O.K., so we didn’t really discover Noah’s Ark; and we technically aren’t evangelists but we DID go to Mt. Ararat today. We actually visited two different monasteries, one at the base of Ararat.
I must say that today was the first day I wondered if I’d make it out of Armenia alive. As we headed south out of Yerevan we got into a traffic jam at a round-about that had me convinced that I would either die there or live there for the rest of my life. Armenians don’t like to give up their spot. We did eventually get through the traffic though and the rest of the drive was spectacular. The mountains reminded me of the Colorado Rockies and at one point we were in a gorge with huge vertical walls of rock on both sides. The falling rock warnings took on new meaning when we saw a boulder the size of the average house lying next to the road creating a bridge – useful only for giants - over the mountain stream.
Our first stop was at a monastery called Noravank. I bought a little book to bring home so I could read all about its history and tell you about it, but when I went to read it tonight I realized it’s all written in Italian. That’s helpful! At least there are some pretty pictures inside. But, I can tell you that this monastery was built in 900 A.D. out of stone that was imported from another region. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to get that stone through the gorge and up the mountain in the middle of nowhere. The chapel of the monastery had steps outside of it which provided the only way up to the sanctuary. We asked about the elevator but apparently they didn’t build elevators in 900 A.D. The steps were about 14” wide and quite steep. Only one of our team members, Marie, braved the climb and said it was beautiful inside. That’s nice. I’m not generally afraid of heights, and I actually came very close to climbing the steps, but then my brain kicked into gear; that, and the fact that I could hear both my mother’s and my husband’s voice saying “don’t even think about it, Nancy.”
We also went into a mausoleum where the former kings of Armenia are buried. I always feel bad in a mausoleum because there is no way to walk around without stepping on someone’s grave. I feel like I need to continually apologize to the dead for stepping on their final resting place. But, the acoustics in that place were second to none so three of us stood and sang the doxology, in harmony. Wow, if we could always sound that good, we’d probably be famous. Too bad we can’t carry that mausoleum around with us.
Our next stop was Khor Virap which is very near the base of Mt. Ararat. The story goes that this is where St. Gregory the Illuminator was thrown in the dungeon for 13 years amongst poisonous reptiles. Every day a widow brought him bread on which he sustained life. One day, the king of Armenia was on his death bed and St. Gregory was summoned to pray for him. After Gregory prayed, the king was healed and then declared Armenia a Christian nation.
Our time here ended with dinner at an Italian restaurant. I know when a lot of people travel to foreign countries they only want to eat food from that country. I’m not one of those people and thoroughly enjoyed my spaghetti tonight.
Tomorrow we fly to Paris, where sadly we have a 20 hour layover before our flight home. Rats, we’ll have to go do a little sightseeing there. Please note my dripping sarcasm. I most likely won’t have internet access while in Paris so this will end my posts until my feet hit the American soil I know and love.