Day 38 (1): A natural disaster
Sevan Travel Blog› entry 53 of 260 › view all entries
May 13th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
The Envoy hostel organises daily trips (a different destination every day) and the trip scheduled for Thursdays seemed particularly appealing to me. There had been some uncertainty as to whether or not there would be enough people signing up for the tour (they need at least three) but I was in luck: three girls from London had arrived late last night and wanted to join this tour.
Well, when I say three girls from London, then of course I mean that Paola was Italian, Andrea Croatian and Sara British of Hong Kong descent.
Andrea is a keen photographer and I always like it when I travel with another photo enthusiasts. It encourages me to take better pictures and chances are someone will take some half-decent pictures of me for a change as well.
Our guide, Gevorg, was actually the manager of the hotel, but he still regularly did these tours, probably when he liked the group he was taking (I assumed his decision was made based on three girls joining rather than me). He's an excellent guy. Armenians are known for their superb sense of humour and Gevorg was no exception. His stories about the history and culture or Armenia, the current events of the country and the sights we visited were dry, witty and occasionally cynical. Exactly my type of humour. I had a great day.
First we drove to Lake Sevan, or as the Armenians prefer to call it, the Sevan Sea. As Armenia is a landlocked country this is the closest thing to a see most locals ever see.
The idea was to shrink the lake to only a sixth of its original size, but fortunately when it became clear that the dropped water-level increased pollution and killed off the fish in the lake, this practice was stopped (unlike the Aral sea in Uzbekistan, which is now generally seen as the worst natural disaster in the former Soviet republic - more on that when I get to Uzbekistan in a few months' time).
Still, it shows the sheer incompetence of the Soviet 'scientists' of the time.
These days the water level is rising again and since the independence (or rather since money to maintain the dams and irrigation works higher up in the mountains ran out) the water level in the lake has increased by 2 metres.
If any Dutch entrepreneur is reading this, there are some great business opportunities here for dikes! Erm, wait, maybe I need to rephrase that.
The Sevanavank monastery was built on Sevan island, which is now a peninsula. Apart from the monastery the president also has an outhouse on the peninsula, but obviously this was out of bounds for us mere mortals. Apparently Russian president Putin is a frequent guest here though.
The monastery has a very scenic setting (just like pretty much every other monastery in the country) and had been miraculously saved from Stalinist purges.
Next we drove to the Hayravank monastery and the nearby cemetery, where people pay good money to get the most elaborate cross stones on their grave. The purges hadn't been as mild with the thousands of ancient cross stones in Armenia, probably because they are much easier to demolish, but even so many still survive to this day.
Lunch was served in a local home, a delicious meal consisting of soup, pasta, pork kebab and lots of salad.
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