The first stop of the day is the Akhtala monastic complex of Lori region. The beauty and natural environment of the monastery were so impressive that you can just stand for a few hours and admire the cultural masterpiece.
We walked in the area of the Akhtala monastery complex. It is really a perfection, huge murals, which speak about the intellectual wealth of our ancestors. According to the stories of the locals, the bright colors of the frescoes distracted the visitors from the liturgy, and the priest angrily ordered them to be covered with lead.
By the way, French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan discovered stone tombs in Akhtala in the 17th century with clay, bronze and iron finds. One of Morgan’s tombs was one of those unique tombs where people were buried in a sitting position. The Akhtala Monastery was not only a harmonious interweaving of Armenian, Georgian and Byzantine, but also balanced the culture and political life of the region. Let’s not forget that the famous Armenian director of the 20th century Sergey Parajanov shot parts of the film “The Color of Pomegranate” in Akhtala Monastery.
Tel. +374 43 53 53 46, Vazgen Khachikyan
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Adjacent to the monastery of Akhtala complex is the Nurik tourist center, which offers its guests to participate in the preparation of traditional dishes, such as carpet weaving. Here you will be presented with interesting facts about Armenian carpet weaving, and if you are following my travels, you have already guessed – yes, I am fascinated by this miracle. I am sitting at the bench, with a thread in my hand, a calculation in my mind, and a process. We eat in the second floor restaurant of Nurik center, where delicious dishes are waiting for you on the menu.
WHERE TO SPEND THE NIGHT?
We are going to Alaverdi. I will spend the night at Iris guest house, and in the morning we will prepare Ghapama and bread with the hostess Irina. In the evening, Mrs. Irina introduced me to the peculiarities of Armenian cuisine.
Tel. +374 91 08 88 12, Irina Israelyan
What to expect?
While baking bread, I learned that bread is mandatory in Armenia. There are many sayings about bread in all regions of Armenia, they are united by the perceptions of bread as sacred, reconciliation, positive relations of merit, prosperity.
Mrs. Irira also presented that the Armenians had a special cult of bread, they treated the bread very carefully, that is why the bread dough container was considered to be one of the strongest, cleanest things in the house. They often served as infant baptismal pools.
WHERE TO EAT?
The preparation of Ghapama is a separate ceremony: medium pumpkin, rice, dried fruits, nuts. I learned that the other ingredients of Ghapama – oil, butter, honey, nuts – were “expensive holiday food”, symbolizing abundance, sweetness, fertility. Ghapama was traditionally baked in a clay kiln, in a tonir, when the fire was already extinguished after the bread was baked, but the clay walls of the tonir kept the heat for a long time.
Tel. +374 91 08 88 12, Irina Israelyan
I met a local guide, Saro, in Alaverdi and instead of hiking, I was expected to ride a horse. We moved from Alaverdi to the village of Hagvi, from where the horse race started. During this tour you will have the opportunity to see some of the wonderful places of Lori in a different size. During the hike, Saro will teach you how to deal with horses, you will feel the peace coming from them. Believe me, this type of recreation is one of the best ways to be close to nature.
LORI CANYON TREKS:
Tel. +374 77 175783, Saro Ohanyan
This article was created as part of the My Armenia program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Smithsonian Institution. The contents of this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the Smithsonian Institution or the US Government.