Armenia and Georgia through the eyes of Dr Alex Koller
The scenery is monumental and varied, as it ranges from the world-famous views of Mt Ararat to the mountainous deserts of the Eastern provinces
Alex Koller (Magdalene 1993)
Georgia and Armenia form a fascinating pair in the Transcaucasus, in this uniquely rich area on the edge of Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
Armenia can rightly boast one of the few surviving ancient civilisations in the Christian world. Somehow this sense of antiquity is palpable everywhere: in the old churches of this first Christian country in the world as well as in the 20th-century architecture of Yerevan where even the Soviets paid tribute to local traditions. The scenery is monumental and varied, as it ranges from the world-famous views of Mt. Ararat to the mountainous deserts of the Eastern provinces and the ever-changing colours of Lake Sevan.
Armenia produced more architectural ideas in a few centuries to fill several European Middle Ages: in fact, some scholars have regarded it as the source of our medieval architecture. While everybody will be impressed by the unique flair of Armenian monasteries, the traveller who pays attention to detail will find even more pleasure in its variety and sense of imagination.
After Armenia, Georgia seems easy to digest, with its vibrant, dramatically located capital Tbilisi and its verdant countryside. Yet it soon reveals its equally ancient and venerable traditions at the old capital of Mtskheta and its numerous early Christian and medieval sites. In fact, we find homo Georgicus, one of our earliest ancestors on European soil, at Dmanisi near the border with Armenia.
In the form of the High Caucasus range, Georgia possesses one of the most dramatic and unspoilt mountain areas in the world. Generations of literary genius, above all Lermontov, Pushkin and Tolstoy, were inspired by the majesty of these mountains and the variety of cultures native to them. In particular, the Trinity Church at Gergeti, towered over by 5000m-high Mt Kazbek, is like a symbol of the country and its tenacity in the face of countless conquerors and occupiers.
- Yerevan, one of the oldest capitals in the world
- The Armenian Holy See of Etchmiadzin, with the first cathedral built anywhere in the world and some of the most venerable Christian relics
- UNESCO-registered Armenian monasteries like Sanahin and Haghpat
- Amberd Castle on 4000m-high Mt Aragats with views of Mt Ararat
- The historic Georgian capital of Tbilisi in its dramatic natural setting
- The Art Museum of Georgia with its unique medieval treasury
- The former Georgian capital of Mtskheta with the Cathedral of the Life-giving Pillar
- The journey along the Georgian Military Highway to Kazbegi on the main range of the High Caucasus
Written by trip scholar Alex Koller (Magdalene 1993)