Armenia is a surprising country of contrasts...
A spectacular countryside
In contrast the countryside is sparse and although obviously poor, is no less enticing with spectacular mountains, fields of cherry and apricot blossom and carpets of flowers and summer fruits. Infrastructure is good as are hotels outside the capital. The architecture and particularly the monuments inherit much from Russia and there is a certain solemnity in the landscapes which are brutally harsh and bleak in winter and where somehow people eke out a living. The country is littered with Monasteries - sitting atop hills, hidden in secret valleys or overlooking the magnificent Lake Sevan where I tasted some of the best fish I'd ever had - trout lightly grilled in lemon and mountain herbs. The wine that accompanied was equally as good - a chilled dry Armenian white not unlike a Riesling. Meals generally consist of three courses starting with a mezze type array of dishes that include small balls of salty goats' cheese with tarragon, all kinds of pickles and dried meats, delicately cooked spinach and vine leaves, eggplant and yogurt. This is served with different varieties of bread known as levansh. The second course is either grilled fish or meat or perhaps thin slices of steak cooked in cognac with buttery rice, walnuts and dried fruit. An Armenian thick dark coffee with a cinnamon cake or honey backlava completes the meal whereupon it's then time for a lie down. It is clearly a much beloved past time of Armenians to eat and drink and trust me they do it very well.