11 Random Facts About Armenia

Most people outside of the Caucus region know very little about Armenia.  Many Norwegians I talk to have never even heard of the country.  And while most Americans have heard of Armenia, I’m fairly certain that half have heard of the country due to the Kardashians claiming to have roots there (pretty sure Armenians aren’t zealously claiming them in return).  Here are some very random facts, or opinions, about the beautiful, but small country of Armenia.

1.  They are well-known for their cognac. 

Well, kind of.  Their cognac is actually brandy by definition.  But for some historical reasons, they claim it to be cognac…and they also claim it to be incredible.  I had some while I was there, and while cognac/brandy is not my favorite drink by any stretch, it was pretty smooth and robust in flavor.  Armenia’s cognac took a turn for the popular when Joseph Stalin gifted Winston Churchill some of the good stuff at the Yalta Conference.  Impressed by its taste, Churchill then requested to have cases shipped to him yearly.  There are rumors that Putin is currently requesting his own cases shipped up to Russia regularly.  Not sure how true the latter is…but many Armenians will tell you that.  And based on my experience with the stuff, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second.

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2.  Armenia is home to the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car.

And I had the unpleasant experience of riding it.  It wasn’t actually unpleasant, but I was scared shitless the entire time.  I’m pretty afraid of heights and if you know anything about the Caucasus, you will certainly know that they are no Appalachians.

The cable car runs for a total of 5,752 meters, or 18,871 feet.  It was opened on October 16, 2010 and was put in the record books for its length, and hasn’t been beaten yet (I’m sure UAE is working on something tacky to challenge it, however).

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The cable car connects the village of Halizor to the isolated, but breathtaking, Tatev Monastery.

3.  ‘Merci’ is an acceptable form of ‘Thank You’.

Armenian looks like an alien language and is hardly legible to anyone who is not Armenian.  And to hear it spoken is no different.  I try to learn basic phrases or words when I travel, but Armenia was no easy feat.  Imagine my surprise when I heard the word ‘Merci’ as a form of ‘Thank You’.

And that was the only Armenian word I learned the entire trip…

4.  The country’s national symbol is Mt. Ararat.

But Mt. Ararat is actually located in Turkey.  Mt. Ararat is where the biblical story of “Noah’s Ark” took place.  Whether that story is fact or fiction is not the point.  The point is that the mountain is historical and STUNNING.

And while it may actually be inside of Turkey, Armenians get a phenomenal view of it.  Most famously, from Khor Virap.

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5.  Yerevan has a deep, Soviet-style metro underneath it. 

And I rode it quite a few times when I was in the city.  And I am pretty sure that I was one of like five passengers on it.  I don’t think the residents of Yerevan have received a memo stating they have a metro there yet.  It’s cheap, efficient, and fast.  But so are the taxis in Yerevan.  You can get almost anywhere in the city for around $1 (the metro costs about 1/4 of that).

At many of the metro stops are large underground shopping markets.  You can buy $10 Nikes and Louis Vuittons here.  Authenticity card not included.

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6.  There are approximately 11 million Armenians (or of Armenian descent) worldwide.

And only 3 million reside in Armenia.  In the United States alone, there are over 500,000, settling primarily in Detroit and Los Angeles.  There is even a “Little Armenia” in Los Angeles.  Pretty sure I’m going to go there next time I’m in LA…solely for the food.

Armenian immigration became rampant after WWI and the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian communities outside of Armenia are currently known as ‘gaghut’s.

7.  Armenia shares borders with Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Nakhchivan. 

The borders with Iran and Georgia are open for business, but the other ones are either extremely volatile or impose stricter regulations for entry.  Nagorno-Karabakh is open for entry with a visa, but if the visa is put in your passport, you can say goodbye to any future visits to Azerbaijan if using the same passport.  The Azerbaijani-Armenian border has a ceasefire agreement, but is in constant battle and is not a safe place.

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It’s really strange to be hugging a border (as I was with Azerbaijan) but be unable to go across and say hello, regardless of whether I had that expensive visa in my passport or not.

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The mountains in the photo above are actually in Azerbaijan.  Could have thrown a stone over there I was so close.

Armenia is small, about the size of Maryland in the USA.  And there are no coastlines there.

8.  Armenia is rumored to be the first to adopt Christianity in 301 A.D. 

They’ll probably let you know this, too.  Or you’ll see the evidence in their homes.

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9.  Armenia has the world’s best apricots. 

Of course this is subjective, but from my experience, I can assure you it’s true.  But I don’t think apricots are their only source of goodness.  All fruits in this region are bursting with flavor and taste so pure.  They are also not afraid to use apricots, or other local fruits, in their wines, cognacs, and vodkas.  Apricot vodka is pretty damn good.

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So is Apricot wine from Areni.

10.  Ladas are EVERYWHERE.

At least 1/3 of cars had to be Ladas.  Okay, maybe 1/4.

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11.  Armenian grocery stores are small, but carry many international ingredients and goods.

My friend can confirm that I screamed when I saw a box of Lucky Charms sitting on the shelves in Yerevan.  And of course I purchased it, although I don’t think I even ate it.  I just had to but it because it was available and I hadn’t seen a box of Lucky Charms in a year.  I saw many other American and western European goods in the average grocery stores there, which was a little shocking to me.  While it was fun to see all of the international goods, I don’t think I’d ever think twice about purchasing them if I was Armenian and had constant availability to the fresh fruits and vegetables they had there.

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44 Comments
  • Amanda
    Posted at 18:28h, 09 November Reply

    Oh, I love this post! My great-great-grandfather left following the genocide (to our knowledge he’s the only member of the family to survive) and wound up settling in Los Angeles. He passed before I was born, but his daughters preserved a few of his traditions. But aside from stories from a few friends more Armenian than me, I know nothing about the country. Now I’d love to visit! :)

    • Megan
      Posted at 02:44h, 10 November

      Glad you enjoyed the post Amanda! That’s awesome that your roots are Armenian. you have a lot to be proud of…it is a fantastic country filled with the kindest and most persevering of people. ;) Hope you have the time to visit one of these days!

    • hasmik
      Posted at 10:10h, 14 December

      you know there are groups on facebook for families of survivors of genocide. maybe you could join them, who knows who you ay find there:)

  • Lana
    Posted at 05:11h, 11 November Reply

    Oh the Ladas!!
    I really love that you have experienced places that are off the beaten trail! This is super inspiring!
    Lan

    • Megan
      Posted at 06:55h, 13 November

      thanks lana! yea ladas are pretty cool…until you do a roadtrip around the entire country in one. not so comfortable ;)

  • Sylvia
    Posted at 13:41h, 11 November Reply

    Although I knew Armenia is a country, all of these facts were new to me! I have to say I would never ever ever ride the cable car!! I think I would get a heart attack! Haha!

    • Megan
      Posted at 06:55h, 13 November

      my palms were so sweaty that i could hardly hold my phone to take photos or videos LOL! my friend probably was laughing at me the entire time behind my back ;)

    • Haykuhi Gevorgyan
      Posted at 10:16h, 30 January

      I’m Armenian.I live in Armenia and i haven’t rode it yet.I’ve been there only twice since it’s quite far from yerevan(The monastery of Tatev-the place where it’s located is majestic)but my father is too scared to let me ride it

  • Alex
    Posted at 12:25h, 11 November Reply

    Armenia is a place I’d actually really like to visit, though I never knew much about it. All of those mountains are stunning though!

    • Megan
      Posted at 06:54h, 13 November

      you definitely should check it out one of these days. it’s cheap, beautiful, and has so much to offer

  • Edna
    Posted at 07:31h, 12 November Reply

    Those Ladas and the Armenian church remind me of my time in Azerbaijan! Shame you couldn’t go between the two with the conflict and all.

    • Megan
      Posted at 06:56h, 13 November

      im still so jealous you were in azerbaijan. one of these days im going to finally make it there! and im hitting you up for loads of tips when i do!

    • loucine
      Posted at 12:11h, 01 October

      if he went to armenia or azerbbaijan first hen he goes to the other country they will hate him trust i am an armenian and i went to armenia .

  • Sara Louise
    Posted at 07:35h, 13 November Reply

    No.8 is a really interesting factoid, I never would have answered that one correctly in a trivia quiz! :)

    • Megan
      Posted at 13:53h, 13 November

      haha i wouldnt have known it either. that, or anything else historical in regards to religion. i have a hard time wrapping my head around such old history!

  • Sophie
    Posted at 12:17h, 13 November Reply

    So many things I liked about Armenia, apricots being one of them. Everyone passed them around, taxi drivers, hostels… gorgeous and juicy.

    • Megan
      Posted at 13:54h, 13 November

      they were SO good. i really miss the fruits and vegetables from that part of the world. eating just never got old.

  • Tom @ Waegook Tom
    Posted at 18:34h, 13 November Reply

    Apricot vodka? I can get on board with that! I had apricot rakija in Belgrade and it was amazing. The subways sound like the ones in Seoul – the part about the underground malls, not the part about people not using them. People in Seoul DEFINITELY know they have a subway. Now I’m reliving being on the Seoul subway in rush hour *shudder*

    Also, that cable car looks absolutely terrifying. Like, really, really, REALLY terrifying.

    • loucine
      Posted at 12:13h, 01 October

      the have manyyy wines and vodca and lukur all kinds

  • kami
    Posted at 14:27h, 16 November Reply

    wow, some of these fact (well, like 2 or 3 but still!) were new to me! I still consider Armenia one of the best countries I visited and this post just reminded me why :) When I was riding a metro it was so empty too!
    and how come I didn’t know you’re going to Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan!!? I’m so looking forward to hearing all about it!

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