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Artsakh Road Trip

Khor Virab

During their stay in the village of Shirakamut, all of the weekend excursions had been in the northern regions of the country. Now, as they returned to Yerevan after completing their village campaign, their excursions traversed the southern and eastern regions of Armenia into Artsakh.


As they traveled along the Turkish border, our first stop was Khor Virap. As Mt. Ararat towered above them, they descended into the pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned. They climbed up the staircases at Noravank, the next historical church, after passing the cave where the oldest manmade shoe of 5,500 years old was found.  Continuing across the eastern plain, coming across many villages and streams, the next stop was the town of Goris.They explored the caves in the section of Old Goris, where the fedayees (freedom fighters) had hidden during the battles of Zangezur.  Also, in that location was an 18th century church, at the foothills of the caves.  As a Vienne, France - Goris, Armenia financed sister city project, the church is being restored under the coordination and voluntary help of the French OTC.  Our group was very excited to see that fellow OTC volunteers were also working on historical church restoration as they had been.

They continued to Stepanakert in Artsakh and finally came to a stop on their first day.  The next day was spent visiting Gandzasar Monastery and the town of Shushi.  In Shushi, past and present history blurred, as the volunteers viewed the destruction that the Artsakh war had caused.  They saw the field where the battle for control of Shushi was held, on a plain near the high cliffs.  They clammered over the tank that was a part of the war, left as a memorial to our fallen soldiers. That evening, they were free to wander the streets of Stepanakert.  There they met some soldiers who allowed themselves to be photographed. As Mark and Nick remarked, "they look the same age as us".

Friendly Soldiers


The following day, on the return trip, our group went to Datev Monastery, via the recently built aerial tramway, the longest in the world.  It was a foggy and misty morning, giving the monastery an ethereal mood.  This was the largest complex they had visited on their four-week LCO adventure.

During their entire four-week stay, they traveled to the north and south, east and west of Armenia.  They swam under waterfalls and in lakes, climbed mountains, viewed battle sites, were inspired by our architectural accomplishments, and sweated under the hot sun as they worked on an archaeological dig.  They unearthed tangible examples of our historic and rich past while living in the difficult realities of today’s rural Armenian villages.

  • "There are experiences you shape and then there are experiences that shape you. The LCO Campaign of 2007 in the village of Azat offered me invaluable perceptions into the realities of my fellow Armenian brothers and sisters in a way only a true immersion program can. I urge everyone and anyone who might feel an inkling of belonging to this fascinating country, people, and history to sign up with the campaign immediately. I smile just thinking about what you have yet to experience."
    Noushig K, Azat 2007, CA, USA

  • "Coming back from a 4-day trip to Kharabagh really felt like coming back home, with our family waiting to greet us outside our house. That's when I realised just how attached we'd grown to the place, to our family, to the other volunteers"
    Anoosh Gasparian, Azat 2009, London UK

  • "I went to this trip with no expectations, and came back with a great appreciation for our country.  Life in the village is surreal, the food is beyond delicious and the people are incredibly nice. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget!"  Sam Tahmasian, 2009, CA, USA
  • "LCO is an amazing concept. It introduced the deprived Diasporan to their land and their people. It is a wonderful introduction to Armenia and something every young man or woman should experience."
    Madlene Minassian Ispirian, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, Yerevan, Armenia

  • "My most memprable experience was being so warmly taken care by an old village couple, receiving gifts from them, giving them gifts and establishing bonds."
    Naira Der-Kiureghian, Ayroum 2003, CA, USA

  • "...I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged."
    Hovig Saghdejian, Ayroum 2003, California, USA

  • "Dolma is made with mum's careful instructions, grandmothers eyes found on the faces of children, songs of Ararat are as familiar as the Khachkars dotting the landscape. If it smells like home, looks like home then it must be home."
    Datevig Simonian, Shadvan 2004, California, USA

  • "LCO experience was a revelation for me. It gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons both personally and professionally. One of the most important experiences of my life and an important factor in determining my future goals."
    Lara Aharonian, August 1999, August 2001, Montreal, Canada.

  • "I formed strong bonds with my volunteers, and the difference in backgrounds was refreshing. It was interesting to hear the points of view of different Armenians from other areas of the Diaspora."
    Aramazt Kalaydjian, Shoushi 2003, NY, USA

  • "I loved the simplicity of life in the village, the fresh homemade food is wonderful; that people are the friendliest and most hospitable... the children have the most beautiful faces..."
    Sophia Balakian, Shadvan 2004, New York, USA