So. Our Sunday started with, again, way too much food. After having breakfast with the host family all the volunteers had to gather again at 10.45 by the buses so that we could leave at 11. Naturally, we left at 11.30. The course was set to Ani; an ancient ruin city just on the other side of the border to Turkey that previously was the capital of Armenia over a thousand years ago. The road to Ani was even worse than the roads from Yerevan-Gyumri and if any of you follow Leo on Instagram you check out his stories from yesterday and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
We arrived at the fence border that closes of the no mans land between Armenia and Turkey (the border has been closed for a very long time but in peaceful conditions). The Birthright/AVC programs has got a special permission to enter the no mans land with the volunteers so it was a very special feeling when the military approved our passports (all 80) and we entered through the gates. After a few minutes drive behind the fences we arrived a the ridge of a huge gorge, where in the bottom a river was running as a natural divider of the two countries. On the other side of the gorge, we could see the ruins of Ani which a small village behind; with a huge Turkish flag waving symbolically as a reminder about territory.
The reason for the city being in ruins is said to be mostly because of cultural cleansing carried out by the Turks and a neglecting of restoration and maintenance of the cultural site; if this had been preserved it would have probably been a majestic piece of history. The city is believed to have housed around 100.000 inhabitants at the peak of its history, all you could see now was remaining a of the once impressive city wall, the church and a few walls here and there. We sat there on the edge of the gorge for a while, taking it in and listening to Sevan explaining the symbolism and importance of the city for the Armenian people and, maybe a little bit propaganda-ish, the importance of our work there and investment in Armenia. However, I hope that what we really do have that huge effect that he was talking about; not only me and my work of course, but as a group. It feels good to be part of such a big movement.
Anyway, after an half an hour or so we jumped back on the bus and headed back to Yerevan again. A short lunch break (at 17.00…) with typical Armenian food was almost completely insignificant compared to everything else we’d experienced during the trip. But it was tasty, as always. When we finally arrived back at the AVC office I was more than ready to go to bed and I thought everyone would feel the same after such an intense weekend. But apparently the younger half went out partying the whole night (as one usually do on sundays…) and I got the stamp of being “so old”. At the age of 28. But I can live with that if it means I get to sleep a full night after such an adventure. It was so many people and impressions the whole trip that I was all worn out and my body really needed the sleep. Guess I’ll just have to face it; I’m getting older, and is slowly closing in on my mental age of 75.