called Souloukh Bridge where Armenian Hero Kevork Chavoush was martyred. We then returned to Mush Old Town and saw several ruins of Armenian Churches and went up the hill for a panoramic view of Mush. Day five had a special meaning to our group and Armenians all around the world. It was actually September 21, Independence day of Armenia. Everyone in the group wanted to have a drink to toast and celebrate the occasion. We finally were able to find a store where we bought a bottle of wine, which we equally divided into 14 disposable cups. (The restaurant did not allow us to use their glasses for wine consumption).

We left Mush on day six passing over Bingol and Palandoken Mountain Ranges, passing the Western Euphrates and drove to the monastery of Aparank. We saw St. John’s Church (17th Century) as well as St. David Chapel. Of the three tallest (over six meters) carved cross-stones, known as Khatchkars, two remain standing.

We had a picnic style lunch and enjoyed the crisp weather of the mountains. Next stop was Erzeroum and visiting the Byzantine Fortress, where we saw the renowned medieval medreses (theology schools) of Yakutiye and Chifte Minare. Later in the afternoon we passed by the old Shepherd’s Bridge and onto Sari Ghamish, our hotel.

Our last day was a drive from Sari Gahmish through Kars to the Turkish-Georgia-Armenia borders, which took almost ten hours, including border crossings, a lunch stop in Akhaltskhe and several rest stops.

Queen Tamara (Akhaltskhe) and Khertvisi Fortress.

This was a very educational and enjoyable trip as our small group of twelve passengers, a driver and the guide became so close, that in addition to enjoying the sites, we all enjoyed each others company too.

Back in Yerevan, September 24, we visited Yerevan Zoo and had a meeting with Ms. Barbara Siebert, Program Director of FPWC (Preservation of Wild Life and Cultural Assets).

We discussed the efforts of my grand daughter, Savannah, and what she is doing to promote animal adoption, especially at Yerevan Zoo, using her unique web site www.yerezoo.org .

The next day we stayed in Yerevan and took some interesting photos of the different statues that are newly erected almost everywhere in the city.

Although we have been in this area several times, we wanted to visit Goshavank again where we visited with Zarouhi (the ground keeper and guide of so many years). She told us that through donations from Diaspora Armenians, they are able to upkeep the monastery, Gosh’s home and related sites. She especially praised and was very thankful to the lawyers from the USA (members of the Armenian Bar Association) who had visited Goshavank a few years ago and made generous donations.

We then drove to Barz Lidge, which is the seventh largest lake in Armenia, located about nine kms from the main highway near Dilijan. The road is narrow and windy through dense forests and the lake was green. One would think that the water was not clean; however a closer look revealed that it is the reflection of the green forest which makes the lake look green. We returned to Dilijan and had our favorite smelt fish at Kedap Restaurant.

On September 27, we visited the office of Huyr Service at the lobby of Ani Hotel,to reconfirm our bus trip to Artsakh. As always, the agents were very courteous and knowledgeable and were able to answer all the questions we had.

There we saw friends from Los Angeles, Mr. and Mrs. Yeprem and Varsenig Baghboudarian,

Yeprem, “Mher”, Varsenig, Shoushan

who were in Armenia to bring yearly donations to “Nor Hadjin” Village’s school on behalf of the “Hadjin Compatriot Union”. They too had booked the same tour to Artsakh. The next several days we spent in Yerevan walking around the local streets, visiting Sayat Nova St., Toumanian Street, Northern Avenue, Apovian Boulevard, Hrabarag etc… One evening we enjoyed a live one man show by Nareg Tourian:”C’est la Vie.” We had pizza and ice cream several times at one of our favorite cafes, Marco Polo on Apovian Blvd. and enjoyed people watching. We also made sure to drive to Aramous Village near the City of Apovian for a wonderful Fish dinner and a fun evening with friends.

REUNIONS IN ARMENIA:

Armenia has become a popular place for all kinds of reunions. This year we encountered several different groups of people in Armenia visiting with members of their families or schools from other parts of the world.

*At our hotel, we met a family of four from Marseilles, France (husband, wife and two young children). They united with the wife’s parents and sister who had come from Beirut, Lebanon to Armenia for the reunion. The family from France had been to Armenia once before and had fallen in love with the Motherland, while the family members from Lebanon had never visited Armenia. It was a perfect and memorable 2 week reunion. Not only did they enjoy each other, the wife’s parents and sister had the opportunity to visit Armenia. Likely Armenia will be the place for their future family reunions.

*Another family, staying at our hotel, was a couple from Rostov, Russia that had come to Yerevan to join relatives who were visiting from the United States, as well as other family members residing in Armenia.

*The World Reunion of Armenian Schools of Egypt www.armenegypt.com had a reunion for the first time in Armenia. Over 379 alumni and their spouses from different countries spent fun-filled days visiting beautiful sights in Armenia as well as in Artsakh. I knew several families from the Los Angeles area who kept me posted with their tours/adventures and thoughts. Many of these individuals were first timers to Armenia. I am told it was a successful school reunion. Many will return and bring their families to experience and enjoy the beauty of the country and the special feelings/emotions Armenia seems to kindle in its children.

INTERESTING ENCOUNTERS:

I was happy to meet Vic Darchinyan “The Raging Bull”. http://www.vicdarchinyan.com/ He lives in Sydney and was visiting friends and family in Armenia as well as getting ready for his next boxing tournament on November 1st in Las Vegas. We met several times, at our hotel, and talked about his successes and goals. He is an idol among sport fans (young and old) in Armenia. Vic is the current IBF Jr. Bantamweight World Champion and former IBF/IBO Flyweight World Champion. Current record (30-1-1, 24KOs).

Vic Darchinyan and Ara Boyadjian in Yerevan

Norayr Mardirossyan is the leader of the Hye Riders (Motorcycle club) in Armenia. http://hyeriders.com/ He informed me that they have about fifteen members and that their activities include traveling (by bike, of course) to neighboring countries and participating in various motorcycling events, which have created reciprocal visits from cyclists from those other countries to Armenia. I suggested that a yearly event be arranged, in Armenia, whereby motorcycle enthusiasts, from all over, can participate. Norayr informed me that, in the past, they have had such rides on a small scale. With some encouragement and interest from the motorcycle riding world, a ride is scheduled to take place on or about June 15 (hopefully each year) leaving Yerevan, with a visit to Baroyr Sevag’s Museum, and on to Goris and Ghapan to the Karekin Nejteh monument, as a pilgrimage to him. (A possible three days –two night’s event).

Norayr Mardirossyan of Hye Riders Armenia and Ara Boyadjian

Brothers Jerry, Berj and Hratch Hirimyan from Istanbul were visiting Armenia by invitation of His Holiness Karekin II to attend a ceremony in honor of Catholicos Mgrdich Khrimian. They are the great grandsons of Khrimian Hairig’s brother and are very proud of their family and heritage. The brothers are musicians, composers, and singers in Turkey. They sing in several languages and they have just released a new song CD/DVD “Bu Topragin Cocuklari (the sons of this land).

During our yearly visit to Garni, (a favorite tourist spot) we met Vanoush Khanamerian. This 82 year young gentleman is the father of Armenian Dance. Several of today’s dance school teachers, both in Armenia and abroad, are his protégés. We spent a fun filled hour together during which he told us anecdotes and stories from his travel experiences. The festivities in celebration of Armenian Independence on September 21st, presented at Republic Square, ended with a dance from Vanoush Khanamerian himself and his students.

Shoushan, Mrs.and Vanoush Khanamerian, Lena , Ara

MEETINGS:

It was an honor to once again, meet H.E. Hasmig Boghosian, R.A. Minister of Culture, http://mincult.am/am/ who gave me information and updates about some of the latest cultural achievements in Armenia, particularly with regard to our youth. We, also, discussed the importance of keeping cultural monument areas clean, and educating the populace regarding littering, trash, etc. throughout Armenia. Trash and graffiti removal should be a priority, with educational institutions (starting with kindergarten schools) taking the first steps in teaching students the relevance of “Don’t Litter” and “Keep Armenia Beautiful” campaigns and utilizing the meanings of these slogans as part of the new generation’s responsibility in treating and keeping Armenia clean.. The meeting was concluded with a presentation and issuance of a letter of gratitude to me for promoting Armenia, through the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” campaign. We are hopeful that the VAIIB logo and “VisitArmenia.org” link will be incorporated in the Mincult.am site.

I find that my annual meetings with Ara Petrosyan, Deputy Minister of RA Ministry of Economy, http://mineconomy.am/am/ ,as always, are very important and fruitful. Our exchange of concerns and discussions of various points of interest that are fundamentally significant to Armenia’s prosperity and growth, whether through the tourism industry or other means, help us to work together within our own channels and abilities to either direct the issues at hand to the appropriate entities and/or help to rectify problems as expeditiously as possible. This year, we discussed problems regarding the increase of traffic within the city, keeping tourist sites clean, and specialized training of hotel and service workers. A certificate of appreciation for the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project was issued by Mr. Petrosyan, Deputy Minister of R.A. Ministry of Economy.

Mr. Vasken Khatchikyan, Head of R.A. State Fund of Social Insurance services, originally from the Lori Marz, has been working tirelessly to introduce Akhtala as a prime tourist attraction. Near Sanahin and Haghpat, lays the fortified monastery of Akhtala, with breathtaking frescoes

.These well preserved frescos of Byzantine and Greek eras are a rarity in Armenia. Mr. Khatchikyan has a vast knowledge of historic facts of the area, and has been working hard for the past several years to make Akhtala a UNESCO historic heritage site. The roads and facilities in the area are being built and repaired. Akhtala is a definite stop for tourists to enjoy this unique area/site. During our meeting, we discussed the possibilities of promoting this Northern Gateway to Armenia to tourists throughout the world and to encourage tour companies to include the monastery and fortress of Akhtala in their tour programs/destinations.

I had a lengthy meeting with Mr. Antranik Hovanisyan, Youth Affairs Director of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. http://youthpolicy.am/en/ He gave me details of the Youth Festival “Dialogue of Cultures-2008” held at Dzaghgatzor, Armenia. This festival was designed to help in the development of intercultural dialogue, promote diversity and to contribute in the participation of Armenia and its youth in relation to global issues.

I had several meetings with Mher Sadoyan, Director of the Armenia Tree Project (a USA based non-profit organization, which combats the deforestation of Armenia and helps tree planting projects). http://www.armeniatree.org/ We discussed the possibility of establishing several tourist locations, where tour buses can make a rest stop and tourists could voluntarily plant trees, with their own hands and a shovel, at affordable fees to help encourage and fortify Armenia’s commitment to the environment. Planting of fruit and nut bearing trees should also be considered in the tree planting project.

Avetik Afrikyan, of Hyur Service, http://www.hyurservice.com/eng/ provided me useful information and photographs to assist me in the promotion of the Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful Project campaign and updated PSI video presentation.

Although the VAIIB project is non commercial, I make it a point to stop by the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia http://amcham.am/ to learn about its current projects. This year I met with Ms. Diana Gaziyan, Executive Director and Mr. James G. Lykos, Senior Advisor of ACCA and explained to them the purpose and benefits of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project in promoting tourism to Armenia thus helping the socioeconomics of the country and its people.

This year I toured the “Beer of Yerevan” CJSC plants where Kilikia Beer and other fruit juices and products are manufactured and bottled. http://www.kilikia.am/ I met with Mr. Ashot Baghdasaryan, General Director of the company and discussed the possibility of incorporating the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” logo on labels of exported bottles and jars of its products as a public service announcement. Mr. Ashod Hovannisyan, head of marketing and export , gave me a thorough tour of the facilities equipped with modern technological machinery in an impressively clean environment. I tasted fresh pomegranate juice (with no sugars or preservatives added) and enjoyed a glass of Kilikia Beer right from the brewery. Delicious !

Sebouh Baghdoian from Vienna, a devoted advocate and a close friend of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project in Europe, was in Armenia, doing some work at Kegharkounik Marz. We met several times and exchanged ideas on how to maximize our efforts in further promoting the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” campaign. (All ideas and suggestion are always welcome. Please feel free to send an email).

NEWLY VISITED SIGHTS/LOCATIONS:

Having been to Armenia every year (sometimes twice a year) since 1999, and having been to many different regions, cities, villages, we decided to visit different locations this year. Visiting Goris, Ghapan (aka Kapan) and Meghri was one of the highlights of our trip this year. Though we had been to Goris several times before, we had never traveled farther than Goris to the southern parts of Armenia. Mr. Artin Manoukian, of the Glendale-Ghapan sister city association (in Glendale, CA), http://www.glendale-ghapan.org/ put me in contact with the sister city organization’s representative, Armenag Stepanian, in Ghapan. After a six hour drive from Yerevan, with a few rest stops on the way, we received a warm welcome from Armenag and settled into Darist Hotel, in the center of town (an older building with clean, renovated rooms with hot/cold running water; and a restaurant with an outdoor terrace overlooking the river) Ghapan is one of the rare cities in the world where two different rivers (Voghchi and Vachagan) flow through it. We visited Ghapan’s City Hall and were received by Hon. Armen Karapetyan, Mayor of Ghapan. We discussed issues of interest to increase tourism to the area. The Syunik region can be hikers, bikers, and horse back riders paradise as well for those looking for a relaxing place with clean mountain air away from the stress of a modern hustling environment.

Hon. Armen Karapetyan and Ara

Mr. Karapetyan presented me a PSI booklet “Visit Kapan – The fortress of Lernahaystan”. A well prepared publication with excellent pictures and information about Syunik and Ghapan. We continued on to Meghri (known for its pomegranate and fig trees) through a new mountainous highway, a two hour ride through winding roads and beautiful forests, mountains, ridges and valleys. As we started the descent, the Arax River was shining, from below, like a diamond. As we approached the border with Iran, we had a wonderful view of the river flowing with majestic serenity. We were greeted with warm hospitality by a local Meghri family, and enjoyed fresh fruits, milk and honey. Our return to Ghapan was via the old winding road (a faster route). Nona, a reporter of Ghapan’s local TV station, Khoustoup TV, conducted an interview with me, asking several questions about my visit, and the VAIIB campaign. I, also, stressed the importance of educating the public, particularly children to keep their city, rivers and all tourist attractions clean and free of debris and to continue their education, stay in their hometowns and implement what they learn in the advancement of their cities.                                                                     

Ara, Lena, Shoushan, Armenag

On September 16, 1976 , the Mousa Ler (Mousa Dagh)   http://www.mousaler.com/ monument was erected across the Zvartnotz airport (near the city of Etchmiadzin) in honor of the heroic people of Mousa Dagh, (known for the 40 days the villagers successfully defended their village).                                                                            

It has been a tradition that on the third Sunday of September, a celebration takes place at the sight of the monument which resembles a fortress, symbolizing the heroism and solidarity of the Mousa Dagh people. The celebration includes Prayers, traditional “Harissa” (cracked wheat and meat porridge), traditional music (Zourna-Drums,) patriotic songs and dances.                                                                                                           

Thousands of Armenians attend this unique event which is open to the public at no charge. I was lucky to participate in this year’s ceremonies and enjoyed talking to some of the locals – Mousa Ler’s proud people.

This time during our visit to Garni, we took a jeep ride down to the Tzor. The scenery, raging river, unusual rock formations and majestic peaks were awe inspiring. This is an ideal place for hikers interested in at least a seven hour trail. Plan to spend the night, outdoors in a tent of course. It is strongly suggested that the hike is organized through the appropriate Garni representatives.                                         

We visited the village of Markara, at Armenia’s border with Turkey, with beautiful and close up views of Mount Ararat from its northern side.

RE-VISITS:

We also went to Gavar and visited the Khatchkars of Noratus Cemetery, after making a stop at Hayravank overlooking Lake Sevan. . Dzaghgatzor, the popular sports and youth getaway in Armenia was another return trip we made. Not only, Armenia’s residents enjoy and reap the benefits of this area, various youth organizations from throughout the world gather at this locality for planned summer activities and stays. Winter skiing and other snow sports are very popular with available new ski lifts.

We took a minibus tour, from a local tour operator, to Mt. Arakadz with a photo stop at the Alphabet monument at the skirts of the mountain. We continued up Mt. Arakadz to the fortress of Ampert as well as Degher where we stopped in at St. Asdvadzadzin Church.The panoramic view of Puragan from atop the mountain, including the observatory is breathtaking.                                                                                                       

MISC/INFORMATION:

In addition to the nightly two hour water fountain music/water show at the Republic Square on August 23rd, there was an open air concert to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. Several singers and dance groups participated. Thousands of people attended this event.

The 2008 Olympic medal winners were honored in an open air celebration held on August 26 at the Republic Square. The inspiring and congratulatory speech of President Serge Sarkisyan was followed by a “Star” filled concert wherein entertainers such as Aida Sarikisian, Shoushan Bedrosian, Andre, Haigo (2007 Eurovision participant) and Sirousho’s (Quele Quele – 2008 Eurovision) voices pleasantly echoed throughout the night. The evening ended with fireworks spectacular.

On September 28, 2008 H.H. Catholicos Karekin II blessed the “Sourp Muron”, a Ceremony that takes place every seven years, when thousands of pilgrims from throughout the world come to Etchmiadzin for this holy event wherein this blessed oil is prepared and passed throughout the Armenian churches worldwide.

The Hamazkayin “Knar” dance group from Lebanon was visiting Armenia. Leader Felix Haroutyounyan explained, in a TV interview, the importance of Armenian culture, through dance, music and all means possible throughout the Diaspora as well as bringing these talents home to Armenia.

Garen Kocharian designed and prepared a 30 second Public Service Information video with the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” logo which included photos of various activities such as swimming, skiing, mountain climbing, hiking, food and entertainment and other fun photos. (The sounds of Ara Gevorkian bring further enjoyment to the video).

I learned about a youth organization called “Miasin” http://miasin.am/ and saw them in action on one occasion. Approximately one hundred young students (mostly girls), wearing white T-shirts had organized a peaceful demonstrations walking on Apovian Boulevard, with chants and banners on an anti-smoking campaign. I understand that some of their demonstrations also deal with corruption issues. However, the one which most interested me was the march to “Keep Yerevan Clean”

I made several hotel inspections to familiarize and update myself with new accommodations and offered services. Most established facilities have websites that are to par with their respective accommodations. During the last week of September, hotels in Yerevan were sold out, due to the normal tourist season, business meetings and various conventions/seminars held in Yerevan.This is always good news.

Until my next visit, I leave you with thoughts of Armenia, and to make a decision to “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful”.

 

 

Armenia and Karabakh at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show

LOS ANGELES CONVENTION CENTER

March 19-20, 2011

The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Karabakh (Artsakh) participated at the prestigious Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show, for the second consecutive year. Both countries made their first appearance at the largest travel show in the United States in 2010, and left a lasting impression on thousands of visitors, professional tour operators and travel agents.

The joint Armenia-Artsakh booth featured major Armenian travel companies giving the visitors travel information, guide books, films, video clips, as well as national culinary delights.

The “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” logo was prominently displayed on a huge poster, colorful flyers, post cards and bumper stickers were distributed to visitors.

Armenuhi Harutyunyan and Ara Boyadjian

Dancers from the Vartan and Siranoush Gevorkian International Dance Academy in Burbank performed dances to ethnic songs both days of the travel show.

Representatives of Levon Travel and Sidon Travel, who both offer tours to Armenia, were present at the Armenia booth both days explaining to visitors the logistics of traveling to Armenia. Several tour operators from Armenia and Artsakh also traveled to Los Angeles to be a part in this travel show.

The illustrious and eminent travel show, with over 400 exhibitors, is one of the largest travel shows in the West Coast. Travel agents, tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, tourist offices, sister city associations and tour related companies meet travel suppliers from all around the world, to exchange knowledge and information about availability of accommodations, tours, transportation and all other travel services.

The joint participation of Armenia and Artsakh to the Travel and Adventure Show is co-sponsored by the Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles and the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce in coordination with the Armenian Development Agency and the two Sister cities of Los Angeles and Yerevan.

Contact: Consulate General of The Republic Of Armenia in Los Angeles. 1000 N. Central Ave., #200, Glendale, CA 91202 Telephone: (818) 265-5900 facsimile: (818) 265-3800

 


 

The Jakarta Post’s Recognition of “Visit Armenia, It is Beautiful”

The Jakarta Post acknowledges the “Visit Armenia, It is Beautiful” slogan as one that is “creative”, catchy” and “encompassing” the country it describes – Armenia.

In a December 31, 2008, article Endy M. Bayuni of The Jakarta Post (Indonesia) asks “Got any slogans for Visit Indonesia Year 2009?” “The Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” slogan is among a few other countries listed by the newspaper as having a country slogan to be reckoned with. These include:

“Malaysia, Truly Asia “ – “ Amazing Thailand “ – “ Wow Philippines” – “ DynamicKorea” – “ Incredible India” – ”Vietnam, the Hidden Charm” and last but not least “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful”

Not only should we be proud that another nation has recognized the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” slogan, but all Armenians should feel encouraged and duty- bound to work toward incorporating this slogan as the official slogan for The Republic of Armenia, and nationalizing it into every written announcement, advertisement, media output, and other access where this slogan can appropriately be displayed to do its job: Inviting People to the Beautiful Country of Armenia.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 3:06 AM

Be a member & get the benefits! Register or login Got any slogans for Visit Indonesia Year 2009? Endy M. Bayuni, , Jakarta | Sat, 12/27/2008 10:55 AM | Headlines For a nation that seems to have lived on slogans almost all its 63 years of history, we Indonesians really suck when it comes to inventing one to promote ourselves abroad. After a somewhat successful Visit Indonesia Year 2008 — at least that is what tourism officials claim — the government has extended the program and declared 2009 another Visit Indonesia Year. This time, however, the government has yet to come up with a slogan, or has yet to publicly announce one. Just as well, perhaps. This year, we came up with the worst slogan one could ever imagine for our tourism campaign: “Celebrating 100 Years of National Awakening.” It is doubtful if the increase in tourist arrivals in 2008 was due to this slogan. Most visitors would likely have been perplexed by it. Many Indonesians, for that matter, had no clear idea what it was exactly we were celebrating this year (yes, we suck at history too). The slogan is painted on the tails of flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s planes, as well as at various tourist attractions. But most airline passengers would not care so much about the national awakening celebration as about the pilot being awake and getting them to their destinations safe and sound. “Celebrating” is a slogan even a marketing novice would refrain from using because not only is it too long, and therefore not catchy, but it is also incomprehensible. This is even after the government saved itself from a very embarrassing situation when the Financial Times reported before the launch of VIY 2008 that the original slogan, “Celebrating 100 Years of Nation’s Awakening”, was grammatically incorrect. Why couldn’t we have come up with or settled for something simple, catchy and that really encompasses Indonesia? Surely this is not for lack of creativity on the part of the nation’s 240 million people. Other countries by contrast seem to be much more creative.

Here are some examples: * Malaysia, Truly Asia * Amazing Thailand * Wow Philippines * Dynamic Korea * Incredible India * Vietnam, the Hidden Charm * Armenia, It Is Beautiful

Some local private-run TV stations are much more creative in inventing slogans. RCTI Okay must have been so successful that the station has continued to use this slogan for many years now. SCTV Ngetop is another successful one. The Election Channel launched by Metro TV was a statement claiming it to be the main TV network of reference when it came to the 2009 elections. That works too. Indonesia has a dynamic and creative advertising industry that would surely be able to come up with a much better slogan than “Celebrating”. One idea is to organize a national or even international competition for members of the public to come up with proposals for a tourism campaign slogan. We could pick the top five winners and use a different slogan each year for the next five years. A slogan for a tourism campaign is not something that should be entrusted entirely to the government, considering it has only been 10 years since we moved from an authoritarian regime when churning out slogans was part of the ruling tool. In those days, slogans were designed more to “educate” people. They did not have to sell as much as to indoctrinate people. Let us help those in charge of writing up the slogan for Visit Indonesia Year 2009. Here are some suggestions: * Indonesia High and Dry — reflecting on the shortage of alcoholic drinks thanks to the red tape and a new 300 percent import tax. * Intolerant Indonesia — reflecting on the increasing intolerance that some members of society are now showing to others. * Celebrating Diversity — since we are in the mood of celebrating, we may as well celebrate our richness. Or if VIY 2009 is a continuation of VIY 2008, and since we are too lazy to think of a new slogan, let’s just settle with “Celebrating 101 years…” Got any suggestions? Send in your entry by email to readersforum@thejakartapost.com or by SMS to +628111872772.

Happy New Year.