Beauty, wonder and thrill
I drove from Khor Virap Monastery East towards Chiva on a late afternoon in July. As usual in this season, Ararat was only faintly visible behind the monastery, seemingly suspended over the blurry horizon.
The highway goes straight and flat until it bumps into the Iranian border. Then I drove North and Northeast, rising through the mountain range on the meandering road. Ararat still majestically present guarded by back, until eventually it was out of sight. The sky changed colors every second, the air was soft, and surprising new views came to me after each turn. I had to stop every now and then to look, to take in all that wonder…
As I approached Chiva, it was almost dark already, and I found a full and fresh rising moon was welcoming me besides Varuj and Heghine, my yet unacquainted hosts.
I enjoyed very much traveling in Vayots Dzor, the region Southeast of Yerevan. Noravank B&B was one of the best family places I stayed in during my month-long visit in Armenia. The house is clean, comfortable and tidy. I indulged in a king-size mattress bed, which you learn to be invaluable once you have slept over and over on a pile of irregular mats, which is the traditional bed system in Armenia, inherited from Soviet times. Plus, my hosts were very nice and helpful. They cooked great homemade meals with produce from their garden, they tended my (terrible) rented car several times (Varuj used to work as a driver, and had good eyes and hands for mechanics) and prevented my friend from getting into serious problems with his motorbike. I was also lucky to get a cooking lesson! I was curious on the preparation of lavash (the typical unleavened bread), so they offered to make a demonstration and let me try. They were very eager to please me and help in every possible way. They even called when I was late coming home, checking if everything was ok. I had two short stays there, but I felt almost like part of the family.
Another magical drive was up to Spitakavor. It is only 8 km from Gladzor, but it took us over an hour to complete that distance on the motorbike. The road is very steep, narrow and spoiled. Walking up would be the safest. Or you would need a 4x4 car and a daring driver! The monastery is very special too.
Gndevank, on the way to Jermuk, was another of my favorite visits. It’s a Xth century fortress with a church, and there are several chambers with carvings, as well as carved tombstones on the yard. I didn’t reach Jermuk, but I heard it is very nice. It is a vacation resort for the local people, and there is a small waterfall.
The Tanahati Monastery with Surp Stepanos church are reached through a beautifully framed road in the mountains (from where I saw, for the first time in my journey, a clear and sharp view of Mount Ararat far behind; I was so excited!). The church is small and all black, and has beautiful carvings, both on the stone walls and on the wooden doors.
I keep the most cherished memories from the travels in this region: because of the stunning and inspiring landscapes, the beautiful churches and the nice people I met. Thank you all!