Starling Travel Guide
Garni temple

A Must-Visit Tourist Establishment by Former Combat Doctor

From saving lives of the wounded in the war, suffering losses and hardest days in her life Tsovinar Hambartsoumian now runs a family-owned establishment near the Symphony of Stones in Garni, Armenia, where visitors can enjoy homemade coffee, juices, and Armenian brandy and barbeques and the most delicious trout while marveling at the natural wonder's geological and cultural history.

The Journey from Combat Doctor to Family Business Owner

I’ve never thought of my actions as heroic. The heroes were the soldiers Ive met – Monte, Vanik, Arthur. There were days – cruel days full of horrible feelings. Once there was an officer’s life on the operating table and I had to ignore the exhaustion of those days and enter the operating room. It was hard, very hard. Remembers Tsovinar Hambartsoumian, a surgeon who volunteered for the war to save the lives of the soldiers and officers.
I went to where I was needed – Artsakh. My family was not even aware of it.
Being born and raised in Garni village, where her family runs a recreation area and a restaurant business for more than 30 years, Tsovinar decided to receive and currently has higher medical education. She graduated from Yerevan State Medical University after Mkhitar Heratsi and has come a long way to master her profession with 4 higher medical diplomas: Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree, Internship, Clinical Residency and at the moment she is in the process of getting her PhD in Maxillofacial Surgery.

Describing herself as an easy going and simple person, Tsovinar stresses her patriotism that lead her to the warzone where she would treat the wounded with kindness and patience, helping them to stay strong and keep struggling.
I volunteered for the war – she explains. Applied to the Ministry of Health and insisted on my application to be approved. I was transferring wounded ones from Artsakh to Armenia. My responsibility was to get the wounded soldiers to the medical facilities of Yerevan. It was too dangerous to treat people in the medical facilities of Artsakh as the Azerbaijani military were bombarding all the civilian infrastructures including schools, kindergartens and hospitals deliberately. In the Qanaqer-Zeytun med. facility Tsovinar was also assisting in operating the patients.

There were days when we would evacuate soldiers twice a day. We all felt supernatural strength those days, wouldn’t realize the time flew or tiredness. (The road from Yerevan to Stepanakert took 8 hours one way. Ed) The heaviest moment she told from those days is that once she had to call to the mother of a soldier who she was evacuating, to allow them to talk to each other fearing that the man may not make it to the hospital.

I would love to tell you funny story from those days but there were simply none. However, there were many encouraging ones. I couldnt believe my eyes when a soldier just recovered from a wound would apply to immediately join his regiment. I was in the warzone on my birthday. The worst day ever when I lost a very dear person and a relative.

Undertaking a New Endeavor

I took a very heavy psychological responsibility on myself to stay in the Motherland at any cost. Even now I cannot remember the war without tears. I am one of those people who does not visit Yerablur, I just cant look at the graves of our young people. I'll go, what answer will I give, I'm sorry, but we couldn't keep what you gave your lives for? For the sake of those boys, for the sake of my country and my child's future, I will do everything to stay here. And that is when I decided to support the family touristic business. After the war, it was important to restart every job and develop business. Of course, it was difficult for us in the post-war period, but we had to stand up and move forward. Various challenges appeared both organizational and bureaucratic when we chose the exact place where we want to run the new business.
Tsovinar helped her family to establish a new undertaking right at the beginning of the paved walkway down the gorge to the Symphony of Stones. The little establishment is seasonal where the family members of Tsovinar – her mother, and herself are offering homemade coffee, juices and even alcohols such as Armenian Brandy to the travelers who visits the sight. The sight itself is a unique natural wonder located near the village of Garni, about 35 kilometers east of the capital city Yerevan, in Armenia. This geological formation is made up of thousands of towering basalt columns that resemble a giant organ or a symphony of stones.

The columns vary in size and shape, with some reaching up to 50 feet in height. They are arranged in a way that resembles the pipes of an organ, giving the formation its name, the Symphony of Stones. The columns are predominantly dark gray, but they also have streaks of red, yellow, and green, creating a stunning contrast against the blue sky.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Symphony of Stones is also steeped in history and legend. According to local lore, the columns were once pagan priests who refused to convert to Christianity and were punished for that becoming the very columns from under which the pagan temple of Garni is visible.

Today, the Symphony of Stones is a popular tourist destination in Armenia, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to marvel at this stunning natural wonder. It is a testament to the power and beauty of nature, and a reminder of the rich geological and cultural history of Armenia.

What’s Special about Tsovinar’s Little Business

This is a very special topic Tsovinar told me with pleasure. She explained that she was the community doctor for many years, and for the many services she would provide, the locals would not pay with money, but with products brought by residents: honey, cheese, berries (raspberries, currants, blackberries), many kinds of fruits and meat.

And now too, though she doesn’t live in the village for more than 3 years, her family still buys all the food from the local villagers, as the locals provide the best quality fruits, vegetables and meat.

She says that the difference between the state sponsored establishments and the local family run businesses, such as hers, is the love, work done with love, treating everyone with love and respect. It is the best satisfaction to see the smiles and gratitude of strangers that approach for a bottle of drink in this touristic scene. The love for their family business is the key to the friendly and respectful client service that they provide.
I have never eaten a more delicious trout in Armenia, it’s fantastic. You will not believe it but having traveled all over Armenia and Artsakh, for the first time I found myself in the "Symphony of Stones", where thousands of tourists arrive daily. How is this possible? Don't know. But the place is beautiful and not far from Yerevan. Traveler Journalist Alexander Lapshin says.

An Advice to Female Entrepreneurs from Tsovinar

Though her work as a doctor requires a lot of time and dedication, in addition, Tsovinar still finds time to travel to Garni village in the weekends and help her family with various daily tasks they perform when serving the clients.

My advice to those starting a business is to be persistent and strong, approach every task with love and warmth.

Says Tsovinar, who's family describe her as a fantastic surgeon, a patriot, and the soul of the family business.