Garni, Gerghard, Echmiadzin, Tatev

Lady and I visited Garni, a temple from the 1st century AD funded by the infamous Nero and built under Tiridates I. We also visited Gerghard, another monastery that is considered to be one of the premier sites of Armenia. The architecture inside and the nebulous of ‘caves’ leading to other rooms makes for a very interesting visit and it is easy to appreciate the significance of the monastery. Outside don’t miss the opportunity to buy gati (A delicious Armenian sweet bread).

On another day I took a my transport of choice – the martshuka to Echmiadzin (A UNESCO world heritage site) is the centre of the Armenian church where the Catholicos lives. A holy city in Armenia, St Gregory is said to have had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the ground with a golden hammer showing where the cathedral should be built. In fact Echmiadzin can be translated as “The lace where the only Begotten descended”
In the cathedral relics from Noah’s ark are said to be stored as well as the lance that the Roman soldier used to pierce Jesus side as he hung on the cross.
However it is important to note that both the Armenians and the Roman Catholics claim to have the lance.
The one in Roman possession was once in the possession of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The cathedral is undoubtedly the most important place Echmiadzin but there are several other important sites important to the Armenian church.

The St Hripsime and St Gayane Churches are dedicated to virgins martyred in 301AD for refusing to break vows of chastity. They were martyred by King Tradt who had St Gregory the Illuminator imprisoned for 13 years before that. King Tradt then fell ill and after releasing Gregory, his health was restored and converted to Christianity and in 301AD Christianity became the official state religion of Armenia. The first country in the world to proclaim Christianity as its religion. Tradt then appointed St Gregory as the Catholicos of the Armenian church. Echmiadzin is therefore in some sense where the Armenia of today began.

Journey to Tatev via Goris
After being quoted 160$+ to got to Goris an inquiry from the Marriott (not a wise thing to do, unless you want to pay an increased fee by a factor of 10) I went for a small fee (that unfortunately I can’t remember but a very small fee indeed) via shared Taxi to Goris.
Goris is a small city of beautiful stone buildings and a place where you get more by wandering among its beautiful streets. However the city also gas a feeling of decay with some of the buildings but particularly the streets not in the best state of repair Nevertheless it is a small and attractive place to be.

The people on a whole were very welcoming, kind and friendly although there were a few irritating youths, their behaviour was not tolerated by others.
I was invited by one man into I guess his family shop and was shown how lavash is baked. I soon departed with a generous servings of lavash 🙂 This kindness is typical of Armenians and is what makes the country so welcoming.
Everywhere in Goris I met kind and welcoming people.

Walking the town and up on the hills around is a delight. There are dogs possibly stray, which don’t seem too friendly but in any case without leads along the route. I found the time honoured advice of picking up stones (as if to throw) clearly understood by an approaching barking dog I encountered who moved away to bark from a safer distance.
There is not much to do at night in Goris, the town shuts down at dusk but you may be tired from all that walking anyway.
In Goris I stayed at what is recognised to be the best hotel in Goris. The owner I believe is Iranian-Armenian and she is very friendly indeed.
If booking any taxis anywhere I recommend it be done through her than by oneself or other staff.
The hotel’s food is outstanding. Upon the recommendation of the Lonely Planet I tried a dish apricot pilaf rice. A speciality here, but every dish I tried was tasty and the hotel is not just the best place to sleep it may also be the best place to eat to.

From Goris, I took a taxi to Tatev. My taxi driver was not of the honest kind but this aside my trip to Tatev was wonderful both in its journey and upon my arrival. Next to Khor Virap it was the next place I had most wanted to see. Like many Armenian monastery it was perched upon a high cliff, a very suitable place for monasteries. Tatev like Goris is close to the Karabagh border and thus has military checkpoints. Not far from the Iranian border you will pass Iranian truck drivers Whilst it was sunny and bright much of the scenery outside on the journey was covered with snow.

As for the Monastery itself it may have origins in the 9th century but many of the buildings are from over centuries. In short it is a beautiful monastery, don’t miss it.

For next day in Goris I walked to the nearby village of Verisheen which contains the ancient St Ripsme church. I could not find any information on the church other than it is ancient and its presence in the village I set off on foot for Goris, when in the town I came across yet another Kind Armenian who drove me to by the church and his son accompanied me up to the church. It is surrounded by caves where many people used to live in the not top distant past.
It is possible to explore these caves, there are many more in the hills around Goris though.
The view from the church was lovely and after a short rest I made my journey back down the hill and walked back to Goris wandering into a few local shops along the way.