Saturday, May 16, 2015

Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple, and freshly made Lavash!

Because our week-long trip to Armenia was mostly dedicated to Genocide Commemorative activities, we really didn’t have much time to visit and experience village life outside of Yerevan – with one exception.
On the afternoon of April 24th, Sonia Tashjian escorted Aram Aslanian and me to the Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple. (Doug couldn’t join us because he was preparing for his Huffington Post interview.)

Armenian village roadside stand
It was chilly, rainy and foggy, but that didn’t deter Sonia from making it up the rough roadways to our destinations. Along the way we passed a man and woman standing next to their makeshift shelves lined with jars of homemade pickled vegetables, hoping to make a sale. We only stopped long enough to take a photo, much to their dismay.

Before we reached Geghard Monastery, we watched as women gathered herbs in the hillside, placing them in their aprons and rough-hewn cloth bags. No doubt these herbs would be used in teas, soups, stews, and jingalov hats!

After bucking livestock in the roadway, and children running up to cars selling flowers, we made it to the monastery. (Sonia did buy lovely wildflowers from the kiddies!)

Gata stands outside the monastery
Just outside the monastery we passed an area lined with long tables laden with mounds of baked gatas, assorted fruit leathers, and more. The sellers barked at prospective customers to ‘buy from me!”.

The altar inside Geghard Monastery
Once we made it past them, the climb up the cobblestone path brought us to our destination – Geghard Monastery. Built in the 1200’s, in the side of a mountain, this truly felt like a holy place. Therein was a beautiful altar that took my breath away. I truly cannot explain the feelings that passed through my veins - just know that I lit candles and prayed.

Ancient Khatchkars (carved stone crosses) outside the monastery

Making lavash #1
Making lavash #2
On our way to the Garni Temple, Sonia insisted we stop at a roadside eatery – a covered outdoor deck with tables, chairs, and a view of the hillside, gorge and water below. (Sadly, the fog prevented us from actually seeing the view.)  It seemed a fairly new place, and clearly designed for tourists. (They even had modern bathrooms!)

Sonia (right) and me enjoying our feast!

What made this place interesting to me was that two women prepared fresh, thin, crisp lavash using a tonir while we watched. We were served a hot, herbal concoction sweetened with local honey, freshly-made lavash, locally made cheeses, olives, and homemade jams. A true feast!
Garni Temple

Refreshed, we headed to our final stop, Garni Temple. It was an amazing sight with incredible views all around. Despite the weather, we had an inspiring tour with and Sonia as our ultimate hostess.

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