The Heart of Sevan, or the Roads of Armenia

Luxury Travel Tips

I am ready to go to Lake Sevan in Armenia an infinite number of times. Probably, someday I will settle in a small house overlooking my favorite lake, but for now – visit again. But every meeting with Sevan is a lot of love. Quiet, gentle, rocking you on its waves like a beloved baby, it cleanses, soothes, gently strokes your head and instills confidence that everything is already there and is good.

I am going to Sevan again to connect with mine its blue heart, the bottom of which is covered with moonstone, and seagulls soar and scream above the lake, and in the Sevanavank temple on the mountain, the priests sing and serve the most beautiful service in the world.

From Sevan – a stone’s throw to Dilijan. Perhaps I’ll stop by here to drink coffee with cognac at the Kchuch cafe, go on an excursion to the international college of Ruben Vardanyan UWC Dilijan for talented children from different countries, and, of course, take a walk around the Old Dilijan Complex of the Tufenkian Heritage Hotels chain.

But – everything is in order!

When James Tufenkian – the founder of the network – first visited the homeland of his ancestors, he was struck by the incredible beauty of the region, its history and the spirit of the Armenian people and decided to take the opportunity to use his business to help revive the original Armenian art of carpet weaving, which was lost during the Soviet era.

Then the idea was born to create Tufenkian Heritage Hotels – a chain of high-class hotels that will reveal the greatness of Armenia to the world. Any traveler will be able to touch the history and culture of Armenia and feel the excitement of adventure and romance that make the country so attractive.

At the moment there are 4 hotels in the network. The Tufenkian Foundation’s charitable program, among other initiatives, offers jobs to residents of the villages adjacent to the hotels and is a leader in humanitarian and environmental programs.

So, Dilijan.

In the 1800s, this ancient Armenian city was known as a major center of culture, trade and national cuisine. To enjoy the fabulous landscapes of this region, a huge number of tourists from Tbilisi and Baku came here.

In 2004, the Tufenkian company began restoration work in the historic district of modern Dilijan – Sharambeyan Street, and today there is an opportunity to see the city as it was in the 19th century. The intricately interlaced patterns of the carved wooden balconies, which were popular in the 19th century, showcase the art of local woodworkers. And the Yesayan Museum in “Old Dilijan” recreates the typical home environment for these places of that time: textiles, musical instruments of Armenia, which are found throughout the region.

The complex “Old Dilijan” also has a craft shop, a restaurant “Haykanush”, furnished in the best traditions of that time, a souvenir shop and an Ananov guest house. It consists of two apartments on the first and second floors and twelve guest rooms. Antique furniture, hand-crafted roofing and legendary Tufenkian carpets create a warm atmosphere that exudes true Armenian hospitality.

In general, the emphasis on authenticity is the main feature of the network.

And Tufenkian products are always presented in the rooms: oh, lying on these bedspreads is a cozy pleasure! But I will not wallow in Dilijan, but in Yerevan. There, in the Historic Yerevan Hotel, I will spend the next three days.

By the way, in Tufenkian you can order your own carpet from catalogs, and even watch the process of its manufacture – several women weave it in the lobby of the Historic Yerevan Hotel. There is also a shop where you can buy other Tufenkian products: bedspreads, rugs and other things of impeccable quality.

The architectural design of the Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel is in tune with the architecture of Yerevan in the 19th-20th centuries. A team of specialists worked on the creation of the hotel, including the world-famous architect and interior designer Claude, as well as James Tufenkian himself, the founder of the network.

The exterior decoration of “Historic Yerevan” is made of traditional black and orange tuff. The interior is decorated with an emphasis on the expressive and rich texture of stone, and this is in perfect harmony with the Armenian theme. In the rooms – of course, designer furniture, created exclusively by Armenian craftsmen.

The restaurant “Kharpert” on the ground floor of the hotel offers dishes prepared according to recipes from ancient cookbooks of Armenia. And the wine list, of course, includes local wines. But the selection of Italian dishes and wines is also impressive.

Opposite the Historic Yerevan Hotel is Vernissage. This is the main fair of Yerevan and the delight of tourists: products made of stones and silver, wood and ceramics, paintings, carpets, antiques and other gifts of Armenia.

Two steps away is the Republic Square, the National Museum of Armenia, where I recommend walking through the halls full of amazing artifacts with a guide whose story brings the exposition items to life in the most exciting way.

In the same building is the National Gallery of Armenia. I was lucky enough to get to the exhibition dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Ivan Aivazovsky, or Hovhannes Ayvazyan.

She always loved Aivazovsky, was fascinated by the depth of the elements, which he alone managed to convey on his canvases. This year I saw him differently: I looked at the sea of ​​the color of bottle glass pierced by the light of the sun, and at the moonstone bought in Sevan – and all of Aivazovsky froze for me in the heart of Sevan, in the blue mineral from its bottom. The heart of the mystical lake, which the Armenians call the sea and love endlessly. The heart of Aivazovsky, salted with sea salt and transparent, and boundless with love for the elements.

Once Armenia, the ancient state of Urartu, was “from sea to sea”. Now there is neither sea nor Mount Ararat in Armenia, on which the biblical Noah moored, and Aivazovsky depicted this on one of his most famous paintings.

The Armenian heart, no matter what foreign land it is in (and for Aivazovsky, Crimea was the homeland, Feodosia – well, where else would a marine painter live, if not by the sea?), always sings a sad, but full of love, Armenian song. According to Arman Tsaturyan, director of the National Gallery: “Hovhannes Ayvazyan never stopped being an Armenian. On the tombstone of Aivazovsky there is an inscription in two languages: Armenian and Russian. By the way, he spoke Russian with a big accent. During the pogroms in the Ottoman Empire, the artist hired dozens of longboats that transported refugees. And he threw the awards of the Turkish Sultan Abdul-Hamid, who greatly appreciated his work, into the sea.”

By the way, there is a little story about Aivazovsky in my family archives. My great-grandfather Armenak Ter-Gazarov, the nephew of Alexander Shirvanzade, a well-known writer in Soviet Armenia, whose works are included in the compulsory school curriculum, was the best phthisiatrician in Baku, where I was also born. He saved a single soul from tuberculosis and once helped an almost hopeless patient whose family was so poor that they had absolutely nothing to thank the doctor with, but they really wanted to thank him. And they gave him a picture of a seascape that hung on their wall for many years and no one remembered where it came from. Glancing at her, Armenak asked if they were sure that the gift was of no value. In response, they only laughed: “If it cost anything, we would have something to thank you.” Armenak did not listen to his donors – apparently, he possessed not only medical intuition: he took the canvas to an art critic, who determined that the landscape belongs to neither more nor less – the brush of the early Aivazovsky. The great-grandfather returned the painting to the donors, who sold it and lived in prosperity almost until the end of their days.

…My walks around Yerevan and trips around Armenia are directly related to the stories of my family, and in my next articles about Armenia I will tell a couple more of these stories. In the meantime, while I am writing this text in a cozy room of the Historic Yerevan Hotel and thinking about how great a thing genes are…

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