We take a short drive from the Garni temple towards the Geghard monastery. It is a fairly quite drive without much traffic and the road is pretty good for Armenia so it is a quick drive to the monastery.
When we arrive at the monastery the parking lot is pretty full. There are a lot of locals in their best dress going to the monastery – apparently it is an important place for the locals to go and get the priest blessing after a wedding. We walk up the steep cobbled street towards the monastery – which is easy in decent hiking booths – but the local brides and their bridesmaids try to tackle the cobble stones in high heels. It looks like it will take them a while walking up the short passage way to the monastery complex so we easily walk pass them on the way up. On the way we pass several of the traditional Armenia carved stone crosses called khachars.
We get inside the temple complex which is fairly big with a large church in the middle where the newlywed couple goes to get their blessing by the orthodox priest. Behind the church you can go deeper into the cliff where there are some older structures carved straight into the cave. It is interesting to see these caves with the carvings directly into the stones.
There are actually several smaller caves in the area. The legend has it Gregory the Illuminator founded a monastery around here in the 4th century shortly after christening the Armenians. He supposedly stayed in a cave in the area but nobody really knows where. Later several hermits stayed in caves in the area and there are many caves spread across the place.
We walk out the back of the monastery – out at the back it is all quite. There aren’t a lot of people making it out here – it seems like the only reason people go this way is to reach the toilet back which is conveniently hidden here behind the sacred monastery. There is also a little bridge which leads across a small stream.
We walk the small trail which is on the other side of the bridge – there aren’t any signs but there is a lot of trees the locals have put some sort of offerings on all the branches. For me it looks more like trash than offerings but I guess there are different perceptions of what constitutes trash. We walk along the garbage trees and get to a small cave. There are no signs at the cave so we have no idea why it may be an important cave – but all the loose stones in the area around the cave have been arranged into small towers which I suppose has some sort of spiritual meaning.
The trail continues after the cave – but we have no idea where the trail leads so we decide just to turn back into the monastery. We get back into the rear end of the courtyard and go and explore the many crosses which have been carved into the rock.
There is nothing left for us to do than to drive back to the Yerevan. It is an easy short drive with a car. We went years ago without a car – and there isn’t any public transport out to the monastery. So we took a cab – it wasn’t too expensive but you do have to negotiate a bit on the price.