Armenia has become a gastro destination for the past few years. The Internet is full of restaurant reviews and suggestions on where to try local dishes, wine, listen to local music while enjoying your food, etc. Well, it all sounds and tastes amazing, but there's something missing in the overall experience. That's what Ani Ananyan and Hayarpi Sahakyan decided to fix, or rather facilitate - take the foodie to the source of the food. A local village, for example, where people plant and harvest their own beans, tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, and other goods. They are connecting with people who don't use pesticides and produce enough quantities to sustain their families throughout the year.
Hayarpi: Armenia is still considered a country with ecologically clean products and has a lot of potential for growth. All the tourists I have personally met, mention the taste of meats, vegetables, fruits, and dairy produce. All the families based in villages that we visit are serving exactly the same things they use in their daily food preparation.
Ani: We don’t have regional limitations and are ready to work with any villager, who wants to boost eco-gastro tourism in their village. Of course, when we pick a house we prefer to have space with a remodeled bathroom and a nice setting. We also check the cleanliness of the kitchen where the food is prepared. Everyone we have worked so far was very kind. These ladies were very hospitable and presentable, with great cooking skills.
Hayarpi: It’s a pleasure to work with the villagers. People in the villages are very open-hearted, kind and hospitable. The main goal of Eco & Gastro tours is to boost the eco and gastro tourism in the villages of Armenia, discover new touristic attractions and help villagers support themselves by the help of eco-tourism.
Ani: The idea started a year ago when the government wanted to start mining industry and we all fought alongside the villagers to stop the project. A lot of people said that the villagers don’t have any means of income and the mining industry can become a relief for the region. It was then and there that I realized that eco-gastro tourism could become a good source of income for villagers; all you need to do is to connect the villagers with the tourism industry. With our help, tourists get acquainted with the village life, sightseeing, take different classes.
Hayarpi: Before taking people to the villages we visit, we talk to the village people, get a recommendation, and the key point - the families need to be beginners or just want to start with us. So when we meet, discuss the details about food, hosting process we understand whether they are the ones that we want to be in touch or not. Fortunately, till now we went to places and visited families that became like our own, we call them our home in Lernanist, our home in Lchavan... They are really ours, we feel like that. And we had a case when after talking and visiting we decided not to take people there because the hostess, according to us, didn't get the essence of our movement and tours, so we just refused to take people there.
Ani: The villagers have a different type of mindset and reaction to everything, but this is also the reason that we started Eco & Gastro tours, to change the mindset and "help" them to understand that everywhere it's hard to earn money. At the same time, they have a great chance to live in a village and have an interesting life and earn money with their cultivated things and cultural places and food.
We want to help these people, to give birth to forgotten food and traditions, to emphasize that Armenia is not only Yerevan, Garni Geghard, Sevan ... especially for tourists and foreigners… The attitude of villagers toward their land and visitors is slowly changing... City-village connections need to thrive and both sides should understand that both are important and there are no privileged ones.