Tatev – Carahunge – Noravank – Yerevan (Armenia)
Русская версия The next morning after a day of crazy hitch-hiking and visiting Khor Virap, we woke up in Tatev at around 8. Our host Gocha was already having a guest, local businessman, let’s call him Armen. Armen had been living in Moscow for many years, had done a successful career there, and then came back home to Armenia to develop tourist industry. His Moscow fellows were dissuading him from doing that: look, you have everything here, why would you need to go to this middle of nowhere? But Armen did not listen to them: no Moscow money can buy fresh air, tastiest food (not even in the most expensive Moscow restaurants, he said) and wonderful people. Now Armen deals with reconstructing Armenian historical monuments, building up and looking after cable road “Wings of Tatev”, and teaching locals how to provide touristic service. He was not very successful with the latter, complaining that Armenians are terrible businessmen since they are ready to give everything away for free. Since Gocha was one of his best “disciples”, we met at his place. Armen offered to show Tatev to us, and we happily agreed.
The show started with the cable road “Winds of Tatev” – the longest non-stop two-way cable road in the world. It was built by a Swiss company, well-experienced in constructing such things. They are still taking care of it service. By the way, Monday is a day off there – holy day of preventive service, and even knowing Armen who is directly related to this road did not let us get there. But we strongly recommend it to you! (10.00 – 19.00, except Monday, coordinates: 39.418951, 46.297004 and 39.381093, 46.249384 , round-trip ticket – 4000 drams, one-way 3000 drams). The price for those living in 7 neighbouring settlements is 500 drams. It used to be free, but then they had to establish a symbolic price since the locals kept going back and forth many times a day for entertainment.
Armen also showed famous Tatev Monastery to us (coordinates: 39.403611, 46.283333, free), telling a lot about what used to be there and the plans of reconstruction. He also complained about the widespread trouble with Armenian monuments and their reconstruction: it is often sponsored by rich people (often from Armenian diasporas abroad), knowing little about history or culture. They also dictate the condition in case they pay: that is how ancient monasteries get marble floor or plastic windows. Further constructions cost even more, since it includes the elimination of previous misdeeds.
And the following picture depicts the unique gavazan column. The architects succeeded in making precise calculations for compliance between gravity and size of this monument, which ensures its stable vertical position. At the same time, it is based on a hinge and can be thus moved. That is why it is often called “swinging column” or “animated crozier” (“gavazan”). There are two versions concerning its functions. First, the column as started to move during the earthquake, notifying the monks about the cataclysm. Second, it might have had a defensive function: shaking of the ground (due to approaching enemies) made the column move. According to the legend, it scared warriors who immediately ran away from the “devil column”. Gavazan is a miracle of engineering confirming its high status and development in Tatev.
We stopped a car at the main road in less than 10 minutes. As many times before (this is a peculiarity of Armenian hitch-hiking), the driver and his passengers suggested that we should turn from our planned route to see the ancient Armenian observatory – Carahunge – and we agreed (coordinates: 39.5507, 46.0286, free, 24/7). It was named by British scholars (by analogy with Stonehenge) who had recently come here for the research. Everyone calls it an observatory, though its function (the costructions are about 7,5 thousand years old) is still not clear. According to Wikipedia, these must be the burial place, or necropolis – the place functioning as a bridge between the sky and the ground for a soul’s travels between life, death, and rebirth.
Our new driver was very silent, but drove us till the turn to Noravank, even though it was not on his way. At the turn another Nissan immediately stopped.
Noravank monastery (free, donations encouraged, coordinates: 39.684061, 45.232872) was built at the edge of the gorge between red cliffs approximately in the XIII century. It used to be a large spiritual and cultural center of Armenia. A lot of well-known figures of Armenian history and culture are buried here.
But after some time a car heading to Yerevan with three guys stopped. They agreed to give us a ride. It took longer time: we had to go through Ararat, where they changed the car (the mountainous roads are better to ride by Niva one of them borrowed from his uncle). The guys turned out to be very interesting: one of them even was an Armenian champion in billiards. They also advised a great place to eat in Yerevan, perhaps, our favorite in the whole Caucasus, restaurant “Kavkaz”. (Ashtaraksky prospect, tel . +374 098 919 919, 24/7).
Next day we went to Garni and Gegard, but got to… Arzni.