MIR Moment: An Alphabet Monument and Armenian Mushrooms

MIR Moment: An Alphabet Monument and Armenian Mushrooms

When crossing into Armenia, I enjoy a stop to admire the Armenian alphabet monument on the way to Yerevan. This is an outdoor monument, or rather a series of monuments, as each one of the 39 letters in the Armenian alphabet has its own free-standing statue in a large field near the village of Artashavan.

 The alphabet monument was unveiled in 2005 to celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD. Each of the 39 letters is made of beautifully carved volcanic tufa stone in several different colors. There is also a monument to Mashtots himself, as well as some other Armenian luminaries.

The Amenian Alphabet Monument sits in an otherwise empty field on the way to Yerevan<br>Photo: Devin Connolly

The Amenian Alphabet Monument sits in an otherwise empty field on the way to Yerevan.
Photo: Devin Connolly

A-B-Cs of MushroomsThis alphabet monument is always a worthwhile stop because it breaks up the journey to Yerevan; it’s also a blissfully low-effort excursion near the end of a long driving day. It is usually very quiet and we often have the whole site to ourselves.

But one day while I was a Tour Manager, my group and I saw a legion of local women diligently searching among the grasses near the roadside. Several of us were curious about what they were picking, so we approached them and asked about their harvest. They told us that they were after wild onions and white mushrooms that grow among the grasses. They started extolling the virtues of such produce, listing all the ailments that can be cured by a soup cooked with these ingredients.

Armenian Roadside HospitalityAfter showing us their onions and offering some for us to taste, one of the ladies reached down and selected a mushroom from her basket.

“Look!” she cried in Russian, “have you ever seen a mushroom so large?”

Indeed I hadn’t, at least not an edible one; my traveling companions were also surprised at the size of it. The cap of this white mushroom was about the same circumference as the woman’s head!  We all laughed together about this huge mushroom and once again, the woman tried to ply us with wild onions in a lovely, hospitable gesture. By this time, however, we had to start making our way towards the bus so we wouldn’t be too late arriving into Yerevan.

The winning mushroom and it's proud new owner<br>Photo: Devin Connolly

The winning mushroom and its proud new owner
Photo: Devin Connolly

Armenian TreasuresThere are so many fascinating surprises in Armenia – from the remarkable UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery carved out of solid rock to short unscheduled stops like the alphabet monument. And while I do love to see the major sites, it’s the little human moments like this that make travel most worthwhile for me.

Yerevan’s Geghard Monastery

Yerevan’s Geghard Monastery

Travel to Armenia with MIRMIR has over 30 years of experience planning tours to Armenia and the South Caucasus. 

Want to visit Armenia’s alphabet monument? We recommend…

(Top photo: A closer look at the alphabet monument. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta)

PUBLISHED: March 3, 2015

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