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Drozaget - Sanahin - Haghpat - Tbilisi

It's that ABC feeling.... (another bloody church!)

semi-overcast 29 °C
View In Search of the Golden Fleece - Armenia and Georgia 2012 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Appropriately, Artijom was playing the song “Georgia on my mind” when we got in the car this morning.
The road followed the river down through the stunning Debet gorge, clinging to the hillside with a sheer drop one side. I have re-named Artijom our 'one armed bandit' because he just uses one hand when driving, usually the left hand at two o'clock on the steering wheel, and my heart misses a beat every time he lets go of the steering wheel to move his hand across as we are hurtling towards a hairpin bend at 80 km/hr.

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Sanahin Monastery

The 10th century structure was probably covered with frescoes inside at one point, though none remain now.
Several grave stones of important noblemen, clergymen and priests can be found in the floor of the church, it was believed that – unlike many places were stepping on top of graves is considered a sacrilege - the more people stepped on their graves, the more their sins will be forgiven.

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Haghpat

ABC. “Another bloody church”. I'm sorry, but the various styles of medieval religious architecture is becoming a little lost on me, and the names of the saints, sinners (or maybe not after we stepped on their graves), kings, priests and architects are dancing around in my brain to different tunes. By the time we visited the last vestibule, it was just another huge, grey stone building..... I'm sorry Jenna.....

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Construction of the main church of the large fortified monastic complex, dedicated to the Holy Cross was completed in 991 and there is a fresco here, although that is of a much later origin (13th century).

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Sanahin and Haghpat were important centres of learning, housing some 500 monks, and bear eloquent testimony to the highest achievement of Armenian architecture. They are both UNESCO Heritage sites and are being lovingly restored as we speak.

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Lunch

Another enjoyable BBQ lunch in a local restaurant (this area is known for its excellent grilled meats), followed by some heavy debates covering areas such as the history of the Jews, the place of the British Royal family in modern society, American politics, the Knights Templar and the afterlife.

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An hour's drive took us to the border with Georgia, where it was time to say goodbye to Jenna and Artijom and take the long, lonely walk across the bridge to the Georgian side. Funnily enough the Armenian side was quite run down, dirty and tatty, whereas the Georgian side was modern, clean and very welcoming.

A new driver, a new guide and a new car. All three are very different: Jenna was 55 going on 75, whereas Salomeh is 24, very petite and pretty; and the driver, whose name I am still not quite sure of, is somewhat rotund and homely, unlike Artijom with his lean physique and cute looks. David's turn for the eye candy.

It seems that one-handed driving and last minute swerving is the driving style around all these parts, but at least this car is very much more modern and comfortable. It even has airconditioning.

The approach to Tbilisi consisted of narrow country lanes with more cows than cars for the first few miles; then wide, fast avenues with huge, grey Soviet housing blocks either side.

Our hotel, the ZP (named after the initials of the local sports star owner) is on a hill within the old city, in the middle of a large area of reconstruction work. We have a large balcony overlooking the old town – it would be awesome but for the dust from the building works and 29C we are currently having.

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Posted by Grete Howard 07:29 Archived in Georgia

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