By Jonathan Campion:
For my first few days in Armenia my mind was elsewhere. I was searching for signs of the two worlds that overlap in the South Caucasus, where wild Eurasian land is punctuated by the Cyrillic - and the shambles - of the post-Soviet space.
I looked for Turkey in the barren steppe, the farmsteads, the mesmerising sound of the duduk flute. In Yerevan’s opulent centre and ugly flats I thought I could feel Russia again.
I obsessed over Armenia’s neighbours. The thought of being next to Iran made me giddy. In the town of Yeraskh I stood on the road where Armenia, Turkey and the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan nearly meet. The borders are closed, and hostile - a result of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh that has simmered for twenty years.
At Noravank monastery it all began to make sense. Watching visitors light candles for their loved ones I realised I had felt Armenia all along. It is in the affection that people show each other, from the young men in Yerevan saying goodbye with a kiss on the cheek, to the farmers in the provinces glued to their children, to the strangers everywhere who put their lives on hold for days to show me their country.
This warmth comes from within. Armenia isn’t a legacy of the overlapping cultures around it, but a precious place in its own right.