Karahunj, Shushi, and Stepanakert

In Armenia there are nice mountain views everywhere and we stopped every once in a while to admire the scenery and to take photos. Unfortunately the photos of mountains tend to give you a very plain picture when the view is actually breathtaking, but we just kept trying. 🙂

1_On the Way to Noravank
View on the way to Noravank monastery

In some parts of the country was already pretty green, but in other mountainous areas there was still snowy peaks. According to our guide all the snowy mountain peaks melt by June except the peak of Mount Ararat, which is covered by snow year-round.

1_On the Way to Karahunj
View on the way to Karahunj

Karahunj is a bit odd place. Based on the stories, the place should feel a bit magical, but because there is no good explanation for it, the experience is a bit confusing. Karahunj, which is also known as Zorats Kar or Armenian Stonehenge is in the middle fo the field and it has a bit more than 200 stones of different sizes and shapes, which were brought to this field from far away.  The biggest stone is about three meters high and weights 10 tons. The stones are arranged in a special formation and the most likely explanation is that it has been some sort of observatory approx. 2000 years BC.

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Karahunj

There were small holes carved in some stones, but it is not known what for.

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Carved stone

The place is intriguing in the same way as UK’s Stonehenge, except this is less impressing. 🙂 There are just a random collection of rocks in the middle of the field without any discernible shape. It was very peaceful though and a nice breeze, so it was very pleasant just to calm down, relax, and empty your mind or think deep thoughts. I would love to have some sort of explanation though. 🙂

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Karahunj

From here we continued finally to Nagorno-Karabakh, but first we stopped for lunch. The roadside restaurant was a place I would never have stopped for lunch myself, but we trusted our local guides. We had some kebab wrapped in thin lavash bread with vegetables and potatoes bakes in a campfire. Lavash is a tortilla-like bread and it was served in every restaurant we went to. You can eat it by itself or wrap herbs and cheese in it. The use of herbs in Armenia is on a completely different level than in Finland and I had more herbs in those few days than probably in all my life combined We paid for lunch 9€ for two persons, which was next to nothing for what we got.

We arrived in Shushi in the evening. Shushi is the former capital of the area, but it was badly damaged during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There were a lot of building, which were either abandoned or in a very bad condition.

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Shushi

There wasn’t much to see in Shushi. Most of the buildings were damaged or rather ugly new buildings. There isn’t enough funds to rebuild the city nor even to demolish the buildings, which cannot be repaired. Mets Meched mosque is closed and there are no plans to repair it because there are no muslims in town anymore. Iranians were invited to repair the mosque, but so far the project hasn’t progressed. Well, they managed to block the doors and windows, but no actual construction has taken place.

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The abandoned Mets Meched mosque in Shushi

One rather interesting place in Shushi is the Ghazanchetsots cathedral, which was built in 1868. During the Soviet times the cathedral was used as a barn and a stable. During the war the Azeris used it as an ammo warehouse. The cathedral is now fully restored and is functional. We happened to arrive during a service and it was a rather interesting experience. A lot of singing, incense, a female choir, who enhances the priest’s singing speech, and tambourine-like noise-making round disks. A bit different from the reserved Lutheran services I’m more accustomed to.

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Ghazanchetsots cathedral

There was also a nice view from Shushi to Karkar gorge, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like much in the photos.

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Karkar gorge

Shushi is located about 15 min drive away from the new capital Stepanakert, which is in a significantly better shape than Shushi. Stepanakert feels like a new city and at least the city center is in a good condition.

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Stepanakert. And yes, there is light under the lampshades when it gets dark.

Stepanakert is the current capital of Nagorno-Karabakh and there are approximately 40 000 people living in it. The city was clean and there were people outside, but we were a bit amazed that there weren’t any restaurants. According to Trip Advisor there are only two restaurants in the entire city and our hotel had the third. We went out for a walk and finally found one restaurant called Russia and ended up eating there. 🙂 The food was quite good, but there weren’t any other women in the restaurant except for us. The waiter told a bad joke when we ordered a bottle of wine for the two of us and also after dinner commented something about our cheeks being red because of all the wine. We asked our guide whether it was unusual for two women having dinner and drinking wine at the restaurant, but according to her there wasn’t anything special about that. Maybe it was just a local way to be friendly, but it felt condescending and uncalled for to us. Either way, we had a pretty good dinner for two plus a bottle of local wine for a bit over 20€, so the price was cheap.

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Stepanakert

We walked around a bit more after dinner, but unfortunately there aren’t many sights in Stepanakert.

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5 min from the city center

We spent the night in Stepanakert’s Hotel Armenia, which has to be the most known hotel in the city. It was of decent level and the price per night for a double room was 30 000 AMD (approx. 27€), which was also far from being expensive.The locaton of the hotel is also excellent as it is in the center of the city and everyone knows where it is, so there will be no problems finding it. The breakfast was included in the price and it had quite a nice selection of food.

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Amusement park in Stepanakert

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