By Daron Pogharian, AYF-YOARF Philadelphia “Sebouh” chapter
Recently, I had the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Armenia through the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Internship. One Sunday, we had the chance to visit Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery. I had been to both sites before on previous trips to Armenia, so I didn’t think much of it. This time, the view of Garni temple overlooking the canyon below was as breathtaking as ever.
Our trip to the Khosrov Natural Reserve was by far one of my best experiences of the program. It gave me a true view of Armenia and how beautiful our homeland is. The first thing you see walking down into the gorge are huge cliffs flanking the valley on both sides. Walking between the towering black walls was both humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time. I had looked down into this gorge before, from Garni temple, but that doesn’t compare to actually being there.
The further down the trail we walked, the more we heard the sound of rushing water. Looking down from a beautiful bridge built in the 12th century, we could see the Azat river running blue and strong. The river’s color was something to behold: it was a beautiful combination of blue and green, with the shades changing in the sunlight. Next to it is what’s known as the “Symphony of Stones,” imposing hexagonal basalt columns that cover the cliffs in their entirety. On the underbelly of these cliffs, hundreds of swallows create little cave-like nests, seemingly defying gravity. Formations like this line the valley to create one of the most breathtaking scenes I have ever seen.
Later on in the summer, we visited the Armenia Tree Project (ATP) nursery in Garin. Located on what was once a desert-like plain, ATP had breathed life into this land, turning it from brown to green. Their nursery, though not the largest, was extremely well kept and professional. Samvel Ghandilyan, who gave us the tour, knew the place like the back of his hand. As the Nursery Manager, it was clear that it was because of his love and care that this project continued. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about the plants and how they’re grown, but it was apparent that he cared for them.
Furthermore, the work tangibly demonstrated the mission of the ATP which they carry out with extreme professionalism. Everything they do is thought out and well planned, all to ensure the rejuvenation of the local flora. The variety of plants at the nursery was astounding, and Mr. Ghandilyan was explaining to us how certain plants are better suited for certain places, and why that is the case. As an intern, it was very inspiring to see professionalism and care being put in to the nature of our homeland, something we as Armenians deeply cherish.
I’m very glad I got to experience these opportunities through the AYF Internship, as these are experiences I’ll never forget. Not only was it refreshing to get out of Yerevan for a while, but I got to see parts of Armenia that I’d never seen before. The natural beauty of Armenia is something that we should all be proud of and cherish for generations to come.