I thought I knew what a real Armenian barbecue was about coming from Glendale, California where on Sunday’s my family would get together and have khorovats. However, after experiencing our first khorovats picnic in Gyumri I realized I was completely wrong. The day before the men in our group went shopping with Unger Kevork (the local Gyumri ARF representative for our group) and told us to expect the unexpected. All we were told is that we were going to a lake where we would have our picnic, swim, then come home.
Sunday morning we woke up at 8am and made the trek over to the highest point in Shirak Marz (the region where Gyumri is located)… our van could not even make it to the point where we were going to barbecue. We climbed up to our spot where the town leader (kyooghabed) brought us some essentials we had conveniently forgotten. While the girls relaxed some of the men began collecting the food, sorting it, and preparing. Instead of bringing a manghal the rest of the men began collecting materials from the forest to start the fire. This picnic turned into the ultimate experience as we spread out our sleeping bags, sat in a big circle, and ate our food with lavash but no plates while mingling with the local Shirak-tsis. After completing our delicious and filling meal we began asking Unger Kevork where the lake was. To our surprise the lake was not a lake at all but actually the towns irrigation reservoir. We made our way down to the “lake” and jumped in immediately! Although the water was freezing we all got in and swam across the lake and back. Although the picnic was not what I had expected I had a great time with my family laughing, bonding, and soaking in the ultimate Gyumri experience. This is one barbecue I will definitely never forget!