Sunday, November 11, 2007
This is a very, very overdue posting from Kelly's trip. She made a huge effort to come to Armenia on our birthdays - mine being the big 4-0 (as she likes to point out, she is younger). We had a fabulous time, but her words describing her trip are great. I have edited an email only to make sense for the blog and added a few comments:
I do have to start way back in Armenia, and tell you that it was a great and yet very funky experience. The thing is, I thought that I knew "travel." I thought I knew HOW to travel, at least. But Armenia was like nothing I had ever experienced before ... this was not any kind of sissy travel like, "Where is my next latte coming from today?" Oh no ... this was: (1) your taxi may be able to get you all the way to your destination, or it might not; (2) you need to hold your breath if your taxi drives past one of the many big trucks giving off black smoke, because all the windows are open since there is no air conditioning, (3) many, many remote and yet very beautiful churches; (4) long stretches of road lined with fruit-stands where they sell what I like to call big-ass fruit rollups; (5) and my good friend Lori who sallied forth and helped me navigate everything like it was Old Hat to her. (Thank God.)
One of my favorite days was when we went to a big monastery (Khor Virap) by Mount
Ararat, which was BEAUTIFUL. We climbed down a ladder in a dark narrow hole in the ground, and fifty feet later, we emerged in what was apparently a prison hole complete with snakes for some king or other famous person that apparently crossed the wrong person and got thrown down into the pit for 13 years. Fortunately, all the snakes were gone, but the ladder itself (into a dark narrow opening that just went down and down) was pretty scary ... a lawsuit waiting to happen. (Lori edit: Khor Virap is where King Trdat imprisoned St. Grigory the Illuminator. Bad karma apparently affected the king who later went mad. After 13 years in a dungeon with snakes and no light, St. Grigory was summoned to return the king to reason. The King then converted himself and Armenia to Christianity.)
We continued on to a beautiful church on the top of a hill--one that you see in my pics, with the funky steps on the outside--but at this point, our old Soviet Lada taxi cab, which had chugged like a lawnmower over the mountains at a top speed of 20 miles an hour, failed to make the hill. So, with five people in the car, the driver kept rolling back to the corner of the last switchback (right by a long big drop over the hill, as we were pretty high by then), and then charging up the hill in the manner of the little train saying, "I think I can, I think I can." We did this 5 times. Finally, we all had to bail out and walk up the rest of the hill, and the taxi driver went sailing blissfully by us, since he had lightened up the load enough for the engine.
Lori edit: Kelly really did make it to the top of Noravank, the 2 story church, with very treacherous and steep cantilevered steps. Here are the pictures.