It is said that October is the best time to visit Armenia and since it is the only time we have been here we have to agree. The temperature has been in the high 70’s or low 80’s and the sun has been out the majority of the time. It was especially nice on our sojourn to Garni and Geghard. All pagan temples and shrines in Armenia were destroyed in 301 AD after the adoption of Christianity. Miraculously Garni was not. The site at which the temple is built is on a rocky triangular cape, on the bank of the Azat River. Two sides are protected by a deep beautiful gorge and the third, a huge stone wall. It has been occupied, because of its ease of fortification, since 2,166 BC. The present Garni Temple was built in 77 A.D. The ancient Geghard Monastery is on up the river in a deep canyon. It was founded in 400 A.D. The present buildings were constructed during the 13th century.
The Garni Temple was so unusual here in Armenia, it was like being in Italy. The deep gorge it is built above is beautiful with a peaceful river running between green grass pastures, small vineyards and orchards. Before we came, Sarah and the two oldest kids, Anna & Will, and some families they had met from the international community, had camped down by this river. When we got to this site it was a sunny day with fall colors starting to show. With help from some US agency or foundation the monuments have interpretative signs in 4 languages. Trying to read the history of a place that is 2000 or 3000 is old is a task, then to try to convey it is impossible, so for you to understand some of what we have seen and experienced you will have to come to Armenia. We walked the grounds, looked down the gorge and wished we had been here to go camping with the family, walk up to the old Roman Baths and took pictures but as we were on our way out when we reanalyzed we had not yet looked inside the temple. As we walked up the steps four good-looking women in native dress came up from behind and invited us in where for the next fifteen minutes they entertained us with Armenian Songs, first spiritual then love songs. Their striking vocals resounding off the temple walls made our day. Arman, our driver, then drove us on up the valley to Geghard. The first name given to this place was Ayivand (cave monastery). Two of the three Chapels were carved into the rocks as well as many of the cells for the monks. To see the ornate stonework in some of the carved chapels and to realize how devoted these monks were to their God was inspirational. We are enjoying our time here by spending time living with our young family and their challenges and love for each other and then to experience a part of the world that we knew so little about two months ago.