As our program began arranging several trips deeper into Armenia, I could find an opportunity to get acquainted with the Medieval and Ancient heritage of the region. Our first trip was to Amberd, an ancient settlement located around a strong stonebuilt castle next to a medieval church called Vahramashen. Located approximately one hour drive away from the centre of Yerevan, Amberd fortress is one of the oldest medieval construction in Armenia. The initial fortress was built in the seventh century but, later enlarged considerably by one of the influential dynasties of Medieval Armenia, the Pahlavunids, as a response to the growing political and military threat from the east. Although the local dynasties were able to stand firm against any kind of threats up until the eleventh century, in 1070, the castle finally fell into the hands of the Seljuks who turned the castle into a military base for their further campaigns to the west. Besides the castle, Vahramashen church which was completed in 1026, is still open to visitors. During my visit, I managed to enter the church and witnessed a religious ceremony inside which could be defined as fascinating in terms of reflecting the long-lasting religious and cultural heritage of the region.
The program will arrange the next trip to Sevan lake, Sevanavank, Noratus cemetery of Khachkars, Tsaghkadzor and Kecharis monastery in the following days. In the next blog entry, I am planning to cover several of these places that I would find most interesting and attractive. Also, advancing towards the end of the second week of my stay in Armenia, I will be able to tell more about the Armenian cuisine in my next entry.