The water in Armenia is something of a miracle and is rumored to be the tastiest, sweetest drinking water in the world. Perhaps the best place to start your Armenian water tasting tour is in the capital city, Yerevan. On the anniversary of Yerevan’s 2750th birthday, the city was gifted 2,750 drinking fountains which provide endless streams of cold, fresh, delicious water for free to all who pass by. How the city survived its hot, dry summers for 2,750 years without these fountains is impossible to imagine.
Republic Square, the center of Yerevan, is quite the site to see: magnificent tufa stone buildings, wide boulevards, small trees along the sidewalks, but very little shade. On a hot summer’s day, the brilliant sun shines its sparkling self down upon the square, and while one’s eyes may be dazzled, one’s thirst is very much looking to be quenched. Not to worry! Passerbys and tourists can quench their thirst at one of the many drinking fountains in the square while enjoying the sites, including the beautiful fountain display which, at nightfall, comes even more to life with a synchronized light, music, and water show.
In addition to the close-to-magical drinking water in Armenia, there are also some significant mineral water sources, specifically in Dilijan, Bjni, and Jermuk. During the Soviet Union, water bottling plants were established around the country, and today Armenian mineral water is exported primarily to Russia, but also the United States, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. Of course, the deliciously pure water of Armenia is also sold in every grocery store in Armenia, as well as at the hundreds of sidewalk stands which feature all sorts of refreshing beverages and ice creams.
Of course, like many aspects of Armenia, water is also featured infamous legends. Today, out of all the mineral water sources in the country, visitors flock to Jermuk because the healing properties of its mineral water are the stuff of legends. You see, a long time ago, when people had to hunt for food, a skilled hunter shot a deer with his bow and arrow, but the animal was only wounded and tried to run away. The hunter chased after the deer and watched as it jumped into a pool of water (the famed Jermuk mineral water).
When it jumped out of the water on the far side of the pool the deer was completely healed and escaped into the nearby forest. In the end, it is not recommended to rely on Jermuk water to heal fatal injuries, but it is recommended to treat diseases of the digestive and nervous system, as well as metabolic disorders, and others. Jermuk also features a legendary waterfall. Also a long time ago, there was a princess who fell in love with a lowly shepherd. When her father, the king, discovered this he cursed his daughter and turned her into a mermaid. Now, they say the Jermuk waterfall is the flowing hair of the princess-turned-mermaid!
Of course, it is impossible to talk about water in Armenia without mentioning Lake Sevan, the largest body of freshwater in the country. Not only is Lake Sevan featured in legends, its origin is in a legend. Many, many, many years ago, there was no Sevan, just a small spring which was covered by a boulder. The nearby villagers would collect water from this spring, always careful to replace the boulder afterward to stop the water from flowing. One day, a girl was filling her water jug and lost herself in a daydream, forgetting to replace the boulder. All day long the water was flowing from the source, slowing turning into a stream. During the night the water began to flood the village and the villagers awoke, running to find higher ground where they could escape from the water.
Meanwhile, the girl was fast asleep, oblivious to the disaster she brought upon her village. As the water continued to rise, the villagers began cursing whoever forgot to replace the boulder, wishing for him or her to turn to stone. Eventually, the girl woke up, and as soon as she stepped outside her house she turned to stone. Today, the stone girl can still be seen at Lake Sevan, as the rocky hill that is in the shape of a forgetful girl’s face.
In addition to legends, there are also many old Armenian water traditions which continue to be practiced today. Every summer, there is a water holiday called Vardavar! This celebrates the Transfiguration of Christ through purification; and what better way to purify, than with the pure water of Armenia! For twenty-four hours, on Vardavar, life is put on hold and everyone goes outside with buckets and hoses and water-guns spraying each other, the streets, and the buildings in one giant water celebration.
The second important water tradition is to construct a water fountain in honor of a person who has passed away. The tradition says that as long as water is flowing from this fountain, the person’s memory lives people’s hearts. So, the next time you take a drink of water or stop to admire a fountain, think of Armenia and the miraculous water that awaits you there!
Published January 10, 2018
Article by Areknaz Khaligian