Armenian Summer Journey: Village Life (Episode 2)
In the Northern Armenian province of Lori I found a home far from city life Where a gracious host family helped me connect with their village and with culture, history, nature and a little bit more of myself as I continued on My Armenian Summer Journey Hi and Welcome back to "My Armenian Summer Journey" The series about my life in Armenia during the summer of 2021 I had just spent a week in the capital city of Yerevan and I never wanted to leave The sights, the people, the nightlife, the food It was a place of endless possibilities but then I received an invitation that was about to change the trajectory of the experience I imagined having in Armenia I got in touch with Vladimir Grigoryan a tour guide and friend of my Armenian language instructor in the U.S. He was about to take his wife, his mother in law, and his daughters up to his village home And he invited me to join them at a place called Dsegh, which I had never heard of before and at a home that was still under construction So I had a decision to make stay and discover more of the wonders of Yerevan or accept this invitation to this unknown destination in the countryside Something inside me said "take this opportunity" and so I decided to go The next day, I went down from the city center to meet near the family’s Yerevan home then we took off through the outskirts of the capital and into the countryside on my first road trip across Armenia The road took us through the Armenian alphabet monument and further up ahead through Rya Taza an ethnic Kurdish Yazidi village founded by fellow survivors of Ottoman persecution during World War 1 After crossing into the Lori region, we went through Spitak a town that was destroyed by a major earthquake in 1988 and has gradually begun to thrive again We bypassed Vanadzor, Armenia's 3rd largest city then started our final approach as Vladimir told me more about our destination In addition to many historical sites village Dsegh is known as the birthplace of a very famous and talented poet Hovhannes Toomanyan Throughout our trip I spoke to his daughter Mari a student and talented artist who had a lot in common with me aWe discussed popular culture, literature, Japanese anime and our respective filmmaking experiences She was incredibly helpful in filming much of my footage here and welcome to Dsegh Vladimir's 5 year old twins grew increasingly excited they were ready to play and to see Jeki the family dog 3 hours and 145 kilometers later, we arrived Next, Vladimir will introduce the place himself Now you are at Dsegh D’well Rural Adventure Center The idea is not just a hotel, but to create conditions so tourists can stay more than 3 days There are three ways to make it: create interest within the property of 8500 square meters Within the village of Dsegh and most importantly in nearby beautiful area landscape mountains gorges and forests This building you see was a Soviet time school dormitory where teachers and also students from the nearby villages where they had no schools they were staying here After the collapse of Soviet Union this building was abandoned for about 30 years. It's much more difficult to rebuild the existing building than building a new one but slowly step by step we’re gonna make it As I toured the property one thing in particular caught my attention Vladimir’s collection of Armenian carpets I remembered seeing a report about Armenian carpets being transported from a museum in the warzone to Yerevan for protection from destruction by the Azerbaijan military who were destroying all traces of Armenian heritage in their path.
So I felt fortunate to gaze upon and learn about these cultural artifacts some of which had come from the disputed Nagorno Karabagh region in the Republic of Artsakh This here see there is one there are a lot of symbols actually ...there is one with a tail, one head this is another symbol, sunburst this is also an interesting piece meanwhile on this one again different symbols “S” is the... in Armenia it's the same, also this the symbol of prosperity this if you look carefully they look like a bee like hard working men and most likely it was devoted to twins again you see the bee and a flower, and another flower and the reason why I say twins: double double head double head also over 100 years, from Karabagh that afternoon we all washed up and prepared for our first of many evening dinners under the stars Vladimir’s mother in law wanted to know more about what my motivation was to come to Armenia I shared how my experience with the culture through a former girlfriend of Armenian descent and the emotional impact of the recent war sparked my desire to step foot on this land and had now led me to be in their company Vladimir shared his background as well he was a young engineer working at a generator plant when the Soviet Union ceased to exist All of the sudden his plant closed, jobs ended, basic utilities like electricity were gone and overnight, Armenia and most of the former U.S.S.R. regressed from being part of a world superpower into third world countries in economic turmoil Despite the hardships, Vladimir would go on to different ventures and avenues of learning meeting his wife Roseanna along the way, a woman who shares his interest in nature and love for traveling It was getting late, so Roseanna and Mari would soon put the children to bed while Vladimir and I continued talking over a few glasses of Armenian Cognac "Welcome to Armenia" Over the next few weeks, I filmed all over and put together a little vlog introduction to the village now lets go back so I can personally welcome you in I’m here in Dsegh in the Lori province of Armenia and have found that its a wonderful place at the crossroads of nature, culture and history and I think its a hidden gem that many Armenians and non-Armenians need to come and discover I’m entering now from the main road that goes through these villages and I’ll turn the camera around in a second so you can see the entry to Dsegh And I’ll also go up this new “glamping” facility, that will give you a nice view You can see the village faintly in the background there as I make my way up to the glamping site here once you are walking through it, it feels like a very small intimate village but there is actually a sizeable population here, which means a lot of people to talk to or to or try to talk to in my case my Armenian is still is "lav che" (not good) there's still a part of it under construction right up the road, you can get started hiking right away I've just made it to the top so we can take a look at Dsegh from far above much of the town over there straddles a cliff which is a another hiking area that has amazing views on top of taking you through historic sites including old ruins from Armenian churches and what you see at the top over there is the cemetery of Dsegh Next let's look at Dsegh a little more in depth making it down here We’re back here on the main road and we’ll take a look over and you can see some of the first few buildings when you enter Dsegh Just walked through the main road into the center of town These are a couple of the stores where the family I'm staying with has come to shop I’ve just turned the camera around so we can walk into the town square This little park aside from these friendly cows has statues that represent the characters from famous Armenian writer and poet Hovhannes Toomanian's stories This is Hovhannes Toomanian's hometown and his home museum is on display just beyond this main square it's been one of my favorite parts of Dsegh and i look forward to showing it to you in a future video for now lets walk through this town square and I'll end this by checking out the visitors center now this is newly built so I haven't seen it open during my stay in the town but it does represent the different stages of development that I see here in Dsegh we have the visitor center recently completed and next to it is a building that's a private development in the prominent part of the center under construction going at a pretty slow pace from what I see here so these different stages of development are currently going on with the hope that Dsegh can be a prosperous place for the villagers to live in and for those of us who appreciate nature to enjoy That’s my little tour of the entrance to Dsegh and the town square Most days, I tended to Vladimir’s garden in the mornings learning to work the land and leaving my mark on Armenian territory in blood and sweat. Roseanna and the girls would then take me beyond the village across the landscape and into fragments of Armenia’s past One day we hiked down to the Karsnits Mankats Vank monastery solitary ruins that lay along the gorge On a different day we took Jeki with us to Surb Grigor Bardsrakash monestary over the plains and into the forest on the other side of the gorge The gradual physical descent through the wilderness into this isolated former spiritual centers was a serene and awe-inspiring experience "Can we stay here?" "Okay" Throughout our hikes Roseanna taught me the historical contexts behind the places we visited The local prince, the nobles would come for the masses Nobles are in the church and the regular people are in this area which is called "gavit" Now all the gavit part was added to the church later, 12th century this was already post-kingdom time when the feudals were in control and so it was a new thing added to the church and this is the sun watch we have the Armenian alphabet here so Armenians were using the letters for the numbers as well So the shade would come so here there would be some stick and the shade would show you the time so this is the midday and the sunset is already the end of the day In addition to the history here, I was surprised to see so much forest in a country I had imagined as largely arid and mountainous And this was actually part of Roseanna and Vladimir’s inspiration for starting their business during one of their trips to the country of Namibia in Africa, they had an epiphany most of the diversity of nature that they found across different countries actually existed within the borders of Armenia itself and they had the idea to change their focus to help share Armenia's natural beauty as well as the history of the Armenian people with the world They transformed their passion into an adventure tourism company known as discover Armenia or DA tours Nowadays Roseanna is active with the original tourism business while Vladimir focuses on the complex in Dsegh and developing tourism in this Northern Lori region of Armenia throughout their years in business, one of the fondest memories they have was meeting Anthony Bourdain and helping him produce an episode of "Parts Unknown" which took place in Armenia They even got Roseanna's brother Arsen Badalyan to help on the production coincidentally, Arsen came to visit us with his family during one of the weekends that I was in Dsegh it was the perfect time to take the girls and their cousins out for a picnic by the river a few kilometers down in the nearby village of Debet Here we are, picnicking, eating a little bit of lavash As we played around I noticed a person standing over the bridge nearby so I decided to go talk to him and test my Armenian conversation skills I was far worse than I thought I’d be but luckily Arsen came to help me communicate with our friend Vartan When we got back one of the twins insisted on giving me a tour of the campsite behind Vladimir’s home I think she’s definitely going to be the next tour guide in this family spending part of my adventures here with the twins made me more conscious of the higher capacity to learn quickly and to enjoy life in the moment that children naturally possess and I was grateful that every member of the family had enriched my experience of Armenia in their own unique way we need key we need some key The twins continually surprised me with improving English as we spent our days together clearly I was a slower learner so they insisted on some language lessons before ending the night As my days in Dsegh drew to a close, Vladimir had a surprise for me he had arranged for us to have dinner with two village elders. They allowed me to record the resulting conversation
and I will share the wisdom that they passed on in my next episode of My Armenian Summer Journey for now I thank you for watching please like and subscribe and I’ll see you next time