Photographs with Commentary by Debra Jan Bibel

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The destination today is the Garni Canyon and the Cave Monastery of Geghard (Ayrivank). What was hoped to be a moment of bliss in a special site was thwarted by church doctrine. In the evening is a surprise concert by an Armenian orchestra.

Another day in the mountains. More terrain. Garni Gorge. The entrance wall. This is different! The classical Greco-Roman temple is [probably] to the Sun God Mihr and built around the first century BCE. But it is a reconstruction, the original destroyed by the 1679 earthquake. Temple of Garni is the only survival example of this architecture in Armenia. Said to be preserved in Christian period because it might have been a tomb rather than a temple.

In the 7th century, a church was built adjacent to the temple. This curved foundation indicates the apse.

More church foundation. Raised platform. Another view of the canyon. Just outside the gate to the complex is a short business street with this shop. Mingrelian khachapuri cheese-bread, double cheese (on top as well as within). Let's eat!  However, the story is the making of lavash, the soft flat bread of Armenia, used often as a tortilla. Spin flattening.
We are then offered the lavash to taste, fresh and warm. Delightful.
Sizing and shaping. Placing the insulated cushion and flour into the oven. Removing he cushion, the flour sticks to the hot wall. Remove when baked sufficiently. Set to cool.


New cross-stone.

Another example. Musicians welcome visitors: two duduks, one typically the harmonic drone, and drummer. Elaborate carving. The entrance gateway to the Cave Monastery.
A hermitage cell carved into the mountain (right) and some cross-stones (left).
Interesting strata. Outer section of the church. Three women from a choir; colorful gown. Close-up of entrance.. The side entrance. Vault junction
Column decoration.  Skylight vent. Quality of walls and arches are different because they were carved out of rock. Carved wall niches. Architectural details. Carved out skylight.
... until the priest enters to demand that he stop. Although tourists speak loudly and a choir might sing, musical instruments are forbidden. This policy is church tradition rather than Biblical, proclaimed to differentiate the church from Pagan practices and with fear that instruments are too sensually powerful. Certain other orthodox communities allow percussive instruments to help keep tempo in chants.

In an interior chamber, a spring delivers water.
In the dimly li9t chamber a carved cross. A minute of bliss. Norik plays the duduk against the sound of babbling water inside the chamber......  

The folly of dogma that keeps the spirit tethered.

Two lions [God/Jesus] and a dove [Holy Spirit]. Ornate carved cross.
Various carved decorations. Modern stone cross with cut out curves. Writing on the wall: church graffiti are crosses. A reflective metal cross affixed to mountainside. Doves, grape vines, and pomegranates. Lion attacking cow?

Yet another chamber, with carved crosses in niches.
A touch of color on the ceiling. Rustic animal symbol: we have come to a restaurant with a view. Conferring with the priest. Looking down the canyon. A pleasing place to dine.
Departing. Back in Yerevan, we continual to see images and hear the songs and even on TV documentaries and movies in honor of Charles Aznavour, Armenian-French, who died October 1st.  This screen is in our hotel. Kinetic billboards in the street shows a series of images of Aznavour. A second image. The commemoration continued for the week, everywhere, including airport restrooms. A reminder of home, a flower stand on the sidewalk. The flag of Armenia. Stripes of red, [blood],  blue [sky], and light orange/apricot [courage] or, officially, survival and faith; will under peaceful skies; and talent and hard work.
In early evening we are entertained by a performance of the orchestra of the Naregatsi Art Institute. The orchestra may have some Western instruments, as cello, viola, bass, and drum kit, but it is otherwise traditional, with shiv, duduk, blui, qanun, tar, santur, kamamche, oud, and dhol drum. Concert was video recorded [DVD collection]. They sold a current CD, which I purchased, of course. Logo. Return to Index