life through the lens
I took the 16:00 bus from Stepanakert to the quirky village of Vank, home of Gandzasar Monastery and wierd shaped hotels - September 2019.
Nagorno Karabakh uses the Armenian Dram
Dadivank Monastery is pictures on the old 10 Artsakh Dram note
I stayed at the ship-shaped Hotel Ecelectic, and indeed it is. And weirder still I was the only guest - getting hold of anyone who knew what was going on was a little challenge, until the boss arrived from Seastone Hotel - Vank
Much of the village was bankrolled by Levon Hairapetian, a Vank native who made his millions trading timber - Vank
Rooms are quite mainstream but the common areas have nautical touches - Vank
Opposite the hotel, these geese hopped over the gate bar and went for a little stroll - Vank
The approach to Hotel Eclectic's sister hotel a couple of kms outside town - Vank
The owners of Hotel Eclectic kindly drove me to their sister hotel, Seastone Hotel, where all the activity was. I think it's called Tsovin Qar Hotel in Armenian - Vank
I just wanted to see the excellent huge lion head with paw, but there's several other kitsch/arty sculptures surrounding it - Vank
There's a couple of souvenir stalls (with more souvenirs than this one!) outside the hotel - Vank
The hotel restaurant overlooking the water was busy with several families, likely from Stepanakert. By the way, nothing was happening in/on the ship, but maybe it comes to life in the height of summer - Vank
Pretty sure the water spout from her backside was intentionally put there, it's Vank after all
Yellow gas pipes blighting the landscape is a common sight in the Caucasus - Vank
In pretty poor taste, this wall is comprised of old Azerbaijani registration plates - Vank
Overlooking Vank on a hilltop is Gandzasar Monastery
The 13th century monastery is accessible by car/taxi or you can walk up via trails - Vank
I'm sure some people/pilgrims stayed overnight in the monastery's quarters surrounding - Vank
There's several khachkars (stelae with stone-carved crosses), and the stonework also contains many inscriptions and carvings - Vank
For me the landscape is the biggest attraction in going to these isolated monasteries - Vank
Take in great views of Vank, the valley and mountains on a walk down the Gandzasar trail
I took a half-day taxi tour to Tigranakert, passing the redundant airport, which doesn't have clearance to operate due to the region's disputed nature.
Heading north from Stepanakert you'll drive through Askeran, where Mayaberd Fortress straddles the road
It's a very reconstructed castle worth a quick scramble up to explore - Askeran
There's what looks like a small fortification on a mound a few hundred metres away, though I've no idea if it's part of Mayraberd Fortress - Askeran
Shortly after is a tank memorial; there's also one just outside Shushi on the road to Stepanakert - Askeran
The fork right is the road to the ruined ghost-town of Agdam, which was captured and plundered in 1994. It's meant to be off-limits but some have ventured there in the past, though it sounds like it may be tighter controlled now. There's a soldier on the right, below the sign
The main road bypasses Agdam - this is the road to Agdam from the other side (forking left).
Agdam was the home of Azerbaijani football team Qarabag until they had to leave in 1993 due to the war, and now play their football in Baku. In the 2017/18 season they became the first Azerbaijani team to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League
Much of this area is just a few kms from the front line, and I'd hazard a guess that this is, or was, a military lookout - Agdam
There's lots of concrete debris in the area around Agdam and Tigranakert
This is the reason for visiting Tigranakert, a medieval fortress
Pomegranates for sale at Tigranakert. Seek out homemade pomegranate wine in local markets in Stepanakert as well as Armenia. It's not bad!
There's a museum in various rooms leading off the fortress courtyard - Tigranakert
A tranquil area of calm waters lies behind the fortress - Tigranakert
Ruins of the ancient city of Tigranakert surround the fortress, which was named after Tigran the Great who ruled in the 1st century BC - Tigranakert
Looking towards Azerbaijan from the fortress walls - Tigranakert
Driving along this road is the occasional military vehicle, troops and military hardware - Tigranakert
The frontline, in the hazy distance, is a 'heavily militarized and mined buffer-zone of trenches' - Tigranakert
News sources say violations of the ceasefire are commonplace, and from what I read peace-keeping forces are virtually non-existent. Russia is the major player and prefers to keep up the appearance that 'all is fine' - Tigranakert
From Stepanakert I took a 09:00(ish) Yerevan-bound bus via the northern route, so I could take in the Karabakh mountains and revisit Lake Sevan. We passed Lake Sarsang and further on the turn-off for Dadivank Monastery
After stopping off at the immigration post - where I showed my passport and the police registration letter, not that anyone seemed bothered - the bus climbed over the Sotk Pass to Armenia
It's another attractive mountainous area, and the road is a good one, in fact it might be quicker to Yerevan via this route than the southern one via Goris - Sotk Pass
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https://artsakh.travel - Think this is a travel agency but has useful info
www.nkr.am - Nagorno Karabakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including referral to visa requirements
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