Tracing the Route of a 'wild' Silk Road in the Caucasus
The ancient Silk Road, famous primarily as a trade route, was also an important transmitter of culture and historical legacies between Asia and Europe. This much travelled route has for centuries linked traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers along its length of 6,000 km from China and India to the Mediterranean Sea.
This year, a different Silk Road came into being, thanks to the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB, BirdLife Partner), which, together with organisations in Georgia, Turkey and Greece, launched the Black Sea Silk Road Corridor (BSSRC), an ambitious 3,000 kilometre long tourist trail that starts in Thessaloniki, Greece and ends in Meghri, Armenia.
The Black Sea Silk Road Corridor project
In 2012, ASPB forged a partnership with AMAP, a Human Development NGO based in Armenia’s capital Yerevan, with the joint aim of promoting tourism in rural communities. This idea grew over time to become the Black Sea Silk Road Corridor project, a Tour Trail that offers an exciting opportunity to retrace the route of the ancient Silk Road through four countries: Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Greece.
The trail will give the traveller the opportunity to discover ancient lands, wide open spaces and awe-inspiring mountains and lakes that were previously very difficult to access. Visitors will be directly involved in local ways of life and will be able to discover historic, cultural and nature sites along this Silk Road that were unknown and unvisited in the past.
The Black Sea Silk Road Corridor was conceived to alleviate rural isolation through the development of local communities, the enhancement of visitors’ experiences and the protection of cultural monuments and biodiversity. The environmental benefit of this project will come from the efforts of the local communities in the areas, which will work to preserve and maintain their local natural and culturual resources in order to to benefit from environmental tourism.
A companion web portal and six smart-phone apps have been designed to provide a comprehensive account of nature destinations in Armenia, including the interesting bird species which may be seen along the trail. They also provide travellers with a range of cultural and natural sites to visit as well as a list of the best local guest houses, craft artisans and other essential services.
ASPB’s role in the project was to identify key nature hotspots along the trail of the Silk Road in Armenia. Luba Balyan, national Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) Programme Coordinator at ASPB explained: “We carried out a baseline survey of birds and wildlife found on the route and captured photographs of birds and spectacular landscape habitats in different seasons of the year.”
She concluded: “This project is the perfect chance to optimise the tourist’s experience of remarkable natural and historic destinations while profiting both local economies and the environment.”
In Armenia the Black Sea Silk Road Corridor was made possible thanks to financial support from the European Union Joint Operational Programme (Black Sea Basin 2007-2013) and co-funding from the United States Agency for International Development (Armenia).
For more information, please contact Luba Baylan, IBA Programme Coordinator at the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife in Armenia).
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.