LAKE SEVAN If you have a close look at the map of Armenia, you will sure see that it looks like a head of a girl with long hair and a blue brooch on it. That very brooch is the Lake Sevan which decorates not only the map, but also the land of Armenia. It is one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world. The trip to Sevan is undoubtedly one of the most exciting ones in Armenia. This wonder of nature is surrounded by Geghama Mountains. The sweet waters, sandy beaches and fresh air attract holiday makers every year. Man and the nature have never been as harmonious as it is here, in Sevan. Really you will enjoy an unforgettable pass-time here. Situated in the northern part of Armenian volcanic highland in Gegharkounik region, Lake Sevan has a unique combination of great size, high mountain location, and comparatively “soft water”. Lake Sevan is the greatest lake in the Caucasian region, and one of the greatest freshwater high-mountain lakes of Eurasia. It is located at about 2000 meters above the sea level. The basin of Lake Sevan makes up one sixth of the total territory of Armenia. The water is about 18-22 C in summer which gives you an opportunity to refresh after a hot week in the stuffy city. There is only a little amount of salt in the water, so you can freely swim without thinking of further consequences. The lake’s colors and shades change with the weather from a dazzling azure to dark blue and thousands of shades. This freshwater lake protects a healthy fish population. Ishkhan (in Armenian means “knight”), the local species of trout is the main feature of the lake. The fish has received its name due to a row of spots like crown on its head. The method of cooking it is also typical to this region. And even when it is not the time for swimming, people come here to taste it. Once a famous Russian poet Maxim Gorky said about the beauty of our lake: “The waters are like pieces of the sky that have descended to the earth among the mountains.” And indeed, the water is so pure and of such a pleasant blue color that sitting on the beach you may confuse which one is the lake, and which one is the sky. On a nice sunny weather you can discern the sunshine, as well as the reflection of the sky in the waters. The combination of the blue sky with the blue waters is so wonderful that you can never take your eyes away from that heaven. And on a nice evening when the beach is quiet and the lake is a bit wavy you can always wander on the beach feeling the pleasant sand on your feet. The only noise that can get to your ears will be the sound of the water and the waterfowls enjoying the fresh air. NORATUS CEMETRY Located in the region of Gegharkunik, Noratus is an ancient Armenian village. The village is famous for its cemetery of cross-stones, the largest one in the territory of Armenia. Once the cemetery in Julfa in Nakhichevan (Territory of Azerbaijan) was the largest one, but it was destroyed between 1998 and 2006, and now the cemetery in Noratus is the greatest one in the whole world. Armenian khachkar (meaning cross-stone) is a carved, memorial stele bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. Figures of leaves, bunches of grapes, pomegranates and apricots are typical ornaments carved cross-stones. Many khachkhars in the cemetery of Noratus, date back to the 13-17th centuries, and the oldest one was curved in 10th century. The cemetery is spread over a seven hectare field containing almost a thousand khachkars each of them depicting unique ornamentation. The majority of the khachkars are covered by moss and lichen. Several tombstones in the cemetery depict carved scenes of weddings and farm life. One of the khachkars from the cemetery was donated to the British Museum in 1978 by Catholicos Vazgen I. A popular folktale associated with the cemetery concerns the invading army of Tamerlane. According to one story the villagers placed helmets on top of the khachkars and leaned swords against them. From a distance the khachkars looked like armed soldiers holding a defensive position as a result of which Tamerlane’s army retreated. VANEVAN MONASTERY Located along a gorge in the southern part of the village of Artsvanist, Vanevan monastery is an important piece of Armenian architecture dating back to the 10th century. The inscriptions on the southeastern part evidence that the church was built in 903. The monastery consists of two churches and a belfry. The belfry with a heavy roof, a false vault and a central skylight links the two churches. It was not built together with the whole monastery, but was added at a later time. The main church is devoted to St. Gregory. The church drum is octagonal inside and outside. The roof which is now damaged has once been pyramidal. The facing part of the main building up to the drum is made of coarse basalt and the facing part of the drum is made of delicately cut tuff. These stones give a special appearance to the monastery. This type of stone is typical to Armenian architecture. And due to this stone and its pink color, the capital Yerevan is often called a pink city. The Monastery of Vanevan and the Monastery of Tatev are the only surviving ones in their type. SEVANAVANK MONASTERY During the 8th century a few monks settled on the former island of Sevan and began to build their churches. Due to the strategically good location, many others came here. For a while it was the residence of the king Ashot Erkat (Ashot the Iron) who received his name due to his numerous glorious victories. With the time the walls of the monastery were destroyed and in 1930 the last monk left the monastery. Now after the reconstruction and restoration efforts which took place from 1956 to 1957, we have the monastic complex Sevanavank located on a peninsula at the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkounik province of Armenia. Initially, the monastery was built on the southern shore of a small island. During the Soviet times the water of the lake were being used for irrigation, which resulted in the drop of the water level for about 20 meters. Thus the island was transformed into a peninsula. An inscription in one of the churches says that the monastery of Sevanavank was founded in the year of 874 by Princess Mariam (the daughter of Ashot). The monastery was of the strictest ones, as it was mainly intended for the monks in Etchmiadzin who had sinned. Jean-Marie Chopin, the French explorer of the Caucasus, visited this site in 1830 and wrote of a regimen restraining from meat, wine, youth and women. Another explorer visited the monastery in 1850 and wrote how manuscripts were still being copied manually. The two churches St Arakelots, meaning the “Holy Apostles”, and St. Astvatsatsin, meaning the “Holy Mother of God” both are cruciform plan structures with octagonal tambours. Adjacent are the ruins of the tabernacle whose roof was originally supported by six wood columns.