Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Western Armenia
WESTERN ARMENIA (Eastern Turkey)
This chapter is based on a road trip through <A HREF=rediscover_ci.html>Cilicia</A> and Western Armenia (Eastern Turkey) I took in May/June 2004. I will add more information and text in time, especially background information and history of towns, as well as churches/monasteries I was unable to visit. In the meantime though I would like to share my pictures and basic information. The whole gallery of pictures I have put online can be found at http://www.cilicia.com/westernarmenia.html
Western Armenia is the territory to the west of today's Republic of Armenia which was depopulated of Armenians during and after WWI by the Ottoman Empire and Turkey in the well documented <A HREF=armo10.html>Armenian Genocide</A>. The boundaries can either be the six eastern vilayets, plus Kars, Ardahan and Igdir, or it can alternatively be Wilsonian Armenia, the borders of which were drawn by President Wilson as required by the Treaty of Sevres (never ratified) and the League of Nations.
A Turkish visa is required to visit Western Armenia, the cost of which depends on what passport you hold. Note that the land border with the Republic of Armenia is currently blockaded by the Turkish government.
Western Armenia fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire about 600 years ago, while Eastern Armenia was held by the Persian, then Russian Empire. The political boundry, mountains and distance contributed to the development of two major dialects (Eastern and Western). By the 20th century, two major centers of Armenian culture had developed, Constantinople (Istanbul) for Western Armenians, and Tiflis (Tblisi) for Eastern Armenians. Some diaspora communities and institutions were very active as well - primarily in Venice, Jerusalem, Isfahan and India (Madras and Calcutta). After WWI, the center of Western Armenian life shifted to Beirut, then Los Angeles, while that of Eastern Armenians shifted to Yerevan. Ani =100= (40 30.73n x 043 34.33e)
Van and Environs
The city of Van is located near the SE corner of the large salty Lake Van. The modern city is not remarkable, and the old Armenian sections were left to melt away with time. The old Van Fortress == (38 30.30n x 043 20.38e) still stands.
By far the greatest highlight of this area is Akhtamar Island, with it's monastery =100= (38 20.42n x 043 02.23e) visible from the shore. The boat launch is a half an hour drive S then W from town along the lake shore. The boats cost $20 for the whole boat, split among up to 12 people. They leave whenever they fill up, or if you are willing to spring for the empty seats. You can stay as long as you like, until sunset.
If you continue past the Akhtamar Island boat launch, you soon reach the penninsula on the S shores of the lake. Head off the highway, through a village, and along the dirt road along the shore. At GPS coordinates 38 21.53n x 042 55.74e you should head up (left) into the hills, and you will soon spot Golu? Vank == (38 22.34n x 042 54.25e). The road is not so great, and you may have to hike the last section, which would take 20-30 minutes. The monastery is relatively well preserved, with khachkars in the walls, inscriptions, serf walls and other structures. Continuing back along the shore past this turnoff, enjoying fantastic views, you will reach a little Kurdish village in a picturesque bay after about half an hour, with a crumbling church == (38 24.38n x 042 53.53e). Just around the bend from this village is another Armenian monastery == (38 25.01n x 042 52.44e), also relatively well preserved. You must park at the foot of the hill and hike up the steep hill to reach the monastery with sweeping views. There are the remains of at least two more monasteries further along the penninsula, nearer the N tip, but locals say they are in ruins.
The site of the destroyed Naregavank == (38 17.82n x 042 55.70e) is in a valley S of Lake Sevan. There is now a plain mosque on the site of the monastery, which is in the middle of a Kurdish village. The tomb of the famous writer Krikor Naregatsi may be preserved in the area. There is nothing remaining of the actual monastery to visit.
About 10km E of the town of Van are the remains of the once huge monastic complex of Varagavank == (38 26.99n x 043 27.66e), known by locals as Yedi Kilise (Seven Churches), reflecting it's past glory. The ruins are still worthy of a visit. A few churches of the monastery remain in various condition, two without roofs, one with frescoes, and some nice carved crosses, particularly along the front under the arches. Once the best known monastery of Vaspurakan and seat of the Archbishop of Van, the monastery takes it's name from Mt. Varag (now Erek Dagi), whose southern slopes it rests on. The monastery was destroyed by the Turkish army on April 30th 1915, during the siege of Van. (for additional information and photos including some pre-destruction shots visit: http://www.virtualani.freeserve.co.uk/varagavank/index.htm)
Igdir and Environs
Kars and Environs
Erzerum and Environs