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Armenia: Noratus khachkars

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Noratus khachkars | Armenia | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

After exploring the north of Armenia using public transportation and also a lot of hitchhiking, driving a car out of Yerevan made life just a little easier. I was afraid we would be late for sunset, especially because clouds were building in the sky, always looking more threatening. While I had a dream of seeing the khachkars of Noratus contrasting with a black sky, I was increasingly concerned that we might just see them under a grey sky. Indeed, when we arrived, it was pretty cold, and thick, black clouds were racing towards us through the sky. We walked a big circle around the cemetery, a huge collection of mostly old khachkars, all of them uniquely carved and decorated - a treasure of cross-stones.

Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Dark sky looming over the khachkars of Noratus at the end of the day

A strong wind was making life a little unpleasant, and after less than an hour, my hands seemed frozen. Worse still, light was being squeezed out of the sky by the threatening clouds, and we thought it could rain any time soon. Hardheaded, still with that dream in the back of my mind, we sat down in the car, to get warm, but mostly to wait for the sun to come back. Indeed, totally against our expectations, the fiery sun pierced through the clouds again, managing to burn a hole in them. I think I ran back to the khachkars - and yes: this is what I had been hoping for just before. With only half an hour to go to sunset, a warm, intense light was now reflecting on the cross-carved stelae, and the scenery was sublime. As we looked east - the khachkars all face west - , we saw the khachkars that had appeared grey just before, turn to orange, contrasting with the sky behind that was still grey.

Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Late afternoon light on the tombstones at the cemetery of Noratus

The souvenir sellers that had approached us before, were now all but gone, and the atmosphere was serene. This is another ancient place in Armenia: the oldest khachkars are thought to date back to the 10th century. Most khachkars stand alone, scattered on the seven hectare field, while others are carefully placed in a line. The field looks great as it is from a distance, but it is when you come closer to the khachkars that you realize the delicate beauty of them - carefully carved decorations with figures, flowers and patterns make each khachkar unique. Even though this is a cemetery, it is not sure all khachkars actually represent a grave; many are memorial stones and thus not necessarily tombstones. At one point, I just sat down in the grass and looked towards the east, seeing the khachkars getting always more orange, always warmer, until, gradually, the colour was sucked out of them again, they turned grey. When I looked behind me, the sun was firmly behind the horizon, and the spectacle was over. We had been very lucky, so much was clear - and we were very satisfied.

Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Contours of a row of khachkars at the end of the day
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Khachkar reflecting warm light at the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Cross carved out of a khachkar in the late afternoon
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Khachkars standing in a line at the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): The famous field of khachkars at the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Khachkars lining up in the late afternoon
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Scene depicted in a carving in a tomb in Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Row of khachkars with tomb in the foreground on the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Khachkars in the famous cemetery of Noratus, the biggest collection of khachkars in the world
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Standing khachkars at the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Graves at the cemetery of Noratus
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Khachkars standing on the cemetery of Noratus, with graves and gulls
Picture of Noratus khachkars (Armenia): Dusk falling over the famous field of khachkars in Noratus

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