I promised to get back to you about the article about Armenia that appeared in Dutch NRC Handelsblad newspaper last weekend. My dad sent me a scanned copy of it yesterday, so here I go.
The article mainly touches on the usual stuff. The red thread leading through the article is Armenia’s history filled with blood and suffering. Of course, there is majestic Ararat towering over Yerevan, but unreachable for Armenians due to its location in Turkey. Of course, there is the genocide, the Turkish denial and the Genocide-museum (the author, who is NRC Handelsblad‘s correspondent based in Turkey, mentions that if Turkey ever really wants to join the EU, it will have to acknowledge the genocide).
And finally, there is Armenia as the first Christian nation. The author mentions St Hripsime church in Echmiadzin -“the Armenian Vatican City”- as probably being the most beautiful of the churches in that town. When retelling the legend of Hripsime being stoned to death because she refused the heathen king Trdat III, the author calls Hripsime the ultimate example of “when a girl says no, she really means no”. As punishment for Hripsime’s death, Trdat grew donkey’s ears and the only person being able to cure him, was Grigor (Lusavorich – the Enlightener), a Christian whom Trdat had imprisoned in a hole in the ground several years before. So Grigor was hoisted out and cured the king, who subsequently converted to christianity.
The author seems only to have spend a few days in Yerevan and not to have ventured outside of Yerevan, other than his trip to Echmiadzin. He has a favorable view of Armenia as a travel destination, though it is certainly not for those who want or expect an easy trip. It is not an easy destination to travel to (all planes from major European destinations arive in the middle of the night) and to travel around in, due to the bad conditions of many roads, the unintelligible Armenian alphabet and the fact that most people speak Armenian and Russian only and only few people speak English. But, the author concludes, for those who are willing to take these hurdles, Armenia is a very rewarding travel destination with lots of history and interesting places to visit. Which I can only agree with….
Armenia only rarely gets attention in Dutch media, and if it does, it is usually at election-time and then the media focus on the socio-economic point of view: how bad the situation is, how corrupt, how many people are unemployed and have left the country, I guess you know the drill. Sometimes, around April 24, the genocide and the Turkish denial get attention. Though from what I understand, over the past year a lot more attention has been paid to the genocide, linked to Turkey’s possible entry into the EU and to Orhan Pamuk’s trial. Only very rarely does Armenia get mentioned as a travel destination.