Travel: 192-part guide to the world - Part 8: Armenia

OFFICIAL NAME:

Republic of Armenia

POPULATION:

About 3.5 million

SIZE:

29,000 square kilometres: ie almost exactly the same size as Belgium.

ENVIRONMENT:

Gorges, river valleys, mountain grasslands, Caucasian foothills.

BEST MONUMENT:

The monastery complex of Geghard, about 40km from Yerevan, dates back to the third century AD. The most impressive part of it are the huge, secret rooms at the back, carved into solid rock, with fake columns and extraordinary reliefs. The only light comes through tiny holes in the ceilings.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN:

The eternal French-born crooner Charles Aznavour - the living embodiment of the French chanson tradition - was the child of Armenian immigrants to Paris.

NATIONAL DISH:

Many eastern-Mediterranean dishes, including grilled meats, kebabs on rice, salty cheese and minced lamb and onions on thin sheets of dough.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY:

Major defining events for the Armenians include the conversion of their king to Christianity AD301, and the invention of their alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots in the middle of the fifth century AD.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY:

Little doubt about this one: the 1915 expulsions from Turkey, during which up to a million may have died. Often referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORY:

An electricity generator, to protect against the constant threat of power failures.

HOW TO BEHAVE:

Do not argue about the veracity of the 1915 genocide. Do not suggest that Azerbaijan might have any right to Nagorno-Karabakh.

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