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On the Silk Road: from Yerevan to Goris

Tatev Monastery

Tatev Monastery

Still mesmerised by the beauty of the Armenian countryside and a bit sad that I had been allowed only a quick look at the brilliant Geghard Monastery (that’s what happens when one arrives after an attraction’s closing time), I woke up to a gloomy and cold Yerevan.

Following a delicious breakfast and the efforts of our hostel receptionists (turned friends), my boyfriend and I found ourselves in a shared taxi, direction Goris, in southern Armenia, close to the border with Iran. It took us one hour and a half (!) to exit Yerevan, after picking up all our travel companions, and – although off to an early start –, I began to feel my optimism dissipate and our plans for the day (heading to Tatev Monastery) looked all the more uncertain.

Additionally to the time we’d already lost, there was another break for gas and a bumpy and damaged road followed, with showers and sun and then again showers… and with a sneaky feeling that we’d not make it in time curling into my heart. I was starting to curse the intrepidness of my journey, because there wasn’t even possible to reach one attraction a day when I usually set at least three or four attractions/activities a day in other destinations.

The Zangezur Mountains

The Zangezur Mountains

However, I was about to get this thought out of my head, as one of the most incredible vistas was about to be revealed to my eyes. Endless orangeish heights that seemed covered in the dust of the Central Asian deserts. A true feel that I was actually leaving Europe behind and stepping onto another continent. A pace of life and a vividness of these colours I had never experienced before. I kept hanging onto the view outside the car window and onto the wish that it didn’t go away.

That early afternoon had more showers and sunrays in store for us. More breaks that we used to our advantage to buy amazing Areni grapes and sample some more delicious Armenian produce. The landforms were starting to change, but the charm of the Armenian wilderness did not fade. Not a bit. One of our stops allowed me to catch a glimpse of a sign that read ‘The Silk Road’. What a thrill that was! Being a history buff, I imagined the way in which people travelled two or three millennia ago, I thought of the important characters in the history of humankind that had stepped on the same road I was and it was a thought as intoxicating as it was empowering.

I had almost forgotten about going to Tatev, about getting there, about returning from there and reaching our accommodation in Yeghegnadzor for the night. And then, there it was – Goris, perfectly terraced, yet covered in the same magical dust of Central Asia. As nobody in the car would speak English, we resorted to signs and learned that ‘chopanughu’ was the equivalent of ‘cable car’ in Armenian. The cable car that would take us to Tatev Monastery and back, on the longest cable car route in the world.

But that is a different story, because I’m sticking to the memory of the Silk Road in that incredible October light. I dream about it and I sometimes even daydream about it. But I am sure that its lingering was not only caused by the attraction of a legendary past but also by the force and beauty of the simple shapes in nature, which bewilder my senses and always make me want and go back for more.

More by this author – including translation services – on her website, blog or facebook page.

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