Armenia in a campervan Part 2 - A sad goodbye to this wonderful country

After a week at one of the most wonderful campsites ever, Camping 3GS, the weather was beginning to turn and the Sandra and Marty were preparing to close down for the winter. Leaving just one other couple, Janine and Fred who were waiting for their Iranian Visas and 4 new wheel bearings being sent from Frankfurt, we headed off towards the western edge of Armenia, along its border with Turkey and back northwards towards Georgia.
The ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral

Just west of the capital Yerevan, we decided to check out one of Armenia's few UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Cathedral of Zvartnots. Its evocative ruins now stand alone in a bit of an industrial wasteland, a stone’s throw from the airport. But the site itself is rather beautiful, with Mount Ararat looming into the background. We were very glad we made the detour. It is a popular place for newly married couples to come and take their wedding photos.
Zvartnots with Mount Ararat in the background

 Our visit was made all the more special by a chance encounter with a lovely Armenian lady called Toni who now lives in Los Angeles. At the age of seven she was forced to flee, initially to Lebanon, and then again to California when the civil war broke out there.

Toni, the lovely Armenian lady now living in Los Angeles
This was her first visit back to her home country, and was a very emotional experience for her. She had two weeks to cram as much as she could in; visiting long lost family members and seeing all the sites she never had chance to as a child. We chatted in the evening sun for a while and shared with her, her love of her long lost homeland. Her culture and religion was so important to her, it felt very emotional. We were both very happy for her that she was finally able to step back to her motherland.

It is strange how some sites we visit are swamped with tour buses, gift shops and tacky plastic rubbish, but others equally; if not more beautiful and stunning places; we have literally to ourselves. This was our experience of Aruchavank, one of the largest Armenian churches dating from 661AD. Just sitting on the edge of a dusty village at the end of a potholed road, our only company were a few stray dogs and some very loud screeching crows / ravens (I'm not sure which). Stepping into the vast ancient crumbling cathedral left us both breathless and speechless.

The Cathedral of Aruch
The next bit of our Armenia trip took us right along the border with Turkey, a border that has been closed since its independence in 1991, and has multiple layers of barbed wire fence running the full length. There are no open crossings at all along these two countries borders and unfortunately this situation is unlikely to change any time soon, and for Armenia it seems very sad as a lot of its culture has been lost by the arbitrary lines known as international borders.

Yereruyk Basilica lying about 200m from the Turkish border
This also meant that every night when we found somewhere along the road to camp for the night, we would get multiple knocks on the van as passing army and police vehicles would wonder what the hell a Brit’ campervan was doing parked in the middle of nowhere. But with a bit of Google translate and a few Armenian words, these would always be friendly encounters, happy that we were coming and exploring their amazing country.

Jrapi Church from the year 985
 So this was the end of our time in this small, wonderful mountainous country, and we both felt very sad that it had come to an end. A country with spectacular scenery, wonderful laidback, warm, friendly people and so much history that it just oozes out of every corner.

making a break for Turkey
What we’re watching at the moment - Better Call Saul Season 2, Great British Bake off and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Favorite podcast - Today Explained (Vox) & David Baddiel Tries to Understand (BBC)

The temperature is dropping