September 27, Day 57, Alaverdi, Armenia to Tbilisi, Georgia
Today we left Armenia and drove back to Tbilisi, Georgia. We were very sorry to be leaving this hotel. The Dilijan Hotel on the river was fantastic and we just loved staying there with sounds of the river flowing past. As I said yesterday, from the highway we crossed a stone bridge to arrive at this unique hotel built alongside a river bank in the middle of no where.
Driving through Armenia we noticed several small homes made from shipping containers. Sometimes there would be two containers but usually just one was used as their house. These houses were right beside the highway and I guessed the reason for that was, how would they get the container up the mountains or down the valleys? It would be much easier to just park them on the roadside and set up their home.
We walked across several suspension bridges that went across rivers. But they were so dilapidated we had to put our feet on the cross bars or the outside edges otherwise we might have fallen into the river, there were so many broken boards on the bridge. We did this for fun not because we had to cross the river! Now I know for sure we were crazy!
After we walked over one suspension bridge we saw a dilapidated car bridge which we drove over into a village. Just because we could! Guess what, we found a school in this village. We stopped in to visit some classes and spoke with the teachers. When we arrived at the school they were feeding the kids breakfast. This school used to have 750 students and now they have 140 students. The villagers were leaving the village to look for employment elsewhere!
It turned out that this village used to have a brick factory but at the present time it was cheaper to purchase bricks from Russia, so the factory was closed. There was no employment in this village everyone had to be self sufficient or starve. These teachers made two hundred dollars per month. They said it was difficult for the young men to marry here because they had no jobs and the women left the village to find employment and husbands with jobs. The only opportunity for the young men here was to join the army for employment.
In the school hallways there were photographs of previous students now in the army. Photographs of army heroes and martyrs. War was always close and on people’s minds daily.
The heating system in Armenia was pipes above ground that carried heat into their homes from a factory in a distant location, controlled by the government. They turned the heat on and home owners had no control over the amount of heat they received, neither could they turn it on or off. This system was the same all over the previous Soviet Union countries.
Next we visited a monastery from the 11th Century. Called the Haghbat Monastery built in the center of the Lori Region of Armenia. This monastery competed with it’s brother monastery called Sanaheen Monastery.
Haghbat had an academy and a scriptorium for the copying and illustrating of manuscripts. They had a library with an extensive list of books on religion, philosophical, historical and scientific text. In the 11th Century there were 500 people living in these two monasteries of Haghbat and Sanaheen.
The Mongols captured both Monasteries and sacked them. Then the monasteries were further decimated by the legions of Timor and Ottomans. In 1639 Eastern Armenia became part of Persia. (Western Armenia became part of Turkey). The established peace after Persian occupation was favorable for the monastery. The monastery revived and resumed it’s mantle of a place for learning and as a manuscript center.
Behind the walls of this Monastery there was 3 churches, library, gallery, bell tower, refectory and mosoleum. They also had a wine room where the wine jugs were permanently under the floor, only the lids could be removed to access the wine. This kept the temperature of the wine constant.
There was a carving on one of the churches of two founders of this church holding a model of the church up between them. It was built in 991 AD.
As we entered Georgia from Armenia, it immediately felt more spacious than Armenia. Just inside the border of Georgia we drove through a district of Azeri’s (from Azerbaijan) living in Georgia. Apparently they had moved out of Armenia into Georgia because Azerbaijan and Armenia were at war with each other. Their homes were different from the Georgian’s houses because they had walls around their one story houses with animals amd gardens behind the walls. Georgians liked two story houses built right up to the street with balconies across the front of the house on the second floor. It appeared that the Azeri’s were very private and the Georgians were very social.
According to Inga our guide, the Azeri’s had a custom that if their gate was open you were allowed to visit because the man of the house was at home. If the gate was closed visitors were not welcome. I like that custom, I think I will try it at my house! Also if there was a red ribbon tied on the wall or gate that meant there was a girl living there 14 years of age or older who was eligible for marriage.
Inga told us that the Azeri people were very hard workers and they didn’t spend their money so they were usually very wealthy. The people from Azerbaijan were slightly shorter and a little bit darker than the Georgian population.
Previously, there was corruption in Georgia but they had a new government that put a stop to the corruption. To remind the population of the crackdown on corruption by the government they built new police stations. All theses new police buildings in Georgia were made of glasss because it was symbolic that Georgians did not take bribes and they had nothing to hide; therefore their buildings were see through!