Yesterday we were supposed to meet privately with the Catholicos, but the schedule didn't work out. So the tour group's itinerary got shifted around and we might do it tomorrow, on Tuesday (my last day in Armenia for now) or Thursday. But today, we're going to Lake Sevan.
Sure, I didn't get to see the prison under the chapel at Khor Virab where St. Gregory was imprisoned and tortured for 13 years. I kept walking right near, but continued to forget to visit, the St. Vartan statue. And I still got screwed at the museums (I even tried to see the art museum again after Etchmiadzin yesterady but it didn't work out). These are all reasons to go back and visit again someday.
But Lake Sevan was as close to a "must see" as time allowed - and of course the tour group was doing it on one of the 3 days I'd join them. On all the other days, they were going to places I've already been (for the most part). It's almost funny how things are working out for me.
Lake Sevan is situated higher than Denver is above sea level. The air didn't feel noticeably thinner to me, but the water is cooollld. I'm sure there's a joke about Armenian hair issues with the title of my blog post, but really I'm talking about the brave souls - myself included after much cajoling - who took a dip in Lake Sevan. It was after my first fish lunch in Armenia. I'm not a big fish guy anyway, but come on - fish in Armenia? Do they bus it in from Maine? Really this is the only place nearby where you could expect seafood. From the fresh waters of Lake Sevan.
It was good. Too many hair-thin bones, which made eating an adventure, and like most cuisine they enjoy their salt here. But it was good! And let me just make another quick aside, I'm not sure if I mentioned it already, but they don't eat rice pilaf herre. There is rarely falafel, and even less humus. Mostly only the touristy places have such things. And I never once saw rice unless it was inside dolma. Growing up as an American Armenian, these things - plus pita (Syrian) bread, of course - were staples of our cuisine and I naturally assumed this was true Armenian food. But I suppose it's a testament that Armenians didn't really grow up in Armenia - they were raised scattered elsewhere, and their cultures blended with the Middle East. So when they came to America, these food habits survived. Very interesting.
But not as interesting as this. Before I go any further, I have to give a shout-out to crazy Lindsey for taking this picture. Of course I put her up to it, but when the bus first pulled up at Sevan, after a long drive with many monasteries to visit and even some (salty) roadside corn to eat, we were greeted by a gift shop with stuffed animals.
No. Stuffed animals. The real things. Anyway, so we snapped this one. Enjoy quickly and then it's back to the Sevan story. This, of course, was all happening while Lindsey reminded me every 10 seconds that I once dated her BFF history teacher. Even the tour guide announced it on the bus to begin the morning's 2-hour drive. I feel like I'm back in high school too, but it's all in good fun. Speaking of which...
Actually now I forget what I was saying. Oh yeah. Lake Sevan was COLD. All the younger people in our group jumped in, dived in, ran in. They posed for pictures and splashed me as I whined. Finally when I realized Nick would rather drown me than let me stay dry, I took the plunge, too.
It wasn't that bad, really. Some people bottled the water and some sand as keepsakes (hopefully they didn't swig from the wrong bottle). And it just was a good thing I had this back on the bus:
After a long and wet bus ride home, and another monastery stop, we got back and changed quickly just in time to head to traditional dance troupe performance with live music and singing. The people who took a dip had the front row. Except Jirair, he was in the second row, all by himself. Funny but kind of sad. Just like the red-faced kid who did not stop staring at Lindsey as he danced. It was both creepy and funny. Felt like Italy.
The show was extraordinary. The costumes (a dozen changes) were exquisite, the music was stirring, the women were beautiful ('Zoom in on her," I heard about a million times from the guy on my right), the men were incredible athletes, and the choreography of the dancers was astounding. The stage itself was very simple, no frills at all with presentation, leaving only the talent of the performers to carry the night. If only I'd known about the dancing I'd see later... stay tuned for my next blog... what a contrast! I took more movies than pictures, so I don't have any good ones with 30 people on stage, jumping and spinning through perfect lines in front of the musicians, but did snap a quick shot of this guy, whose passion for his songs was a real highlight: