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Rediscovering Armenia


Armenian News Network / Groong
April 9, 2002

Book Review


"Rediscovering Armenia," by Brady Kiesling and Raffi Kojian
[Raffi Kojian edited the book and wrote the sections on Nagorno Karabagh]
Tigran Mets publishing house, April 2001
RA's ISBN 99930-52-28-0

By Katy Pearce


Rediscovering Armenia is a book that reads, in parts, like a diary, an
anthropological study, or an archeology paper. As one of only a
handful of guidebooks about Armenia, it is thorough, engaging and
witty. It will tell you what monastery, chapel, or mom-and-pop
coffeehouse to visit while traveling beyond Armenia's version of the
Capital Beltway. But if you need your guidebook to contain lists of
ATM locations, hotels, or restaurants or bars, Rediscovering Armenia
will not help you. The book reflects the authors' opinion that a
typical traveler does not come to Armenia to shop for designer
clothes, eat a hamburger or keep in contact with the office. The best
attractions that Armenia has to offer are its rugged terrain, a fifth
or sixth century church in a breath-taking hideout, and its hospitable,
hard-working people. Rediscovering Armenia certainly will lead you to
these things.

Armenia, being a country that is far from easily navigable, needs an
inspired poet and an artist to convey its beauty and great potential
as a tourism destination, and the authors certainly try their best.

Most people traveling to Armenia for a week or two are not going to
have the time to explore the entire country and Rediscovering Armenia
would assist anyone looking to narrow down their choices based on what
regions, attractions, or tourist destinations they want to see most.
With its extensive background information sections and illuminating
descriptions of monuments, churches and natural sights, Rediscovering
Armenia is a helpful friend when it comes to doing one's homework when
preparing for a trip to Armenia. One possible use is to use the book
to make a list of places the visitors are interested in seeing and
once in Armenia talk to a guide/driver about creating an itinerary.

The guidebook is most helpful for those traveling to Armenia for a
summer or planning to live and work in Armenia long enough to realize
the need for well-prepared and well-spent weekend trips. Rediscovering
Armenia is perfect for those taking the time to see everything. As
both Kiesling and Kojian have lived in Armenia for extended periods of
time, they are able to speak to long term tourists as peers,
considering time, interest, language ability, transportation access,
and flexibility.

This book, which came as a by-product of Kiesling's time in Armenia
working as a senior official of the U.S. Embassy, isn't going to help
the average tourist find a laundry service, however those with a sense
of adventure, a need to plan, time or all of the above will enjoy this
extremely complete work.

Brady Kiesling's primary intent is to encourage independent travel,
but his secondary intent shines throughout the book. Kiesling wants to
produce good karma for all of the Armenians who have treated him so
well throughout his travels. By writing a guidebook and hopefully
encouraging more tourism in Armenia, Rediscovering Armenia may improve
the economic possibilities for those working in the tourism industry
from the woman cleaning rooms at a hotel to the man hoping to use his
decent English language skills to find people to drive from Yerevan to
Ejmiatsin; from the old priest who enjoys showing hidden underground
passages to interested visitors to the donkey that guards the entrance
to a hidden chapel - and bites.  As a trained archeologist, Kiesling
exposes layer upon layer of real touristic value in the land he was
posted to as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. His intellectual
curiosity and authentic interest in Armenia lend credit to this work
and create an antithesis to one's stereotypical 'ugly American.'

Perhaps due to Kiesling's Foreign Service expertise, Rediscovering
Armenia reads like an extremely well-crafted scene-setting situation
report and is not formatted like a traditional travel guidebook. This
could detract from the book's usefulness for some readers. For
example, the informal system of using asterisks to designate
interesting places does not assist a tourist in the same way that a
list of "Must-Sees" would.

Rediscovering Armenia is a better read than a reference.

Other travel books pale in comparison when discussing the history of a
place or monument. Kiesling and Kojian deserve credit for excellent
research - both formal and informal, using sources only found in
Armenia.  Similarly, the illustrations of churches, detailed maps
unlike any other in existence (one major difficulty in traveling in
Armenia is the lack of any sort of road maps. This book may contain
the highest quality, albeit homemade on Kiesling's computer, maps
available), and helpful lists of geographic terms really facilitate an
experienced traveler, adventurer, or someone familiar with Armenia to
design a satisfying trip itinerary. The book is helpful for other
tourists, as described above, using the book as a preparatory tool in
combination with a guide.

Rediscovering Armenia is not a traditional travel guide in that it is
more complete and more detailed. The lack of traditional tourist-book
style information is actually in Rediscovering Armenia's favor, in
that the rapid changes that Armenia is going through quickly date
other guidebooks. Rediscovering Armenia may too date itself, but in a
different way: as roads improve and tourism builds, the notes about
needing four-by-four vehicles and limitations due to weather will
decrease; but the historical background and dedicated research will
never date itself.

So do not expect Rediscovering Armenia to lead you to an Internet
cafi, include a guide to tipping service staff, list the address for
the post office, give you a price guide on fax services or name a
great beautician. Rather, use this book as a preparation tool for a
trip and allow it to inspire you to re-imagine, re-invigorate and
rediscover Armenia.

Rediscovering Armenia is available for sale on www.amazon.com. To
learn more about the project visit www.cilicia.com.

 Copyright 2002,  Armenian News Network / Groong


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