More monasteries, praying for Burberry and enjoying the local food and wine
19.09.2012 - 19.09.2012
View In search of the Golden Fleece on Grete Howard's travel map.
Set in a beautiful wooded valley, Haghartsin Monastery dates from the 12th and 13th century, with various buildings added at different times. Most ancient Armenian Monasteries are sparsely decorated inside, and this one is no exception, although there were some intricate carvings outside the church. Tastefully restored, it was incredibly peaceful with just the four of us there.
At the back of the cathedral is a 500 year old oak tree, with the centre of the trunk hollowed out. The name Haghartsin means “game of eagle” after an eagle was seen flying round and round over the monastery when it was being built, which was believed to be a sign from heaven.
On a small hill near the monastery is another prayer-bush – it seems this year's fashion for prayer ties is Burberry, or of course stocking. They have to be skin coloured though.
The forests around this area are famous for white truffle, apparently Italians come here with sniffer dogs to seek them out (not the usual pigs as they tend to eat too many of the expensive fungi). Most of the truffles end up in restaurants in France or the UK. At 400-500 Euro a kilo, I suppose it is quite a lucrative business.
Half way down the hill, a huge truck had stopped, smack bang in the middle of the road, and the driver was at the side of the road, drinking from a spring. Apparently the water here is known to be very good for you, although not good for the traffic jams.
We weren't so lucky at Goshavank Monastery, with three large bus loads there when we arrived. It was the noise that first struck me! What a racket! Fortunately they were all just about leaving (with time for shopping – thank goodness we are on a private tour so we don't have to wait for others to shop!)
The impressive monastery which has remained in relatively good condition also houses one of the world's finest examples of a khachkar – a carved cross stone.
We got somewhat lost from Goshavank on the way back to Dilijan. Artijom was looking out for signs showing which way to drive, but the only ones we could see were for various PECTAPAH – the Russian for restaurant. Eventually, we stopped and asked someone, and it turned out we'd been driving in the complete opposite direction, heading for Georgia.
Lunch was in a very nice private home complete with a vegetable garden, orchard, chickens and ducks. Lunch was of course chicken, amongst lots of other things. They have certainly fed us well on this trip. We had three different salads, some very tasty deep fried cabbage, aubergine with nuts, stuffed potato, stuffed peppers with rice and cake. And plenty of home made wine and vodka.
Just an hour's drive took us to Dzoraget for our night stop. A very classy looking hotel on the banks of the river.