Haghpat, Sanahin and Khor Virap
My second trip to Armenia was as interesting as the first just a bit less dramatic the loss of my mobile aside. A handy piece of advice don’t hire a phone from Hyur service if you lose the antiquated phone , they will charge you extortionate prices. instead buy a pay as you go sim.
In my previous trip I had visited many places in my brief trip before at least those that I considered highlights.
I booked an apartment through Hyur service and decided to try one of its guided tours, rarely for a independent traveller such as myself. As I had no plan that day until evening I decided on a tour of Haghpat and Sanahin.
The tour was on a minibus with a tour guide who spoke English. It included a trip to the obligatory restaurant but also some freedom when at the sites. More importunately the people on the tour were friendly. One of them Lady from the Dominican Republic.
Haghpat is a monastery from the 10th century and along with Sanahin close to the Georgian border.
Unfortunately the weather was not as welcoming and we visited the monasteries with frequent rain. Both monasteries have kind of merged in my mind. As result of not taking notes. I will have to make another visit hopefully with more welcoming weather.
I then made an independent visit to Khor Virap.
Finding the correct bus was a minor challenge but accomplished.
The bus itself was perhaps a Soviet relic but it would not have looked out of date in ancient times. The doors at the back seemed held together by taped (and didn’t open anyway – not that I tried it looked like it could so easily fall apart). The seats at the back where they existed were tattered. The bus was a battered and dusty wreck that should have died a death in the last century. Not all buses in Armenia are like this, others I used were far better. Anyway the bus had one saving grace, it was extremely cheap. So onto the bus I went
The driver could not speak English but he knew where I and another foreign passenger who had got on where we should go. He pointed that we should follow a long road in the countryside up. And so I walked that road I became acquainted with the other passenger whose name was Daisuki. A Japanese man travelling around the world, he had previously been to Iran and now was going through Armenia. A route I would like to take in future perhaps in reverse. We walked along the way to Khor Virap.
Khor Virap has an imposing presence. The Monastery perched high on a hill with Mt Arafat in the background. Mt Ararat is where the Bible mentions that Noah’s Ark landed.
And there are few better places to have a monastery than one where you can see the significant mountain as the backdrop.
This is the place I had most wanted to visit in Armenia, last time I had thought I did not have the time. I was glad to have made it in nice weather.
The Monastery itself is also significant for the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church for it was where that Tiridates III imprisoned St Gregory and it was from here where he released St Gregory and Armenia adopted Christianity.
It is possible to visit the very cave that St Gregory was imprisoned. it is not for the claustrophobic and it requires vertical descent down a narrow cave and firm footing is an absolute must. I wasn’t going to miss such an opportunity and took it. In the cave there is an icon of the Saint. It is a place where one can imagine what 13 years of solitary confinement were like, enough to turn a normal person mad.
However on one hand had appreciating this becomes difficult as the place soon filled up with many tourists and I had to stay longer to have the place relatively to myself.
In the caves I met some Syrian Armenians, they were very welcoming and kind as I was to appreciate later.
After leaving Khor Virap, not because I tired as I could have stayed longer but in order to see other places I wandered to the road to try and find the bus back.
It would have been a long wait in very hot weather but for the Syrians I met again.
Driving in a bus they offered me a lift to Yerevan, the trip to Yerevan became an invite to
Yerablur a graveyard of those Armenians from around the world who died fighting in Karabakh.
From there we visited the city of Yerevan. I was invited to continue my journey to them but they had helped me enough and so I decided to part.