Anyway, we went to Haghartsin monastery, built in the 13th century, situated on a mountain side as are most of these places, but this area is forested and is simply a fantastic place to be in the autumn especially. I must have been there at least a dozen times in the last seven years and I have never been tired of the place. Each time I go in fact it is as if I have been there for the first time.
When you approach the complex on the left is a large hall, which must have served as a meeting and dining area for the monks several centuries ago, before the Arabs made their way up there somehow and sacked the place. The monastery has been restored several times and is going through yet another facelift, this time to repair the domed steeples of the church which were covered by copper cones during the Soviet years. On the dining hall itself there are two small domes on the roof which serve as skylights for the building’s interior. The roof was trampled on by about a dozen construction workers who were attacking the centuries’ old stones with picks and even jackhammers. According to the caretaker of the monastery they were repairing the roof, but they seemed to have been doing a rather sloppy job. I saw quite a few relief stones from the façade on the ground which were smashed. Hovik made the point that there should have been an archeologist or historian on site to supervise the work, but in Armenia that initiative may be too logical to fathom. Repairs are being done to the three churches there as well as scaffolding has been erected around all of them, but what kind of restorative work will be done is not exactly clear. In any case I am sure the place will look wonderful when they are finished, although it always left a sublime impression on me. Haghartsin is by far my most favorite monastery in Armenia.
I suggested we go to Goshavank which is about a dozen or so kilometers up the road in the direction towards Ijevan. It was my third trip to the monastery, also erected in the 13th century, within the last 12 months. That site is also amazing, again surrounded by forested hills and is located in an actual village called Gosh. There is also a captivating walnut tree which has been standing for several hundred years. If memory serves there are four churches on site as well as a hall which I believe was used as an archives repository. I remember hearing from the elderly woman who is essentially the storyteller of the place that the archives were of course burned by either the Turks or the Arabs at one point.
On the opposite hilltop is a small chapel which is a bit hard to get to since the path is oozing with mud. There was also a considerably tall fruit tree in the rear garden which was in bloom being caressed by bees.
Photos Copyright © Christian Garbis 2008