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Armenia & Karabagh (The Stone Garden Guide) Paperback – September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


An excellent guide to a fascinating region, written with real passion for the subject. --CNN Traveller Magazine (UK), September 2006

A top guidebook. --The Washington Times, September 2006

A fascinating and eduational overview of Armenia and Karabagh. This book is an ideal companion for any traveler. --Sherry Schwarz, Editor, Transitons Abroad Magazine

About the Author

Matthew Karanian has been working and traveling in Armenia since 1995, as a photographer and journalist, and as a law professor at the American University of Armenia.

Robert Kurkjian has lived, worked and traveled extensively throughout Armenia since 1995, as a photojournalist and as a professor of environmental science at the American University of Armenia. Matthew and Robert are also co-authors of "Out of Stone" and "Edge of Time: Traveling in Armenia and Karabagh." Their photography and writing have been published in quality magazines in the US, UK, and Canada.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Garden Productions; 2nd edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096721209X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967212098
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,385,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthew Karanian is an attorney, and he practices law in Pasadena. He researched and wrote ARMENIA AND KARABAKH: THE STONE GARDEN TRAVEL GUIDE. He also created many of the book's photographs, along with co-photographer Robert Kurkjian.

Matthew was born and raised in Connecticut. He first traveled to Armenia in 1995, to work at the American University of Armenia (AUA). He later served as Associate Dean of the law program at AUA, and as Director of the university's Legal Research Center. He and his law students founded Armenia's first English-language law journal, the Armenian Law Review. Matthew has also served on the editorial board of the Armenian International Magazine (AIM).

As a legal scholar, Matthew served as a Caucasus specialist in the Republic of Georgia with the Institute for the Study of International Migration, a Georgetown University research center. He is a co-author of a scholarly treatise about the internally displaced people of Georgia, published by Lexington Books. Matthew graduated with honors from both Georgetown University Law Center and from McGeorge School of Law, and he has studied law at the Inns of Court in London, and at the University of Salzburg, in Austria.

ARMENIA AND KARABAKH: THE STONE GARDEN TRAVEL GUIDE is the fifth book that Matthew has published about Armenia. The book is dedicated to his parents, Henry and Agnes Karanian, both of whom are the children of genocide survivors.

Excerpted from the Los Angeles Times:

By Christopher Reynolds
April 17, 2013, 8:30 a.m.

By some measures, Matthew Karanian was a Connecticut Yankee: a 34-year-old litigator in Hartford, American-born and bred. But he had a wild idea. So he took a summer off, headed for the rustic land of his ancestors, and soon found that Armenia was rearranging his life.

Now, 18 years after that first visit, Karanian is an expert on the place. His self-published guidebook, "Armenia and Karabakh" (320 pages, $24.95), has just gone into a third edition. It's based on more than a dozen visits to the country, including a residency from 2002 to 2006. The photographs are by Karanian and Robert Kurkjian.

If you live near the California Armenian enclaves of Glendale or Fresno -- or it you've met Karanian -- you may already know that Armenia is a landlocked, mountainous country almost the size of Maryland; that it lies south of Georgia, east of Turkey and west of Iran; and that it broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991. But Armenia is still terra incognita to many Americans.

And as Karanian acknowledges, the country faces plenty of challenges. The population, just under 3 million, is decreasing, partly because jobs are scarce. The country's border with Turkey is closed amid tensions that date to the Armenian genocide that began in 1915 under the Ottoman empire.

Armenians and others commemorate the genocide yearly with a worldwide day of remembrance on April 24. The Turkish government maintains that those 1.5 million deaths were part of the chaos of World War I, not a genocide.

Meanwhile, a border now separates Armenia from the Armenian culture's most revered geographic feature, Mt. Ararat. The mountain stands in Turkish territory but is visible from much of Armenia.

On his first visit to Armenia, Karanian recalls, the capital, Yerevan, was without electricity for most of every day. But the rugged beauty and depth of culture, he said, "just turned my life upside down," yielding a stronger sense of ethnic identity and uncovering lost family history.

Karanian knew his grandparents immigrated to the U.S. about 100 years ago. But it wasn't until his book research began that he learned his great uncle, Mardiros Kheranyan, was a much-admired cartographer who charted the towns of historic Armenia in painstaking detail.

Now Karanian lives and practices law in Pasadena but makes yearly visits to the old country. Every year, he says, he sees better roads, more motorists willing to stop for pedestrians and more global brands, though no McDonald's yet.

In a two-part interview in early April (first in person and then online), Karanian took on 10 questions.

How many Americans visited Armenia last year?

Not enough. That's why I published the book. There were about 850,000 tourist visas issued for Armenia in 2012. More than half, maybe up to 70%, were issued to Diasporan Armenians. And for the past several years, roughly 15% of all tourist visas were issued to Americans.

What will I find on the sidewalks in the center of Yerevan?

There are so many sidewalk cafes in central Yerevan, sometimes it seems you can't go for a walk without falling into one. But it's a seasonal thing. In the winter the only thing on the sidewalk is snow.

If I'm walking those sidewalks in summertime, why should I be wary of children bearing buckets?

Vardavar is a great day to be a kid. This is an ancient holiday, and the essence of it is children dumping buckets of water on strangers. With impunity. The impunity part is key, and it probably keeps a lot of adults off the streets that day. Vardavar occurs once a year, on the 14th Sunday after Easter. I learned about the holiday the hard way, during my first visit to the country in 1995. Now I pay more attention to the calendar.

Armenian is the country's first language, of course. But what's second?

For most of the 20th century, the second language was Russian. But ever since the Soviet Union fell apart, Russian has been on the decline. English is the international language of business, and so English has been seeing increased use, especially among younger people. English has even replaced Russian as the second language on most traffic signs.

Where do you go for the best view of Mt. Ararat?

Ararat is huge! It dominates the psyche as well as the skyline. When I lived in Yerevan, my favorite place to view was from the balcony of my apartment. But for the best viewing, I recommend the vantage from the monastery of Khor Virap, which is just south of Yerevan and right on the frontier between Armenia and Turkey.

How's the hitchhiking?

"You're going my way, and the seat next to you is empty. Of course you should give me a ride." This is what I imagine the elderly person is thinking when she steps to the edge of the traffic lane and signals for me to stop my car. Hitchhiking is common, and accepted, among people of all ages. I usually stop. This is mostly a rural thing, though. In the city, people who don't own cars just take the bus.

If we can't get to Ararat, what big, scenic mountain can we get to?

Aragats is a great place to visit during the summer, not just for the hiking, but also to beat the heat of the city. There's snow on Aragats year-round, and you can climb almost to the top -- 4,090 meters -- without any special gear, as long as you're in reasonably good shape. It's a great way to impress your friends: I climbed the tallest peak of Armenia!

Armenia has more very old churches and monasteries than your average European nation. Which ones make most sense for visitors?

Echmiadzin is the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is Armenia's national church. The structure dates back to AD 301, when Armenia became the first state to accept Christianity. So going to Armenia without visiting Echmiadzin would be kind of like going to Rome and then skipping a trip to the Vatican.

But my favorite pilgrimage is to the monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, in the northeast. Sanahin was founded in AD 966. Haghpat was built right about the same time, in AD 977. They're both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Odzun, a sixth-century church, is in the same region, all about a two-hour drive from the capital. But these are just highlights. There are too many ancient sites to mention. Armenia is a second Holy Land for Christendom!

Yerevan and northern Armenia get more attention than the south. If I go roaming in the south, what will I find?

Tatev Monastery, which was founded in the 9th century, is the cultural highlight of the south. It was built on top of a deep gorge to deter invading armies and a variety of other plunderers. But [more recently] the remote location mostly just deterred tourists. So a couple of years ago they built an aerial tram -- the world's longest -- to make it easier for visitors to get there. The majesty of Tatev never ceases to amaze me. I would walk there if I had to. But taking the tram's a lot easier.

I also love the geography of the south. The region around Spandarian Reservoir is gorgeous. I'm in awe of Karahunj -- a celestial observatory that's older than Stonehenge. And Shikahogh Reserve is a natural treasure, with a grove of 2,000 year-old plane trees.

Tell me about the old shoe.

I think there's a secret contest, where all the countries of the world compete to have the oldest of something in every category. It's a contest that Armenia is really good at, maybe because Armenia is itself so old.

In 2010, Armenia grabbed the titles for World's Oldest Winery (6,100 years old, discovered in a cave) and World's Oldest Shoe (5,500 years old, discovered, perhaps not surprisingly, near the winery). Must make all those 1,500-year-old monasteries feel quite young.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcus Giovanni on October 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
An excellent book, presenting every detail in a very pleasant fashion. If you are going to visit the land of Noah, the first Christian country, i.e. Armenia, this is a must for you.

One of the good things about the book is that it also touches Karabakh. It was liberated from azeri rule about 20 years ago, saving a part of the local Christian population from ethnic cleansing. The book is just brilliant... it talks about many historical monuments and the masterpieces of Nature. At the same time it is not trying to sell you everything: it helps to set the priorities for someone who has a limited time in the country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jackalay on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent guidebook. It is helpful and informative without being boring or dry. There are plenty of richly colored pictures, ranging from shots of ancient monasteries and cross stones, to buildings, monuments, and statues erected during the Soviet period, to the faces of ordinary people. The Nagorno-Karabakh section is quite extensive, politics and ethnocentrism aside. If you are planning to visit Armenia/Karabakh, and are looking for a good guidebook, then the Stone Garden Guide is the one to get.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
The first edition of The Stone Garden Guide: Armenia & Karabagh was the 2005 Independent Publisher award finalist in the category of best travel guide. Now in an updated second edition, Armenia & Karabagh remains thorough, practical, and completely up-to-date in its information concerning this predominantly Christian nation that borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Written by Matthew Karanian and Robert Kurkjian, two experts who have each spent a decade traveling in the region, Armenia & Karabagh is filled cover-to-cover with full-color maps, photographs, must-see sights, and solid general advice for business and pleasure travelers alike (drink bottled water instead of the local water unless it has been boiled, and also avoid using ice cubes in restaurants or using nonsterilized water to brush one's teeth). An all-inclusive, absolute "must-have" for anyone interested in experiencing the uniquely rich cultural heritage of Armenia for themselves.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mihran Boyadjian on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having just come back from a months stay in Armenia including a short visit to Karabagh, I am amazed at the amount of up to date and useful information contained in this book. You feel that the authors were there the day before your visit and give you all the tips and advice that can make your trip a memorable one. The color photographs as well as the glossy pages are of the highest quality, ensuring it a permanent place on any bookshelf or coffee table.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. K. Miller on April 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was planning a ten day trip to Aremenia and wanted a travel guide. I shopped around and this one seemed to be the best. I was very pleased with it when it arrived and I was even more pleased as I had it in hand while I traveled in Armenia. The book seems to capture the real Armenia in all its beauty. It is now a treasured souvenir of my trip. I recommend buying this book even if you will only be there for a few days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NatHe on August 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Purchased this book for my Armenian mother's birthday after hearing a Podcast by Rick Steves. Rick interviewed one of the authors and I was really inspired to get this book and travel! From the interview, sounds like a very approachable country. Author has also done great photography in another book, which is a must-have.
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