Monday, October 01, 2007

Vacation

I just returned from my first real vacation during the Peace Corps. A few friends and I climbed Mt. Ararat and visited eastern Turkey. All in all a really cool trip.

The symbol of Armenia is Mt. Ararat. The only thing is that this coveted mountain sits just over the border (closed due to a war in the 1990s) in Turkey. This perceived denial of land, especially the ultimate symbol of Armenia makes this mountain a huge part of the national consciousness. With our American passports in hand we were able to make this trip, and fulfill the dream of many Armenians. Needless to say upon our return we have acquired a huge store of “street cred” with Armenians.

I’m no climber, but the mountain is kinda tall. Almost 17000 feet. All the guide books claim it is “the tallest mountain in Europe”. But if eastern Turkey is in “Europe” then I’ve got hopes that Mongolia will be an ascension country to the EU in no time. We had been warned about altitude sickness and the like, but our group seemed to do ok. There were certainly a few headaches at the top.

So below you'll find some pics of our vacation, if interested.


This is a photo of Mt. Ararat from the capital city of Yerevan.


The 5 days spent climbing the mountain were fairly uneventful, as there's not much to look at nature wise, as evidenced by this picture.


Our summit hike began at two in the morning so we could reach the top at sunrise, which we accomplished. This was the view out over Armenia from the top of the mountain as the sun was rising. Unfortunately it was hazy and we couldn't make out the capital city in Yerevan.


This is the group of us that made it up to the top of the mountain. It was very, Very, VERY cold on the top of the mountain.

I lost a bet to a buddy of mine from Boston and have been wearing a Boston Red Sox hat ever since. Go Giants!

On our trip we were also able to see a bit of Eastern Turkey, which is really quite a beautiful and developed place (reletive to what I was expecting). It was certainly the most militarized place I've ever been, as 4 pretty hot borders meet in a small area and the Kurdish inhabitants of this part of Turkey are a bit restless. There were tanks, armored vehicles and men with automatic weapons everywhere. I d

My favorite place that we went was the abandoned ancient city of Ani. In short (and this does the history no justice) it was the capital of Armenia when the culture was at its Zenith in the mid 10th century. It was a great walled city that has since sat untouched, except by earthquakes and time. The Turkish government doesn't keep it up really at all so it is this crazy eerie ancient city where the churches are the only things still standing. At one time it was known as the city of a thousand churches.

This church was damaged in an earthquake in teh 14th century and then struck by lightning in the 20th century, which caused half of it to fall down.


Another example of an Armenian church in Ani fallen into disrepair.


We also stopped off at an old Turkish fort on the way. It was interesting to compare the two architectural styles.

All in all it was a good trip.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dominic,
What great pictures. I now have the one of Mt. Ararat from Yerevan on my screen saver. I like to show people the beauty of Armenia, along with the poverty, when they come to the office. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Take care,
Mrs. Z

Lucy said...

Hi Dominic
I have just chanced across your blog, it is great reading - keep it up.
I am really interested in the trip you did up Mt Ararat. I am also living in Armenia and would like to do this climb next summer. Can you drop me an email sometime lucyhewlett@hotmail.com? Cheers