Armenia 08 p5


Ararat was not accessible, being now in Turkey, but Armenia has another sacred mountain: Aragatz, highly accessible with a brand new road, and spectacular landscapes of its own. So, after surprising me with an improvised birthday cake (a chocolate bar with a whirling singing candle), we were off to Amberd.

On the way there we could see Ara the Beautiful, a legendary hero whose profile can be seen quite clearly outlined by the landscape. As the story has it, Ara refused queen Shamiram's advances, and in retaliatin she waged a war on him during which he was killed. His body was laid down on the mountain, which now has his profile. The Aralez, dog-headed deities supposed to revive the dead by licking their wounds, were called upon, but to no avail.

Amberd is located at an altitude of 2300m, on a rocky outcrop between the rivers Amberd and Arkhachan. It was built in the 10th century and changed hands a few times before its destruction 400 years later, by no less than Timurlane.

Amidst the ruins we can still see the small bath, where conflicts were often solved. Jesters were buried underneath the bath, as revealed by the deformed bones that were unearthed there (their bones were broken in childhood so they're grow up looking funny...) and the rooster bones that were buried with them.
Amberd's secret to resist the ages: the use of egg yolk in the mortar, making it extra strong.
The fort had a legion whose sole job was to holler at the enemy, to make the army look formidable! They were fed eggs to open the vocal ways, 'tis said.

Caught a glimpse of Beduin garb as we sped along, a reminder that
despite its tremendous homogeneity, the Armenian
population still includes a few percents of minorities.

Lavash display at the entrance to Garni
Armenia's sole Hellenistic monument was nevertheless the least interesting to me, being gorged with Greek stuff back home. Dating back to the 1st century AD, it was the summer residence of the reigning dynasty.

Upon our arrival, a couple of actors were singing inside the temple, with extraordinary voices and acoustics.

From the edge of the cliff, we can see columnar basalt formations in the valley below.


Our final stop, Geghard, was instantly my favorite site in Armenia and one of the most amazing things I've seen anywhere. Supposedly founded by Krikor (St Gregory) in the 4th century, it was destroyed by the Arabs in the 10th then rebuilt in the 13th.

Walls and walls of khatchkar...

Random khatchkar painted with gold and colors, pasted with coins

On the outside stand a church with its gavid, but 2 more churches and 2 mausoleums are carved right out of the living rock, which is no less than black, hard basalt, with abstract and animal symbolism that bears a prolonged examination.

The only lighting inside comes from open domes such as this one.

Farewells to Yerevan

The basin of singing fountains is Hanrapetoutioun's most outstanding feature at night, where it livens up an otherwise subdued city. every evening that we could, we went there to enjoy the show but also to dance our heart out to the music, watched, though never emulated, by the introverted crowd...

"We earned 100 dram!"