After leaving Yerevan, we drove east to visit two famous sights in Armenia: Garni and Geghard. Garni is actually a temple, Geghard of course a monastery again. The road took us higher into the mountains and when we had left the foggy city behind, suddenly we saw it: the famous Armenian mountain which actually lies in Turkey now, Mount Ararat with 5165 metres. It really is an impressive mountain, no wonder Noah’s Arch had to land here after the flood.
The Temple of Garni is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. Built on a cliff in the village of Garni, it is an impressive building of pre-Christian Armenia.
The temple was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. It collapsed in 1679 during an earthquake and was reconstructed from 1969 until 1975. Luckily most of the parts were left there on a pile for 300 years. It is actually one of the most complete temple we have seen so far.
Apart from the temple also the valley with cliffs of columnar basalt are fascinating. Next to the parking a path leads into the valley. The further we went, the more fascinating it became. When we had climbed up again, we were hot and thirsty and dragged ourselves into the first restaurant, where we got a delicious lunch with great views.
From Garni the road leads further into the mountains until it ends in front of the Geghard Monastery. Special about this monastery is, that it has been partially carved out of the mountains which surround it with towering cliffs. While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave, which is still there and people like to drink from it.
Over an external staircase we reached another room in the form of a gavit. It was finished in 1288 and contains a couple of tombs. It was fascinating, that a room like that was carved into the rock instead of built like all the others we had seen up to now. The acoustics were extraordinary, a magic place to sing.
After this interesting day, we were on our way to Khor Virap, a monastery close to the Ararat, which we hoped to see again, if the weather cooperates. More on our next post.