We had our minds set on visiting the far north of Armenia, the area around Jiliza which apparently has two isolated and crumbling monasteries, plus offering the possibility to walk in the nature of this hardly visited corner of the country. When we woke up early Sunday we were all excited to go there, only to hear our host say that she had called around, and it was impossible to get to the monasteries, since they had been annexed by Georgia. We were very disappointed, but our smart friend had already worked out an alternative: go to Ardvi. We had seen almost all other sights in the region, so we followed her advise, and boarded a rattling small bus that took us up the steep road to Odzun that we knew so well. From Odzun, we continued south, and after another ten minutes, the driver pulled up and we got off the bus with a girl. Finding the way was easy: we walked the road towards the mountains we could see in the distance, since we knew Ardvi was located right at the foot of that mountain ridge.
It had been raining a lot during the night; when we left our homestay, a weak sun had been coming out. But now, dark clouds were drifting through the sky, contrasting nicely with the fresh green spring landscape around us. Tall poplar trees lined the road on which only sporadically cars would pass. When we came closer to Ardvi, we heard shouting; it appeared that woman working the fields were having a fight. We reached the first houses of the small village, and soon reached the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small rectangular structure which turned out to be much of a ruin inside. Around it, however, we found several khachkars lying that depicted a woman with a baby inside: probably for women who died while pregnant. Walking through the village, we noticed how quiet it was; even the dogs did not seem very nervous about our presence. When we reached the cliff that our host had talked about, we immediately recognized it: a horizontal band with a dark colour in the light rocky surface. This is Odzi Port; according to local belief, the dark band is a petrified snake, and water flows from its belly button. We met a family who was collecting several types of grass, also offering some to us; they filled their tanks with the water coming out of the cliff, as it is supposed to be rich in minerals, containing gold and silver, and it is believed to cure illnesses.
We continued further up, to the nearby Monastery of St. John. Approaching from a small cemetery, we saw an old woman standing between the bell tower and the church. The doors of the church are not much higher than one meter, so the interior of the church was very dark, and barely decorated. The old woman, who must have been a beauty at a younger age, turned out to be the caretaker of the monastery. Heavy rain was now coming down, and we decided to take shelter in the church. As soon as we noticed some more light outside, we explored the sturdy buildings here, and noticed a particular khachkar in the small bell tower, depicting a person wearing a hat and shoes. Right across the muddy road, a small cemetery with a wonderful collection of old khachkars offered a good view of the monastery which seemed liked floating in the dark clouds. On our way down to the village, we stopped once more at Odzi Port, as we had promised our host to take water from the snake. The rain had made the steep hill quite muddy. When a city family showed up with a huge dog, the peace of the place was lost: he barked continuously, chasing anyone around, and waking up all the dogs of Ardvi who now also started to make themselves heard. With two bottles of special water, we walked back to the main road - off to other adventures.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ardvi (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ardvi.
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