On Armenian hospitality (a lot) and Kloster Geghard (a bit)
Русская версия The best base to see Armenia is Yerevan – it is in the center of the country, with all main roads meeting here. That is what we did: stopped at Yerevan, and travelled around (e.g. to Tatev for two days). This day we departed to see a famous couple of temples: Garni and Geghard, 4 kms far from each other. We started the day with the breakfast in Kavkaz restaurant (82 Hanrapetutyan St): we really liked it the day before, and the breakfast was also great. Finally, its prices do not correspond to the loud title of a restaurant, it is too cheap. From Kavkaz restaurant we reached Massiv-Shuka bazaar by marshrutka nr. 73, and then by marshrutka nr. 284 for 50 mins and 300 drams (“A discount because of so many tourists, usually it costs 500 drams,” a driver explained) straight to Geghard. It is easier to get there first, and to Garni later. The full name of Geghard (40.140393,44.817984 Kotayk, free) — Geghardavank, or the “monastery of spear”. The name is related to the legend, according to which apostle Thaddeus brought here the Holy Spear that had pierced the body of Jesus as he had hung on the cross. Now the spear is kept in Echmiadzin museum in Vagharshapat.
The monastery is interesting not only due to the legends about this and other relics, but also because part of it is cut in the rocks. It is generally a very complicated ensemble, consisting of the chambers, often rock-cut, surrounded with walls.
We spent about half an hour for sightseeing here, and then decided to go to the neighboring Garni. Since there are only 4 kms between them, we were not in a hurry, and were considering walking. While we were still thinking of it and eating cherries from the tree meanwhile, a car stopped.
A couple from the car offered us a ride to Garni, and, of course, we agreed. And then the story, characterizing Armenians (we always retell when asked about Armenian people) happened. Just to remind, there were only 4 kms to cover – less than 10 minutes of a ride. After less than 5 minutes, Gamo and Gayane trusted us so much that they succeeded to invite us for shashlyk (grilled meat) with their family. It started with our innocent question of where to eat good shashlyk in Yerevan. They looked at each other, turned to us, and offered: “We will make it for you!” After several phone calls they got together all the members of their big family, went shopping (and did not let us buy anything!). In an hour we were in Arzni, a former Soviet sanatorium now equipped with private stone pavilions along the river.
These are absolutely wonderful people from grandma to kids, very respectful, curious, and interesting. It was so pleasant to observe, how close the members of family are to each other (brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, nephews, grandmothers and grandkids), unfortunately, we (at least the society around us) luck that.
But soon we had to say good bye to our new friends. The Armenian hospitality is inexhaustible: they also tried to invite us to their house, and give some food. Gamo gave us a ride to the metro, and we walked around the city a bit. There were a lot of people in the center, but we were deep in the thoughts about this great day and amazing people.
The next day we went to the famous Sevan lake, Dilizhan city, and Molocan (Russian Christian “sect”) village.