Born and raised Yankee, 34-year-old Matthew Karanian spontaneously opted for a trip to the country of his ancestors. He quickly discovered that visiting Armenia changed his life.
An impressive 18 years after first stepping foot in Armenia, he is now an expert on the country. To prove it, he even has his very own self-published guidebook named 'Armenia and Karabakh'; the third edition has just been released. The handbook centers on much time spent travelling around Armenia and his residency period between 2002-2006.
For those of you that live close to the California Armenian enclaves of Glendale or Fresno, you might know that Armenia is a landlocked, vast country that is nearly the same size as Maryland! You may also already know that it lies to the east of Turkey and the west of Iran. Also, in 1991, Armenia separated from the Soviet Union.
Armenia faces many challenges, as outlined by Karanian. Firstly, the population of Armenia is vastly decreasing. This is a result of a lack of jobs and career paths available. Also, their border with Turkey is not exactly peaceful, with reasons for this dating way back to the Armenian genocide that started in 1915 during the Ottoman times.
Many Armenians and other citizens pay their respects on a yearly basis with a global day of remembrance that takes place on April 24th. Still to this day, Turkey somehow insists that World War I is to blame for the 1.5 million deaths, not genocide.
Karanian remembers his first day in Armenia like it was yesterday. He explains how he coped without electricity for the best part of the day. Nonetheless, this didn't deter him from enjoying what the country had to offer, and so his love affair with Armenia began. He discovered lots of his families long lost history.
Karanian was aware of some of his family histories like he knew that approximately 100 years ago his grandparents immigrated to the U.S. However, after starting researching in books he learnt that his great uncle (Mardiros Kheranyan) was a highly respected cartographer who charted Armenian towns in painstaking detail.
Although Karanian no longer lives in Armenia because he practices law in Pasadena, he ensures that he visits on a yearly basis. Upon his return visits, he reports that he sees a great change in the country. He sees road improvements, a higher number of global brands and a larger proportion of people who are willing to stop at pedestrian crossings!
There are not enough people visiting Armenia in recent years, and that is one of Karanian's primary motivations for publishing his book. He promises that Armenia has a lot to offer. If you're not sure where to start then, just visit some of the side streets. There you will find it difficult not to bump into a café. However, this is usually a seasonal thing, as during wintertime the side streets are empty aside from the snow burying the sidewalks. Regardless of this, Armenia should be on your bucket list.