A balcony faced the lake. It is easy to see Armenia as the Israel of the Caucasus even though it's actually the oldest Christian nation on earth, having adopted Christianity in AD , a decade before Rome. Tufenkian's newest hotel was the Avan Dzoraget, a room lodge set in an old stone firehouse on a river in the remote Lori region, two hours north of Yerevan, near the Georgian border. Whether Armenia moves beyond being a religious heritage destination and a nostalgic trip for the vast Diaspora, only time will tell. I shouldn't have been so sceptical. Outside the museum I met Gilda, a painter from Paris. It was too cold to raft the river, too early for brandy, so we drove half an hour to Sanahin, a revered 10th-century monastery set on a tree-covered hill top. Its potholed streets and drab cement tower blocks were depressing reminders of the Soviet era, and even the spectacular view of snow-capped Mount Ararat, 30 miles distant, had a weightiness to it. Lake Sevan, north-east of the capital. It could have passed for Switzerland were it not for the shells of abandoned Soviet industrial plants by the roadside and the bemused looks of shepherds gazing at us from the hills. There was nothing dry about the Villa's food. Armenia is about the size of Belgium and its roads are surprisingly good. Ironically, its greatest chance of success in the wider tourism market might be in combination with trips to Turkey - the old enemy. We set off in a Tufenkian bus, the parched Yerevan landscape giving way to lush valleys and pine-covered mountains. And yet, partly as a result of this tragic past, Armenia, more than any other country in the Caucasus, is now finding its feet fast. Further information For more details on Tufenkian Heritage Hotels and Tours call 1 or visit www.
At 6,ft, one of the highest lakes in the world, Sevan was a popular resort for the Soviet elite, and when its silvery-blue water came into view, I could see a number of sturdy stone dachas on its banks, shaded by forests of red and yellow aspen. It feels as if I am home. Further information For more details on Tufenkian Heritage Hotels and Tours call 1 or visit www. It was hard to believe the wool he harvested might one day make it into Ben Stiller's bedroom. Usually, after a few glasses of top-shelf cognac, I'd be up for a round, but it was 9pm, we were in the basement of his mansion on a half-built residential village on the outskirts of Armenia's dusty capital Yerevan, and the chances of finding a floodlit golf course in the vicinity seemed pretty slim. Some, like the spectacular Geghard Monastery set in a canyon west of Yerevan, have been well maintained, but Sanahin, the holiest site in northern Armenia, was a mess: In the distance, the outline of Mount Ararat shimmered in the moonlight, while in a clubhouse decked out with leather chairs emblazoned with the Hovnanian family crest, a dozen members of his family cheered and ordered more brandy. The company does not have a UK office. It could have passed for Switzerland were it not for the shells of abandoned Soviet industrial plants by the roadside and the bemused looks of shepherds gazing at us from the hills. In Armenia suffered its own holocaust: Prices include flights, b? The Diaspora, descendents of those who escaped the genocide, now number three times the 2. A meal fit for the gods. We set off in a Tufenkian bus, the parched Yerevan landscape giving way to lush valleys and pine-covered mountains. Yet, sweep away the dust, and Yerevan, an eighth-century fortress town, reveals itself like a lost icon. I checked into a beautiful duplex room, the bare-stone walls covered with more lavish Oushak carpets. If it continues to develop, though, it will be largely due to generous Diasporans such as James Tufenkian and Vahak Hovnanian. A balcony faced the lake. From Yerevan the following morning it took us only two hours to get to the third stop on the cultural triangle: Not for nothing is Armenia known as the land of "1, Years of Bad Luck". I wondered how such a dry place could yield such fresh produce and in answer the chef pointed to a narrow sliver of green at the foothills of Mount Ararat. He has contracted hundreds of Armenian farmers around the country to rear sheep to supply the semi-coarse wool that will be used for his carpets, and visitors can join them at work. Armenia might be the Israel of the Caucasus, but this little corner of it was all New Jersey. From to Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, which protected it from the Turks but did little for its independence or devout Orthodox religious observance. Tufenkian's newest hotel was the Avan Dzoraget, a room lodge set in an old stone firehouse on a river in the remote Lori region, two hours north of Yerevan, near the Georgian border. History hangs heavy in Yerevan.
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