Thursday, March 15, 2012

Armenia: The Tour

Garni Temple, Armenia
Spoiler alert: Armenian churches are pretty much like Georgian churches. Which is to say that if you've seen one Georgian church, you've seen all Georgian (and Armenian) churches.


Kathy and I took the Envoy Hostel's Essential Tour, which has a focus on churches and monasteries. (Any tour in the Caucasus is going to include churches, monasteries, or perhaps in the case of Azerbaijan, mosques.)

In our little marshrutka-tour group were two Russians, a gregarious Irishman and his pre-school daughter, four women who work in Dubai but who are from the U.S., Canada, Malaysia, and Hong Kong; three Americans who are TLG teachers in Georgia, an American who works for the BBC in the Caucasus, the tour guide, the driver, and a tour guide trainee.

First stop: Lake Sevan and the Sevanavank Monastery. It was bitterly, brutally cold as we walked up the thousands of cold, gray, icy steps. Our cheeks burned from the freezing wind.

Sevanavank Monastery, Lake Sevan, Armenia

Under normal circumstances, I'd have waited patiently for my fellow tourists to be outside of the photo frame to capture the postcard beauty of the monastery, the lake, and the snowy surroundings, but one can only do so much for one's art. It was so cold ... what was that English idiom I meant to teach my police class? ... as cold as a witch's tit in a brass bra.

The two women in the pretty, white coats were in Armenia from Dubai (which, right now in this very moment, is enjoying the most perfect balmy weather), but they came to Armenia to see the snow and, I guess, to experience the novelty of shivering.

Lake Sevan, Armenia


Sevanavank Monastery, Lake Sevan, Armenia

Armenians (and Georgians) like to joke that the one thing Armenia has plenty of is stone.

2nd stop: Another church. Made of stone.

3rd stop: Noratus Cemetery in a large village (~ 9000 people). I'd have loved to have spent more time here, but the cold and snow made wandering around not so enticing. The cemetery is famous for the stories the tombstones tell about the lives or deaths of those buried here. The cemetery dates back to the 9th century.

 
Khachkars (stone crosses) at Noratus Cemetery, Armenia

Death story at Noratus Cemetery, Armenia

Khachkars (stone crosses) at Noratus Cemetery, Armenia

4th stop: Bathroom stop and lunch.

Garni Temple, Armenia

5th stop: Garni Temple. A sweet gem. Built on the edge of a scenic river gorge.


View of river gorge from Garni Temple, Armenia


A visual palate cleanser from the typical Caucasian spiritual architecture, Garni Temple is allegedly the only pagan temple allowed to remain standing from prior holy wars against ungodly structures.

Garni Temple, Armenia


Garni Temple, Armenia


Garni Temple, Armenia

From Garni Temple, we marshrutka'd to the last tour stop, Geghard Monastery, which has an Indiana Jones vibe in the interiors.

Geghard Monastery, Armenia


Geghard Monastery, Armenia

Geghard Monastery, Armenia

Two priests prayed:


Can you smell the frankincense?

Geghard Monastery, Armenia



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