More Armenia – Three Monasteries

Continuing around the north of Armenia, we travel the Debed Canyon to Alaverdi.

Debed River from above

Seen throughout Armenia are these carved stone crosses called khachkars.

We call them ‘cash-cows’ as a mnemonic device

We park Cardashian below and hike up a steep path to the ruins of the Kobayr Monastery.

‘I always wanted to be a Gregorian monk. But I never got the chants.’

The interior still has visible frescos.

According to Wikipedia: ‘The monastery is currently undergoing renovation funded by the government of Armenia with the assistance of the government of Italy.’

We can assure you, there isn’t much in the way of restoration going on.

Just two guys carrying tools around and sawing a plank every now and then. By the time they’re done, we’ll be in the new Dark Ages.

Must be a saint. He’s got a halo.

Maria takes a rest in the bell tower.

No bats in this belfry

This is a common sight in Armenia – a raised concrete platform beside the road for convenient DIY oil changes. Just drive up the ramp, drain out the old onto the ground, replace with new oil, and drive away. Not exactly good for the environment, but what the hey.

Mr. Lube

In better shape is the Haghpat Monastery.

Haghpat – exterior

Unlike Georgia and Azerbaijan, a lot of the sights in Armenia have free admission.

Haghpat – interior

Even though it’s a UNESCO-listed heritage site, there are few signposts showing the way. The story is the same with the nearby Sanahin Monastery.

Sanahin – exterior

We manage to find them in the end.

Sanahin – interior

One of the reasons many of these monasteries are still standing is that they are built so solidly of massive blocks, it would take high explosives to demolish them completely.

In the village are houses that typify the character of these Caucasus countries. There is very much a Balkan/Ottoman/Asiatic influence, especially in rural areas. Ramshackle brick construction, squat toilets, roaming farm animals. Being under the Russian jackboot for several centuries is also a hindrance to modernity, you could say.

Sight or Insight of the Day

We’re fascinated by the number of abandoned Soviet-era factories we see here.

All three Caucasus countries have some, but Armenia seems to have more than its share. Some of these places are enormous.

Alaverdi copper smelter

We wonder what was produced in these now-desolate spaces that once hummed with human activity.

Given more time, we’d be interested in infiltrating one to have a look around. Spooky stuff.