Armenia has come to mean a lot to me. For the places and conversations that will stay with me forever, I have two people to thank.
My first time in Yerevan was in April 2015 – the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. I had met an Armenian lady at an event in London the year before, and she invited me to the commemorations.
The lady, Nellie, owns a tour company, so when I arrived in Armenia she arranged for one of her drivers, Samvel, to show me the country. On our first day together Samvel took me to the north of Armenia – Tsaghkadzor, Lake Sevan, Dilijan, Goshavank and Vanadzor. The next day we drove south, to Tatev monastery. On the way to Tatev Samvel stopped to give me time on my own – to contemplate at Khor Virap and Noravank monasteries, and wander through the ancient Zorats Karer stones. These places fascinated me – but more than that, the journey was breathtaking. I was mesmerised by how the towns of Yeghegnadzor and Vayk felt, and the landscapes we passed between Areni and Tatev.
For the next three years, I travelled to Yerevan each spring for my work, and got to know the people at the companies I had meetings with. Samvel had become a friend, and in 2018 he took me to the conflict zone of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh to Armenians), where we stopped in the town of Shushi, at the central market in Stepanakert, and at the monastery at Dadivank. Back in Yerevan the next day I found myself in the middle of the mass protests that removed prime-minister Serzh Sargsyan. I was in a cafe near the Cascade complex when the news broke that he had stood down, and joined the crowd on Republic Square that night.
I don’t travel for my work any more, and have made peace with the fact that I will probably never go to Armenia again. But of all the places I have ever spent time in, Armenia is the country that I miss the most.