A Journey North: A Visit to my Uncle’s Village

A few days ago my uncle Haig invited me to his house, which is located in Yeghvard (spelled YER-VART…), a village just 20 kilometers north of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city. The road out of the city passes through run-down apartment blocks and gaudy casinos operated by what seems to be the Russian mafia. But soon the view widens to reveal the countryside: vast fields of golden wheat, mounds of freshly stacked hay, bushes of burgeoning boysenberries, and gently rolling hills in the distance. Driving ahead, a group of Yezidi herders calmly usher their sheep off to the side of the road. The Yezidi living in Armenia are ethnically Kurdish, but came here in to flee Turkish persecution during the First World War. They follow a unique religious belief that is part Kurdish and part Islamic Sufi. They are known in Armenia as “sun worshipers” because they pray daily at sunrise and sunset.

The Road to Yeghvard...

We soon arrive in Yeghvard: it is a charming, sleepy community at the base of Mount Ara. The mountain’s barren, veiny bluffs offer a stunning backdrop to the town. Narrow, winding streets wiggle about in all directions like passageways leading into an ancient labyrinth. Our path eventually leads us to an old church, which lies in the town’s center. My uncle explains that the church dates back to 1301, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. I cannot help but notice striking carvings on the church’s brown stone façades: a leopard killing an ibex, an eagle gripping a baby lamb with it’s claws, a lion, a bull. While I have no expertise in Armenian Church symbolism, these carvings seem oddly pagan to me…

Old Yeghvard Church

Soon our stomachs begin to growl and we make our way to my uncle’s house to prepare a traditional Armenian barbecue called “Khrorovats”. Valod and Meshrop, two of Haig’s friends, join us and help get things ready. They use small branches of apricot wood to make the fire; according to them it is the best wood for barbecuing. The fire pit crackles and comes to life. They expertly skewer tender pork chops along with ripe tomatoes and whole onions on long steel skewers. The air is soon imbued with the heavenly smells of grilled onions. I watch gleefully as plump droplets of pork fat dive into the smoldering embers below, sending a flurry of ashes up into the sky…

Valod (left) and Meshrop (right)

A while later the pork chops are golden brown, and it is time to eat. A table is set in the garden, under the pleasant shade of an old walnut-tree. Our shot glasses are filled to the brim with Valod’s home-distilled Ori made from Haig’s garden plums. We toast to a life well-lived and tipsily chomp into tender morsels of pork, juicy tomatoes and charred onions. Between bites I stop for a moment and soak in it all in: life, it seems, doesn’t get much better than this…

The Grill...

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5 Responses to A Journey North: A Visit to my Uncle’s Village

  1. emilyebba says:

    So glad to be able to follow your travels Vanick :) Is your Uncle Haig your Dad’s brother? Much love!

  2. Cathy Keys says:

    Ummm – the Armenia barbeque looks and sounds delicious! Sounds like you are having a great time and I am enjoying your new blog – looking forward to your weekly posts!

  3. Jenn says:

    I want pictures of YOU in Armenia. Make it happen!

    Love and light,
    Jenn

  4. Courage says:

    A warm grin ;) naturally appeared on my face when I was reading the about the barbecue… lol. Our thoughts are with you :) Enjoy every moment and Learn more…Salut!

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