[Cross posting from Expatria] We spent the weekend at Lake Sevan. We have visited Lake Sevan multiple time before, we have toured the peninsula and visited the Monastery, and the lake is one of our favorites. Sevan is high up in the mountains, so always quite a bit cooler than Yerevan, and a popular destination during the summer heat. This weekend, we decided to drive to the far end of the lake (which means, the East coast), and hike almost into Azerbaijan. Btw, it was not to escape the summer heat - this August is weirdly cool and rainy. For Armenian standards, that is.
Anyway, we stayed at the Tufenkian Hotel which is very nice but very pricey (we paid almost $200 for a suite). It has stunning views of the lake and is located in one of the nicest villages I've seen in Armenia so far. The Tufenkians, btw, are very busy and engaged Diasporans/Repatriates. The best guide to hiking in Armenia was co-written by one of them, Jeffrey Tufenkian. (The other author is our landlady - that's Armenia in a nutshell for you.) Despite the price and the fact that the restaurant is located a 10 minute walk from the hotel, we liked it quite a bit. We had a bed for Alan and David downstairs, a double bed and a little seating area and another sofa upstairs. It was roomy enough for us, something that is important when you have five people in a room, nice and modern, which I personally like very much (Doug less so).
The hotel room (with the boys chilling out with Ben 10 in the background there.)
I can totally see why the Tufenkians built this hotel in Tsapatagh -- which is quite remote. You have to drive around the lake, from the peninsula it's about another 60 km on a so-so road but with gorgeous views. It's a very nice drive with interesting vistas - old crumbling Soviet-style spa hotels, small summer houses, interesting rock formations. Very recommended.
But it's the village that makes the place. Tsapatagh is small and located along a rolling dirt road off the main street. And it's gorgeous. It's green, there are small well-kept gardens along the way, apple trees, apricot trees (with apricots!), sun flowers, poplar trees, chickens, cows, sheep... it's good for the soul to walk around there. You can drink the beauty like cool summer wine.
We wanted to hike up the path towards Azerbaijan but the boys refused to walk that day. They are usually quite good hikers but last weekend, there wasn't anything we could do. We also forgot the baby carrier, d'uh. But it's so gorgeous that we decided to try again in spring. Hopefully, the boys won't keep us from doing the hike then! So we just walked along the main road, watched house builders, looked at gardens, the boys chased some chickens and we build a little stone tower at a crossroads to commemorate our visit. It was peaceful and quiet and good for us.
(Never mind that the border is only 4 km away and there are still shots exchanged now and then.)
On our way back we made a small detour towards Chambarak which is on the border to Azerbaijan. We turned around before we reached Chambarak because the road became quite bad and we feared for our non-4x4 family van... a common theme. We really should have brought a more rugged car. (As it turned out, the car broke down after we came back home - good luck that it didn't break down before then, bad luck that it broke down at all...)
Anyway, the road to Chambarak is quite something. The landscape turns from the lush shore to barren and forbidding mountains in three minutes. You have to see it to believe it. The most striking thing about the mountains is that they are so bare - the deforestation is bad in this part of the country (yes, this mentions the same Jeffrey Tufenkian again).
As an interesting aside - and nothing to do with Sevan at all -- almost back in Yerevan, you can see the Obsidian mountains (that's what we call them). The obsidian stone comes from volcanic eruptions of Mt. Ararat which explodes about every 10,000 years. At this particular spot, one can see the layers of obsidian and other stone quite clearly - isn't that impressive?
(BTW, Mt. Ararat blew up last about 10,000 years ago. Doug made the mistake of mentioning that to the kids one day, and we had months of David asking us just when Ararat would explode again. Today? Tomorrow? Are we all going to die?)