Todays plan was to visit four more monastries in the Debed Canyon. We are staying near the UNESCO listed Haghpat monastery which was built between 967 and 991, although the bell tower was added in the 13th century. We have visited this monastery about three times now, when the tour buses have departed.
The first monastery today was Odzun. It sits on a grassy green meadow above the canyon in the town of Odzun. The church was built in the 6th century, but has obviously had a fair bit of restoration done and is still a working church. We met a British couple now living in Israel, who were up for a bit of a chat until they assumed Claire was American 🙂 They would have talked for hours, so we did eventually shuffle on to get back to the car.
Todays second stop was Kobayr monastery. It was also the one requiring the most fitness to get to as we had a climb of 150m from the road just to reach it. Unfortunately, it was also in a very damaged state but did have some frescoes on the still standing wall. A makeshift roof was above them to keep most of the weather out and signs of reconstruction were around with workers working on another building. hopefully one day it will be restored and have a funicular!
Our next stop was off to Haghpat’s UNESCO competitor Sanahin. They are visible from each other along the valley and were very much competitive with each other. Sanahin was founded in 966, just before Haghpat also and the name translates to “this is much older than that one”. Sanahin was also set up for tourists with all sorts of souvenir vendors. Its a much larger site like Haghpat and has many buildings. Quite a few were open to explore and the site also had a lot of mature trees.
We then visited “Restaurant Flora” for lunch, which appeared to cater for large groups but also handled Claire and I perfectly well. They had set menus that were small feasts. Still, we managed to devour as much food as we could so we could tackle our last site of the day.
Akhtala was a fortified church with the fortifications built around the 10th Century. As much as I like a fortified church, this one was still being used and its interior was covered with frescoes in reasonable condition. Many have been damaged, but many are easily visible like the disciples behind the altar. We had the place to ourselves for a minute or two and even as a nonreligious person its hard to not be in awe of the history contained in the building.
We returned to our hotel to afternoon mint tea. Then the war of the souvenir sellers broke out. It appears a few of them are not happy about other sellers stealing their customers. The fact that one lady didn’t really have that much to offer except for some tea towels and a snack pack of nuts combined with a fairly aggressive sales pitch might have been why she wasn’t making any sales. The tour buses finally stopped coming and people packed up for the day.
The Hagpat hotel is fully booked out tonight. A small tour of 6 french people and the guide and driver have the other 4 rooms. No wonder the lady that runs this place can give out free water to guests, she has a good business and hotel running here. She has been really nice and very helpful, which in my opinion is what sets a good hotel or guesthouse apart from an average one.
We also head to the capital Yerevan tomorrow. I suspect our run of 4 hotels with good views is going to come to an end.