Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Caucasus 2018


With a departure scheduled for 8:40am this morning, I found time to have a quick walk around Goris after breakfast and before we left.  Set in a large amphitheatre-like basin and surrounded by a ring of high mountains, Goris is quite a pretty city, although far less economically developed that the capital, Yerevan.  Unlike Yerevan, where the buildings are  mainly built from rose tuff, the prime building material in Goris is large river stones held together with concrete.  Goris therefore had a somewhat grey appearance (especially in the early light before the morning mists have lifted), although the greyness is relieved by plentiful green tree planting, and the buildings often feature attractive tall arches in their design.

The Hotel Goris, where we stayed last night, stands out like a sore thumb in the general architecture of Goris.  Built in Soviet 1960s brutalist style, the hotel is the city’s tallest building, and dominates its surrounds.  Interestingly, on a large banner in the hotel’s restaurant, the hotel markets itself as “Novotel & Ibis Style Goris”, despite having no relationship with Accor’s hotels; a more accurate description might be “Soviet Intourist Style Goris”.

Nonetheless, it was a very pleasant place to stay, and I had a great night’s sleep on an excellent mattress.  There was no air conditioning, but leaving a window open gave fresh air at a comfortable temperature.  The bathroom was clean and modern with plenty of hot water in the quite spectacular shower, and the wifi connection worked well provided you were on the 3rd floor of below (my room was on the 5th).  Interestingly, despite the problems of getting stable wifi in my room, I was able to get excellent wifi from the hotel up to two blocks away during my downtown morning walk.

The main reason we has travelled all the way to Goris and stayed there overnight was to visit the Tatev Monastery, described as “the jewel of mediaeval Armenian architecture”.  Getting to the monastery, which is situated on a precipitous rock outcrop at the edge of a deep canyon, was half the fun.  The journey was made via a cable car known as the “Wings of Tatev” which is (according to the Guinness Book of Records) the “world’s longest reversible aerial tramway” with a distance of 5,752 metres.

The cable car travelled high (very high!) above two arms of the canyon, and the views were spectacular – provided you were on the side of the cabin away from the sun.  Unfortunately, I was on the side facing the sun on the way to the monastery, and it was like looking into a mirror rather than getting much a view.  I managed to get on the opposite side for the return journey, and it was truly magnificent, indeed awe-inspiring.

The buildings in the monastery date from the 9th to 13th centuries.  We began our visit by visiting a building used by the monks as an oil press, and recent restoration work has resulted in an impressive interior display of the huge wooden and stone equipment used for squeezing the oil from various types of seeds.

We moved on to the main church in the complex, the Surb Poghos-Petros (Church of Saints Paul and Peter).  Being Sunday morning, a service was underway, and it was wonderful to observe the worship practices, some of which go back to the very beginnings of Christianity.  I could have stayed much longer in the service, but there was more to see in the monastery, and we visited various parts including the kitchen, a shrine, several khachkars, the classrooms of the monastery’s university, the library, some small chapels and a tower.

After an hour and a half at Tatev, we caught the cable car back to the starting station, where we were given three quarters of an hour (12:00nn to 12:45pm) for a late morning tea before we headed off for the drive back to Yerevan.

There’s not much to say about the return drive as most of it was on the same road that we had used yesterday to travel in the opposite direction.  We stopped from 2:45pm to 3:30pm at a food court in the town of Vayk for lunch, and then proceeded to Areni for a wine tasting.  I am not a wine drinker, but those who participated did not seem overly impressed; it seemed overcrowded and rushed, lasting just 20 minutes, and no-one was sufficiently impressed with the wine to make a purchase.

We reached our hotel in Yerevan at 6:30pm, being grateful that we were returning to the capital on a Sunday evening when the usual traffic congestion was having its weekly ‘rest day’.

Day 14

Goris to Yerevan


16 September 2018