As a photographer who enjoys traveling around the world capturing the food, culture, and the great diversity of this beautiful planet, I like to do some detailed research before working on a project.
I spend time with the client, getting to know them and their surroundings to get as best prepared before arriving at my destination. This location was very different, although I am Armenian I had never been to Armenia. I traveled there like any other tourist, when I arrived, I realized this was going to be a very different experience. We were three childhood friends who had never been to Armenia before.
We arrived in Yerevan after midnight and went straight to our hotel. The next morning, in pursuit of our morning coffee, we landed in a small, quaint neighborhood café within walking distance of our hotel. The local jams, butter, and honey are very simple and the taste is extraordinary. It takes you to another world. Of course, the coffee has a fabulous aroma and tastes like I picked the beans myself that morning. It was one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. I felt quite a familiarity from the people who worked there, as I had actually been before. This set the tone for the rest of the trip.
My routine typically begins with finding a local farmers market to experience and photograph the food and culture of the people. Walking through the colorful market I came across the most amazing produce. I have to admit. there were fruits and vegetables that you will not see in every other farmer’s market in the world. That is where the Armenian culture comes in.
“Armenia is a nation, and former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s defined by religious sites including the Greco-Roman Temple of Garni and 4th-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral, headquarters of the Armenian Church. Khor Virap Monastery is a pilgrimage site near Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano just across the border in Turkey.”
Yerevan is the capital of the country and like any populated city, it has its share of traffic and hustle and bustle. To truly experience Armenia, one has to travel to the outskirts of the country. Mount Ararat is a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in the extreme east of Turkey. It consists of two major volcanic cones: Greater Ararat and Little Ararat. We drove to the outskirts of the mountain and walked through the valleys surrounding it. Needless to say, during the trip, we stopped at many small villages and were welcomed by very friendly people who offered us a full table of food and sweets made from local ingredients. The food is so fresh that you truly cannot stop eating, you find yourself wanting to taste everything that is offered.
Walking through the city and villages, I experienced the warmest and welcoming people. They are hardworking, who put their heart and soul into everything they prepare. The people are so amazing, that their joyous energy during preparation makes for an amazing flavor. It truly is something extraordinary.
As an Armenian, I came across certain foods that I had never heard of or eaten. One of the greatest experiences was a local lunch stop that served “Zhingyalov”. It is the most delicious bread stuffed with sautéed leafy greens. It is a traditional dish for the Armenians, typically from Artsakh and Syunik regions. The fresh smell of the herbs combined with the hot bread fresh from the oven creates this amazing moment of taste and flavor like I had ever experienced before.
In addition to the wonderful food of Armenia, what struck me the most was that it felt like home. Although I was not familiar with my surroundings, there is an innate warmth about the country and its people. The historical locations are easily accessible and hold enormous wisdom. Another aspect that stands out is how educated and proud the next generation is, they love to talk about the history and cultural arts of their country. They don’t just recite the facts, they truly understand the history and explain it to you so you can fully absorb it.
I have lived on three continents and in six metropolitan cities, traveling and photographing many countries. I feel I am a citizen of the world but there is something very special going to Armenia. These images provide only a glimpse of the true beauty and gifts of Armenia. [Official Website]
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