Day 40 (1): World Heritage Listed Monasteries
Alaverdi Travel Blog› entry 58 of 260 › view all entries
May 15th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
Originally my plan had been to leave Yerevan last night and spend the night in the Soviet-style city of Vanodzor. From there I wanted to visit the two World Heritage listed monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, before travelling to Tbilisi.
The Envoy hostel doesn't offer regular tours to these monasteries, but an exception was made for the three girls from London. I decided it would be much easier to tag along and then maybe take a marshrutka to Tbilisi after lunch or so.
While this option might have been adventurous than travelling to Vanadzor by myself, it sure was a lot easier.
In the end I even decided to join the full day tour and sleep one more night in the Envoy hostel and simply take an early marshrutka tomorrow morning. If I'd take the earliest one at 8, I would be in Tbilisi around midday, so that would give me plenty of time to explore the city.
Apart from the four of us, Antonino also joined us on the tour as did two French guys and an elderly American lady who was staying a few days in Yerevan after she'd chaperoned a group of Armenian exchange students on their return to Yerevan after a year in the States. Gevorg's brother had also joined us, he was about to head off to serve in the Armenian army and had never been to these monasteries, so this was his going away present.
The reason why this tour isn't in the standard offering of Envoy tours is because it involves a lot of driving. And I knew exactly how much, since I'd come this route from Tbilisi last week. It was a good three hours drive north to the Debed canyon.
A few kilometres out of Yerevan we stopped at a monument of the Armenian alphabet. The Armenians are jolly proud of their alphabet and sculptures of all 36 letters have been place in a grassy field. We weren't the only ones to have a look here, as some local artist had decided to shoot the video for his new single here. No idea who he was, but judging from the reactions of the other (local) day-trippers he is quite the celebrity.
We drove on to the town of Alaverdi, which lies at the top of the Debed canyon.
The 10th century Haghpat monastery was the first we visited and I have to admit that monastery fatigue was beginning to set in a little. It was a very impressive building, don't get me wrong, but I couldn't see why this one would be on the World Heritage list and so many others weren't.
Apparently it has to do with the way the monasteries have been preserved/restored/reconstructed. For inclusion on the World Heritage list a building must be at least 60% original, and should be restored/rebuilt using only techniques available at the time.
The Sanahin monastery was constructed around the same time as Haghpat, but completed a few months earlier. The name Sanahin translates as “older than that one”. Unlike Haghpat, Sanahin is still occasionally used as a place of worship.
We had a lovely barbecue lunch in Alaverdi town, under the smoke of the nearby copper mine which employs most of the Alaverdi population.
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