25 December 2011

A Christmas Stroll on Lidingö

 It was the winter wild,
    While the heaven-born child
  All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
    Nature, in awe to him,
    Had doffed her gaudy trim,
  With her great Master so to sympathize...













And, though the shady gloom
    Had given day her room,
  The Sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
    And hid his head of shame,
    As his inferior flame
  The new-enlightened world no more should need:
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright Throne or burning axletree could bear.

from "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629) by John Milton 

22 December 2011

A Swedish Interpretation of American Cuisine

After spending a few days in Stockholm, I have come under the impression that Swedes have had very limited exposure to American gastronomy -- that is to say, exposure to only its least sophisticated elements:

high-fat, mass-produced baked goods;

greasy, sub-par restaurant food served in excessive quantities;

cheap convenience foods;

corn syrupy, gelatinous junk;

and best of all, deep-fried, sugar-coated, artificially colored goodness.
If you cannot read the small sign, do click on this photo to enlarge it.

 Luckily, they seem to think very highly of it nonetheless!  =)

10 October 2011

Amberd

Our day with friends at Amberd Fortress on the slopes of Mt. Aragats was clear, tranquil, and memorable!

View of the 7th Centruy fortress and nearby 11th Century Vahramashen Church, with Mt. Ararat barely visible in the background (right side). 
Picnic time!



I believe this is an Armenian rock lizard climbing on the church wall.  It is a parthenogenic species, meaning there are only females, and that individuals reproduce entirely asexually -- no fertilization required for development of embryos.  Amazing! 


I told Nathan we were going to see a castle, but he was somewhat disappointed that it was "destroyed."

Beginning the perilous ascent...

It was funny hearing Armenian visitors singing "We Are the Champions" upon reaching the top.

The thrill of conquest -- what a rush!

At this time of year, the rivers in this area are nearly dry.

My favorite photo taken by Diane (pictured below), our colleague, friend, and fellow adventurer.



No country road trip is complete without a herd of livestock blocking our path!

21 September 2011

My First Military Parade

In observance of Armenian Independence Day, we are off school/work today.  So this morning, I headed downtown with friends to witness the annual military parade.  I had never seen it before, and since this is the 20th anniversary of Armenian Independence, I decided there would be no more appropriate time for me to finally attend.

The metro was packed, but it was probably the best way to get to Republic Square.  We arrived at about 10:45, and the parade was scheduled to begin at 11:00.  Amazingly, it started right on time!


The bleachers were reserved for high-ranking government officials, so we peasants gathered around the edges of the square, straining to catch a glimpse of someone or something more important than ourselves.


After about 30 minutes of watching soldiers march around chanting stuff we couldn't hear clearly enough to understand, we were about to leave to find a better view, when suddenly, formations of fighter jets and helicopters began soaring over the square in an impressive show of Russian-backed military might.


Last but not least was the rolling display of tanks, bombs, rockets, missiles, and other testosterone-fueled devices.





All in all, it was a fun and eye-opening experience for me -- not a bad way to spend a day off, anyway!  I doubt I will attend future parades, except maybe for Nathan's sake.  (He wanted to come with me today, but after making a number of bad choices yesterday, he lost the privilege.)  To see footage of the aerial display and a hilarious parade planning goof, check out the "20th Armenian Independence Day Military Parade" videos on our YouTube Channel.

11 September 2011

A 30-minute drive from Yerevan

Mr. Ben had the brilliant idea to invite us and our friend Diane on a somewhat spontaneous day trip yesterday.  Jarred had already committed to play a softball game at the embassy in the morning, so we didn't actually leave until about 1:00, but even after stopping for lunch at the charming Pascal & Diodato Cafe in Ashtarak (and despite getting turned around a couple of times due to poor signage), we still managed to visit several important historical landmarks through the course of the afternoon.  Early September at the foot of Mt. Aragats is clear, warm, and breezy -- just right for a small group of novice explorers.  In fact, it was the most relaxing Saturday we've had in a while!

Khachkars at the Karmravor Church (7th century) in Ashtarak.

Trees and gardens surround the St. Mariane Church (1281) in Ashtarak.

An incense burner hangs from the ceiling in St. Mariane Church.

Hovhannavank (7th century) is a large monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  It gives the impression of a dangerous beauty, perched on the very edge of the Kasagh river gorge in the village of Ohanavan.

Wall carvings inside Hovhannavank.




 Windows, khachkars, ancient inscriptions, and sunlit columns inside Hovhannavank.

 Overlooking the Kasagh gorge from Saghmosavank (13th century), a well-preserved monastery in the tiny village of Artashavan.

 Nathan plays peek-a-boo with a new friend just his age.

 The fading summer sun pours a few gentle rays through this opening in the ceiling of Saghmosavank.

 Original red and white paint still clearly visible on columns and archways inside Saghmosavank.

 Knock, knock...

 Fresh produce from village farmers is the best kind of souvenir!